Artist fills hanok with found creations
The backyard of House of Woonkyung, one of the last remaining big hanok mansions built in the early 20th century in central Seoul, is now occupied by gigantic inflatable green and red cabbages, whose leaves move in a startling respiratory manner. They are a work by the artist Choi Jeong-hwa.
While young viewers might think they're plain fun, elderly Koreans might have memories of kimjang, or the making of cabbage kimchi, in traditional style. A hanok backyard equipped with a well and jangdokdae, or a terrace for big jars to contain fermented food, has traditionally been a place for kimjang -- just like the rear of the House of Woonkyung,
The gigantic cabbages, titled “Holobiont,” are part of the solo show by Choi, who is famous for site-specific public art pieces made of found objects. He installed 24 works in various parts of the mansion. Some such as “Game of Thrones” consist of objects found in the house, which was the home of the politician Lee Jae-hyung (1914-1992) who wrote under the pen name Woonkyung. It is now a cultural and educational space of the Woonkyung Foundation.
Choi repeatedly said in several interviews with the Korea JoongAng Daily that, for each of his solo exhibitions, he finds everyday objects directly from the exhibition venue or from old markets nearby to create new works, which evokes the history and spirit of the venue.
“The role of an artist is like that of a medium, a psychic or a shaman,“ he said in one of the interviews. As shamans can invoke spirits invisible to ordinary people and help them communicate with each other, “an artist can invoke beauty and soul from everyday objects and creations that people would have missed,” he said.
One of the small rooms in the hanok is now filled with colorful bead garlands hanging from the ceiling. The title of the installation is “Cosmos.” Although the work consists of cheap plastic beads, the inventive way in which they are installed give the viewers aesthetic pleasure and an enchanted feeling. The co-existence of elegant and kitsch qualities is Choi’s signature style.
In a side yard stands a sculpture consisting of an erect wooden board from Africa and a pressed metal basin from a local junkyard on top, which look like the torso and head of an idol full of primitive shamanistic energy. Its title is “Ajumma Numen.” The artist has repeatedly said the vitality and artistic sense of ajumma, or middle-aged Korean women, have always been inspiring him.
The exhibition runs through June 17. Admission is 33,000 won ($26.50). Booking in advance is required. For the booking, you should visit the Naver portal and search Woonkyung Gotaek in Korean. For more information, call 02-737-1777.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]