“Dialogues of Space”: Heeseung Chung and Onejoon Che at Korean Cultural Centre UK

The two-person photography exhibition interrogates the personal and political of Korea’s contemporary landscape.

Spotlighting Korean photographers Heeseung Chung and Onejoon Che, “Dialogues of Space” runs at the Korean Cultural Centre UK until 6 February 2016.

Heeseung Chung, 'Room with revolving doors 2', 2014, archival pigment print, 107 x 75cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Heeseung Chung, ‘Room with revolving doors 2’, 2014, archival pigment print, 107 x 75 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Centre UK.

“Dialogues of Space”, presented by the Korean Cultural Centre UK, showcases works by Korean photographers Heeseung Chung and Onejoon Che. Curated by MA students from the Whitechapel Gallery and London Metropolitan University, the exhibition is on show from 15 December 2015 to 6 February 2016.

Onejoon Che, 'Bunker#4, Homoung mountain', 2008, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che, ‘Bunker#4, Homoung mountain’, 2008, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che: The power of photography

For Korean artist Onejoon Che (b. 1979, Seoul), photography is a means to scrutinise and interrogate. He started out his photographic career as an evidence photographer for the South Korean military, recording accidents and incidents for combat police. Che speaks about this experience in an interview hosted by Asia Art Archive in America:

My main mission was to photograph illegal protesters in possession of illegal weapons like steel pipes. Because of my portraits of them, they went to jail, and I realized the power of photography.

Onejoon Che, 'Eunpyeong-gu newtown#1, Gupabal', 2007, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Onejoon Che, ‘Eunpyeong-gu newtown#1, Gupabal’, 2007, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Onejoon Che, 'Protective line#4, Uijeongbu', 2007, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che, ‘Protective line#4, Uijeongbu’, 2007, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

When military service ended in 2002, Che became an artist, documenting modern Korea’s socio-political transitions and the trauma of the military regime in photographs, films and archive installations. Approaching art with a heavy socio-political bent, Che pursues complex issues with meticulous and methodological archival research. He explains his artistic influence in the same interview:

I was interested in how to approach socio-political issues, so I was analyzing Allan Sekula’s documentaries, but […] he’s more of a critic. I wanted to learn German photography because I like the deadpan style. […] I adopted their techniques and combined it with Allan Sekula’s approach, Foucault’s theory, and many other influences.

Onejoon Che, 'Secret agit, Wondang', 2006, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che, ‘Secret agit, Wondang’, 2006, C-Print, 152 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che, 'Protective wall#9, Eunpyeong-gu newtown, Gupabal', 2007, C-Print, 91 x 61 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Onejoon Che, ‘Protective wall#9, Eunpyeong-gu newtown, Gupabal’, 2007, C-Print, 91 x 61 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Che has participated in various important exhibitions and biennales around the world, including the Taipei Biennale, the Palais de Tokyo Module, the New Museum Triennial and the Venice Architecture Biennale. “Dialogues” showcases his characteristically clinical and precise documentary photographs: backed by rigorous investigative research, the depicted architectural structures and abandoned urban sites tell important histories and alternative narratives concerning modern Korea, its government and its military.

Heeseung Chung, 'Untitled', 2010, C-Print, 150 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung, ‘Untitled’, 2010, C-Print, 150 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung: The limitations of photography

In contrast, Heeseung Chung (b. 1974, Seoul) focuses on the private and the intimate. A photographer and maker of artist’s books, Chung’s visual language is poetic and contemplative, evoking beauty in the quiet and the mundane. Ocula writes:

While [Chung’s] works seem to be cold and dry with the least degree of intervention from the artist, she captures with intensity the emotional condition of a moment in reality beyond the poetic surface built on orderly expression.

Heeseung Chung, 'Curves' (Triptych), 2010, C-Print, Triptych, each panel 180 x 135 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung, ‘Curves’ (Triptych), 2010, C-Print, Triptych, each panel 180 x 135 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

For “Dialogues”, Chung showcases a series of her large-scale photographs that invoke architectural, bodily and symbolic space. Enigmatic and wistful, Chung’s exquisite interiors have received accolades such as the Songeun Art Prize and the 11th Daum Prize from Parkgeonhi Foundation. According to Ocula,

Chung’s frank portrayal of everyday objects raises questions about the limitations and nature of photography, the core medium of representation.

Heeseung Chung, 'Torres sky', 2013, C-Print, 107 x 82 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung, ‘Torres Sky’, 2013, C-Print, 107 x 82 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung, 'Descendant', 2013, C-Print, 120 x 160 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Heeseung Chung, ‘Descendant’, 2013, C-Print, 120 x 160 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Korean Cultural Council UK.

Physical and metaphorical spaces

Shown together, Che’s and Chung’s exteriors and interiors explore the physical and metaphorical spaces of contemporary Korea. According to the exhibition press release, the juxtaposition “open[s] up a discourse on human presence and its echoes through cityscapes”:

Seen together, these bodies of works show personal and political spaces in Korea’s present social and physical landscape. Sparking a discussion of the role of contemporary art in the representation of society, Dialogues of Space highlights the skill and versatility in contemporary Korean photography.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Korean artists, photography, spaceart and architecture, events in London

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