The city of art has reawakened
DAEGU — The city of art has reawakened.
The southeastern city of Daegu is a place with hidden treasure troves of art around its neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it was hit the hardest during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak when large clusters emerged in the city in North Gyeongsang. The number of daily infections has relatively settled down, and one place more than ready to welcome back visitors is Daegu Art Museum.
Four exhibitions await guests at the Daegu museum. The museum has been holding an exhibition related to the Covid-19 crisis since June titled “New Communion,” and kicked off three special exhibitions last month — German artist Tim Eitel’s solo exhibition “Tim Eitel_Untitled (2001-2020),” plastic photographer Chong Jae-kyoo’s solo exhibition “Breathing of Light” and installation artist Choi Jeong-hwa’s 16-meter (52.5-foot) work “Kabbala.”
Although “New Communion” is the only exhibition that’s directly related to the coronavirus, other exhibitions also provide a unique artistic experience when viewed under the contemporary virus-stricken circumstances, especially when viewing Eitel’s exhibition.
In his 2004 painting “Boat,” two people row their boat in tranquil waters, toward a grey world where nothing is visible. The water is bordered by dark walls on the sides, making it impossible to tell whether it is a canal or a river, just as it is impossible to tell where they are headed. The realistic depiction makes it almost believable that this may be a real scene, but the unrealistic arrangement of objects makes people realize that this painting is indeed fictitious.
Eitel makes his works dreamlike, not with rainbows and butterflies or heavenly images of other surreal ideas, but with things that are so real on their own, but unreal when put together. He begins by taking photographs of everything he sees; whether that be the sky, an artifact he saw at the museum, a book or whatever lies in front of him. Then he later uses pieces of the images from the photographs to form a completely new one, like the oil painting “Grey Cloud” (2004), where the building, the sky and the cloud are taken from all different scenes.
“Eitel creates an artificially natural image,” said the curator of the exhibition, Jini Yu. “The people or the scenery in his painting — nothing really exists. None of it is true, but it becomes true in his work. This is how Eitel creates abstract fine art.”
On display at the exhibition are 67 paintings he created between the years 2001 and 2020, 370 photographs that he took images from and 30 books that also influenced him. Two new paintings titled “Mexican Garden (1st View)” and “Mexican Garden (2nd View)” have been created just for the Daegu exhibition, which he painted earlier this year during his quarantine in France. The painting sheds light on the idea of people being together but not truly together — just like the reality during the coronavirus.
“His works are meditative, in that they invite the audience to come up with diverse interpretations. His works are real and abstract at the same time, and the images are friendly but also look at various sides of the human emotions such as loneliness,” said Yu.
Chong’s works are also meditative, but in a different light. The idea of plastic photography — coined by Chong himself — may not be familiar to many, but put simply, it’s Photoshop done by hand. Chong cuts his photographs into tiny strips, either weaving them with images of strips of other photographs to create a unique mosaic of two combined images, or placing the strips at different heights and in different orders to make it look like the photograph has been curved and distorted.
The title of the exhibition, “Breathing of Light” refers to the idea that light does not exist in one aspect, but in different phases like the way we breathe. How he plays with images and light is not limited to canvas, but also extends to 3D. His mobiles such as “Gyeongju’94 Muduseokbul” (1996) are covered with a layer of acrylic that reflects light onto the walls and ground in different shapes as it slowly moves. It is an “overlap of moments,” according to curator Lee Jung-min.
“Chong works by dismantling photography’s innate role of recording and reenacting its subject,” said Lee. “He only takes the symbolic meaning of the place that he shoots and creates a new plasticity through the image. It’s a new conceptual experience that the viewers get to have.”
A special section of the exhibition has been created to imitate Chong’s workshop, and visitors can get to cut and create their own plastic photography one at a time.
For those looking for something that deals with the virus more directly, “New Communion” is a multimedia exhibition featuring works by 12 local artists, on the idea of solidarity and communion in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Visitors can sit down on a chair for Oh Jung-hyang’s “A Whole New Routine Part2. Phantasmagoria for Normal Life” (2020), and listen to another person’s story on their life from a two-meter distance or look at pictures of people in various situations in Jang Yong-geun’s series of portrait thermal photographs.
Last but not least is Choi’s overwhelming installation work “Kabbala,” which hangs from the museum’s ceilings to be viewed from all floors of the building. The work, which was first revealed in 2013, has been reinstalled to welcome guests, to look back at the meaning of mundane and ordinary objects, such as the plastic baskets that are used to make up the work. The green and red plastic baskets are those commonly found on the streets of Korea, often used in households or markets to hold food — something far from the idea of “art.”
“This is an exhibition for the citizens, who are overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic through a higher level of civility,” said curator Park Bo-ram.“Ordinary life is more precious than ever before, and we wish to bring joy and hope to people by showing a common subject turned into art."
Visitors must make online reservations to abide by the museum’s social distancing guidelines. The museum opens up for 200 visitors a day and tickets can be bought through Interpark. Eitel and Chong’s exhibition will run until Oct. 18 and “New Communion” until Sept. 13. Choi’s “Kabbala” will be on display until Jan. 3 next year. For more information, visit artmuseum.daegu.go.kr.
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]