Singer’s art looks at ‘sweet things’They all asked the same question: “Is that really him?”
The group of girls, none of whom looked to be over 20, froze in place at the entrance to the exhibition. They stared and pointed at the young man standing in the middle of the room. Yes, it was really him, smiling and waving at them.
His name is Yoo Naul (pronounced “Na-eol”), 28, the rhythm and blues singer who was half the pop duo Brown Eyes and later formed the R&B group, Brown Eyed Soul.
These days, he’s doing more than recording hits like “Already One Year” and “With Coffee.” Naul, as he’s known, is working as a plastic artist (art made of molded material) and curator at a small gallery in Myeongdong, central Seoul. Fans shouldn’t be too surprised: he studied Western-style oil painting in college and currently is enrolled in Dankook University’s masters program for industrial design.
It wasn’t his artistic talents, however, that seemed to be drawing visitors. Most of the viewers were young women and the most interesting thing on display seemed to be the artist himself.
“[The visitors] like to take a lot of pictures here,” Naul said. “Some of them ask questions about the works, but most of them just tell me they really like the exhibition and how pretty it was.”
“Pretty” may not be an artist’s favorite adjective, but Naul’s art is actually quite pretty. Standing far off, it’s hard to tell that the works have been made from old junk like cardboard boxes and used window frames, covered with drawings and decorations. One work of installation art involved light bulbs, a dark room and recyclable objects.
“Plant the Sweet Things,” the title of Naul’s exhibition, aptly describes the visual theme of his work: a lollipop sticking out of a flowerpot. There it was, lollipop-flowerpot on a box, lollipop-flowerpot on a table, etcetera, etcetera.
The artist said the lollipops were supposed to symbolize the transient values in life that could be “sucked away” like candy.
“People should try to pursue sweeter values, like love or the volunteer spirit, rather than finite things like money or fame,” he said. (Naul said he donates much of the proceeds from his work to charity, but wouldn’t say which one, and traveled to Jamaica to do volunteer work last year.)
For a singer whose solo album, “Back to the Seoul Flight,” sold over 210,000 copies, he was remarkably camera shy. Naul rarely appears on television music programs and prefers small private concerts. He said he wanted to spend more time practicing singing and less time on television.
He needs the practice. Not that Naul’s voice is terrible ― he’s a great singer ― but he sings in English, despite never having lived abroad. Most Korean R&B singers are actually Korean-American, who can easily swing back and forth between languages.
“It’s all about practice,” he said. “I grew up listening to American R&B singers on the radio. I liked it so much, I tried imitating them. That’s all.”
by Lee Min-a
“Plant the Sweet Things” runs until the end of February at the gallery in the Samillo Changgo Theater. By subway, go to Myeongdong station, line No. 4 and take the Myeongdong Cathedral exit. The theater is behind the cathedral. For more information, call (02) 319-8020 or visit www.changgotheatre.com