Artists reflect on the ‘inner layer’ of society

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Artists reflect on the ‘inner layer’ of society

Feeling delusional about the double standards in society? Four young Korean artists have taken the “candy-coated” aspect of contemporary Korean society to an artistic level.
At Chohung Gallery in Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, the artists, who are attending the Graduate School of Seoul National University, aspire to express their frustration through an exhibition titled “Candy-Coated.” The four art students, all in their 20s ― Kim Soo-yun, Kim Hyo-june, Yang Eun-joo and Lee Ji-young ― have brought up the two-sided face that underlies Korean society.
Their six sets of works vary in form and materials, from paintings and photography to sculptures made of cotton swatches and T-shirts. Each artist’s unique character is expressed through the choice of materials, from fabrics to spoiled fruit, signage and plain canvas, which they believe represent present society.
“The theme ‘candy-coated’ shows the outer layer of society whose inside is full of fraud and fallacies,” said Son Eun-jeong, the curator. “The artists had one mission ― to unveil what society really is inside through their different viewpoints.”
One of the two works by Kim Soo-yun, titled “Goddam Well-being,” consists of rotten fruit enclosed in a transparent plastic cover. According to the artist, the work mocks the two sides of the current well-being fad in Korea. “On one side, there is so much fervor in people to eat as much healthy food as possible; on the other side, people commercialize the trend to gain profit,” Ms. Kim said.
Lee Ji-young displays dozens of T-shirts and accessories. T-shirts look like the ones popularized by pop artists decades ago; the difference is that they come with small labels attached to the side seam. Each label contains a handwritten note that explains or criticizes the prints on the shirt. Next to the shirts is a display of high-end jewelry and glitzy watches. All accessories are made with plain cotton fabric cut in the shape of jewelry and watches. Ms. Lee said she tried to mock the materialism that has pervaded society so profoundly.
Kim Hyo-june has an ordinary-looking photograph which depicts the construction site of a house surrounded by construction workers. “I wanted to show how strenuous efforts are always disguised in creating a bigger outer self. It’s the hypocrisy of capitalism,” Mr. Kim said.
Some visitors might consider the exhibition predictable and banal, but the gallery offers downtown commuters a refreshing space to discover emerging artists in Korea who want to feel, express and connect with society.
Since its opening in 1997, Chohung Gallery has offered opportunities for new artists in Korea to show their latest works. The gallery plans eight additional exhibitions throughout the year. The next exhibition, called “Someone Looking for the World,” by Korean artist Go Chang-seon, opens on Sept. 2 and runs through Sept. 13. The artist deals with interpersonal themes such as “human interaction” and “fading memories.”

by Ji Myung-kil

The exhibition “Candy-Coated” runs until Aug. 30. The Chohung Gallery is located in the Chohung Museum in Gwanghwamun in central Seoul. The gallery is open daily except Sundays. Admission is free. The nearest subway station is Gwanghwamun station, Line No. 5, Exit 6.
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