SOUTH KOREAN PHOTOGRAPHY PARIS
Galerie Paris-Beijing captures snippets of a changing Korea through the lenses of eight contemporary Korean photographers in the exhibition “New Photography in Korea II”. Art Radar takes a closer look at the artists on show.
Much of the South Korean contemporary art world is hidden from those living outside of the country; not speaking Korean is a serious barrier to understanding or accessing the Korean art world. Through a two-part exhibition, titled “New Photography in Korea”, Galerie Paris-Beijing has brought Korean photography to Europe. We take a closer look at the artists that presented work in the show’s second installment, “New Photography in Korea II”, held in the gallery’s Paris space from September to October 2011.
Artists who were chosen for this exhibition were from a generation who experienced the aftermath of the Korean War, which ran for three years from 1950 to 1953 and was an event that spelled out new beginnings for those living in both North and South Korea. Touching on topics such as identity, family, sexuality, boredom and consumption, this group gives us a taste of what it is like to grow up in a nation that is intent on preserving their rich cultural heritage in a rapidly globalising world. From new sets of eyes, viewers catch hints of nostalgia, but also a willingness to accept and even celebrate change.
Koo Sung Soo
Koo Sung Soo, a trained photographer with a Ph.D. in that field, has been an active figure in the Korean art world since he first graduated from college in 1993. His works have graced numerous local and international exhibitions in the USA, the UK, Argentina, China, Japan and, most recently, in Paris. Through an over saturation of colour, Koo Sung Soo captures the stimulating in the midst of a typically dull and mundane urban landscape. The photographer uses his craft to discuss the prevalence of Western influences on the traditional Korean way of life, forcing viewers to face the beauty and sadness of everyday empty spaces.
Five years after earning a degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Hein-kuhn Oh pursued his master’s in Fine Arts at Ohio University in the US, and since the early Nineties, has been a significant addition to various art scenes the world over. Although most highly regarded for his series of portraits in which he captured the faces of different social classes in Korea, a collection ten years in the making, Oh also entered the documentary, commercial and fashion photography industries early in his career. In this exhibition, the photographer has chosen to focus on the westernisation of the East, portraying the obsession that Korean teenagers have with western fashion trends. He presents subtle and yet evocative portraits of fragile and innocent young girls in their everyday clothing, struggling to find their real identity.
In Sook Kim
In Sook Kim is currently based in Dusseldorf, Germany, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts. Over the last decade, Kim has presented work in eight solo exhibitions, all of which were held in Europe and Korea. Her most recent shows include “Speculum Majus”, held at Ilwoo Space in Seoul, Korea, and “Inside Out”, held at Gana Art Gallery in New York. “Saturday Night”, the series shown by the photographer in “New Photography in Korea II”, gives audiences a peek into intimate spaces in which the occupants expose secret yearnings and frustrations. By pairing the subject with the irony of the rich colours of the images, Kim is able to present raw and yet beautiful human tragedies.
Kwang Mo was formally trained in photography at the Kaywon School of Art and Design in Korea. He was awarded the 13th Young Photographer’s Prize during the Daegu Photo Biennale and a place in the SeMA (Selected Emerging Artists) Support Program from Seoul Art Museum in 2010. In 2010, Mo was also nominated for the Prix Pictet award in France. In his sepia-tinted photographs selected for “New Photography in Korea II”, Kwang Mo blurs the line that separates fantasy and reality. He skillfully manipulates his images into semblances of the childhood memories and dreams that people stubbornly cling onto, inviting audiences into timeless, limitless universes, otherworldly spaces that his characters seem more than comfortable in.
Dorothy M. Yoon
After being awarded two master’s degrees by Ewha Womans University in Korea, Dorothy M. Yoon graduated from Goldsmiths College in London in 2007. Yoon is celebrated for her experimental and surrealist integration of traditional Korean components with the prevailing western perspective. In “13 of blondes”, the artist photographs Korean women dressed as popular blonde figures from the West like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly and in “8 of heroines” she snaps characters from western fairytales against typically Korean backdrops. In line with this recurring theme, Yoon’s works in “New Photography in Korea II” aim to scrutinise the shift in the perception of beauty in modern Korea. Doll-like Korean women with blonde hair are dressed in elaborate westernised costumes and photographed in portrait style. Cold and expressionless, the subjects stand gracefully against a traditional Korean setting.
Duck Hun Hwa
Born in 1965, Duck Hun Hwa is a Korean photographer presently living and working in South Korea. To date, he has held two solo exhibitions, the first, entitled “Holy City”, was presented by DCB Gallery in 2008 and “AID’s” was shown at MIGO Gallery in 2009. Hwa’s contribution to “New Photography in Korea II” is a series of vibrant aerial photos of Busan, his hometown in South Korea, created as a tribute to the land where he was born and raised.
Won Seoung Won
Won Seoung Won holds a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from Chungang University in Seoul, awarded to her in 1995, and has earned a master’s degree in fine art from two German universities: the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and the Academy of Art in Dusseldorf. She is currently based in South Korea and since the earlier part of this decade, she has been exhibiting throughout Germany, Italy, the USA, Russia, France, China and her home country. In the photographic series presented to viewers in “New Photography in Korea II”, titled “My Age of Seven”, Won gives Korean legends a modern twist by recreating aspects of their narratives in modern terrains. Each photograph is presented as an episode in a children’s serial drama, allowing audiences to enter surreal universes pregnant with commentaries on the effects of urbanisation.
Sang Hyun Lee
Sang Hyun Lee is a well-recognised, multi-disciplinary artist known for his active participation in exhibitions and performances in both the local Korean and the international art scenes. He has participated in a number of notable artist residencies and received art grants from organisations in Korea, New York, Paris and Berlin. His work has been shown at several art fairs – Melbourne Art Fair (2004), ARTSingapore (2008), SCOPE Basel (2008), Art Dubai (2009 and 2010) – and been presented for sale at a number of art auctions including one in Christie’s London in 2009. In 2005, he was awarded the top prize in the Hanmi Photography Award and he came fifth in the Kim, Sae-Jung Young Sculptor Prize. In the works selected for inclusion in “New Photography in Korea II”, San Hyun Lee juxtaposes the past and the present through digital modification of old photographs: black and white archival images of traditional Korean landscapes are infused with a sudden burst of color.
“New Photography in Korea II” will be on view at Galerie Paris-Beijing until the end of October 2011.
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