Artists vie for prestigious Hermes, SongEun awards

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Artists vie for prestigious Hermes, SongEun awards


Atelier Hermes, located in southern Seoul, is currently filled with work by three finalists Top to Above:1. Sulki & Min’s print series “Technical Drawing” questions communications in our time. 2. Yeo Daham’s installation “Dead Fire” appears as if it is a monument of an enormous cycle of consumption. 3. Jang Min-Seung’ video “Pitch Dark” mourns the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

Seven up-and-coming Korean artists in their 30s and 40s are showing their work at two major competitions - the Songeun Art Award and the Hermes Foundation Missulsang prize.

SongEun Art Award

Coincidentally, all four finalists - Sohee Cho, Sujin Do, Sojung Jun and Jinju Lee - are women.

But their themes, mediums and airs are so different from one another that they are difficult to categorize in any other way.

Their pieces are now on display at SongEun Art Space, which is located at the Cheongdam-dong crossroads in southern Seoul.

Among the art by Cho, 43, is a performance piece titled “Handstand.” A female in black repeatedly completes a handstand inside a small white cube with one side open to viewers. When she balances on her hands and pulls her legs apart along a circular line drawn on a wall of the cube, she looks just like an inverse “Vitruvian Man” by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci.

But the beauty of the form does not last long, as the performer must yield to the law of gravity, which she does over and over again.

“It’s a metaphor for what artists try to do,” Cho said.

Beside the cube is an installation - a white staircase surrounded with delicate red nets reminiscent of cobwebs.

Pointing to the work, titled “Art and Gear,” Cho said, “I’ve always been interested in fragile and disappearing things and felt beauty from them.”

Do’s works are more provocative. Her installation “Motel Paradise” reassembles fragments of typical images found in Korean motels, which are known as cheap hotels where lovers spend time together.

The work consists of a round bed, an artificial palm tree and a hanging screen used to prevent passersby from noticing the license plates of cars in the motel’s parking lot.

“Spaces and architectural structures are my main concern,” Do, 37, said.

“I found Korean motel buildings interesting, as they are very closed, although they often function as spaces for the freedom of sex. It suggests Koreans’ ambivalent attitude to sex.”

Compared to Cho and Do, Lee’s medium - painting - is more traditional. Her work appears calm from a distance, as it is painted in low chroma.

But a closer look reveals that her complex paintings have uneasy and ominous details, such as one that depicts a half-naked woman with her head covered in a black plastic bag, mixed with ordinary objects.

“The memories I don’t want to remember suddenly come to the surface of my consciousness from time to time,” Lee, 34, said.

“Whenever that happens, I wonder what is the structure of memories, and that drives me to paint.”

Jun, 32, shows two videos about a veteran piano tuner and hanyeo, or female divers that are unique to the southern Korean island of Jeju.

“What they do is on the border between art and everyday work,” Jun said. “I’ve always been interested in such people.”

One winner will be chosen among the four artists this month.


Work by the finalists of the 14th SongEun Art Award is now on display at SongEun Art Space in southern Seoul.Top to above 1.Sohee Cho’s installation “Art and Gear” focuses on delicate and fragile objects. 2.Jinju Lee’s painting “A Black and Hot One” deals with traumatic memories.3. Sojung Jun’s film “Twelve Rooms” is about a veteran piano tuner, whose job, the artist says, is on the border between art and everyday work. 4.Sujin Do’s installation “Motel Paradise” reviews Korean culture through architecture.

*The exhibition runs through Jan. 31. Admission is free. For details, call (02) 3448-0100 or visit

Hermes Foundation Missulsang

Atelier Hermes, located near the Dosan Park crossroads in southern Seoul, is currently filled with the work of three finalists - Sulki & Min, Yeo Daham and Jang Min-Seung.

The duo Sulki & Min (Sulki Choi, 37, and Min Choi, 43) are famous for their graphic designs, which include book covers and posters of prestigious art events such as last year’s Gwangju Biennale.

Their work, which reflects their in-depth study of communications, hovers on the border between design and fine art.

For this competition, the duo shows a serious of prints titled “Technical Drawing” - extremely zoomed-in images of complex sketches that are blurry and indiscernible.

“The work carries irony about the fact that everything is now too clear and too transparent,” Min Choi said.

Among art on display by Yeo Daham, 30, is “Dead Fire.” The huge mural-like piece consists of casts of plastic packages made to carry various consumer goods ranging from bottles to cell phones. They are, accordingly, shaped after the objects. They become waste when consumers remove the content of the packages. The mural acts as a monument for modern society’s cycle of consumption.

Jang Min-Seung, 35, presents two video pieces that reflect the artist’s shock and agony after the April 16 Sewol ferry tragedy.

In one piece, titled “Pitch Dark,” a performer presents several famous haiku, or traditional Japanese poems, through sign language in an unlit space. The haiku can be associated with the victims of the Sewol tragedy.

The winner of the prize will be announced in February.

The show runs until Feb. 15. Admission is free. For details, call (02) 544-7722.


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