Still-life photography rethinks reality

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Still-life photography rethinks reality


The 밪till/Life ?Dutch Contemporary Photography?exhibition held at KF Gallery in central Seoul runs through May 30. Pictured above are works by Melanie Bonajo on display at the exhibition. [KOREA FOUNDATION]

The still-life genre of art began with Netherlandish painting in late-16th century Netherlands, featuring inanimate objects as the models for paintings as opposed to humans and live animals, which had previously been common. An ode to the classical genre of still life, Korea Foundation (KF) presents “Still/Life - Dutch Contemporary Photography,” featuring some 70 works of photography and video by 17 artists through May 30 at the KF Gallery.

“This exhibition will introduce a variety of contemporary still-life works as interpreted by young photographers,” said Lee Si-hyung, president of KF, on May 2 during the opening ceremony. It will “provide a meaningful glimpse into the advancement of photography as a means of art as well as the creative trends in contemporary photography.”

Co-hosted by the KF and the Dutch Embassy in Seoul, in cooperation with Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam), the exhibition is the opportunity to see how photography has opened up a new chapter to the centuries-old realm of still-life pictures. The young generation of artists reinterpret the idea of real-life representation, by using the cameras to capture their subjects as they are, then twisting the pictures to create something that looks oddly real and surreal at the same time.

“Netherlandish painters suddenly gained an eye for the ordinary things in their lives with still-life painting,” said Marcel Feil, deputy director of Foam.

“If the artist was to transcend something from ordinary to extraordinary, he should paint it in a very extraordinary way. So there’s an interesting relationship between realism and artificiality, and between the artists and us.”

This peculiar relationship of the real and surreal takes on multiple layers in contemporary photography, as seen in Kim Boske’s “Collection of Sleepings and Awakings I” (2008) a series of photos of flowers that look real, but are actually paper cut-outs of flowers printed in catalogs and photographs. “We believe that photographs are real because we recognize the things we see, but are they real?” asks the works, according to Feil.

With works of 17 creative artists, including Melanie Bonajo, Marnix Goossens, Elspeth Diederix, Qui Yang and many others, visitors see a side of photography that blurs the borders of reality in a playful way.


KF Gallery, located near Euljiro 1-ga Station, line No. 2, exit 3, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admissions are free. For more information, visit
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