Two faces of Korean contemporary art: The DONG-A ILBO


Kim Whanki, Chun Kyung-ja and Lee Ufan… these are names that even those not interested in art must have heard of. A new exhibition that gives the public the chance to see the works of famous artists, who have led Korean contemporary art, is being held in Seoul. The exhibition titled “The Two Faces of Korean Contemporary Art: Abstract and Figurative Art, from Kim Hwanki to Ko Young-hoon” is being held at Insa Artplaza in Seoul from July 14. A total of 24 artists, including 11 far, participate in the exhibition. The Gallery brought together 38 paintings from collectors and artists for the exhibition.

“We have brought together abstract and figurative paintings to examine the trend in Korean art at a time when the Korean art market is gaining attention,” said Heo Sung-mi, director of the gallery. In general, abstract art refers to art that does not attempt to represent an accurate representation of a visual reality, while figurative art represents works of art clearly derived from real objects. The exhibition features 13 abstract artists, such as Kim Whanki, Kim Chang-yeol, Lee Ufan, Park Seo-bo and Kim Tae-ho, and 11 figurative artists, including Chun Kyung-ja, Lee Wal-jong, Kim Jong- hak, Oh Ji-ho and Ko Young-hoon.

The first painting that the public will see upon entering the exhibition hall is “Untitled” by Kim Whan-ki. Although it is a small painting (16 cm wide and 20 cm high), it attracts the attention of the public. On the right, the works of Lee Ufan and Kim Tae-ho radiate a unique energy. “From Point (1979)” by Lee Ufan shows the process of creation and loss with points, in which the pigment concentration fades from left to right. Kim Tae-ho’s “Internal Rhythm (2020)” looks like a three-dimensional green painting with a flat or multicolored surface. He stacked several layers of paintings in the shape of a grid and sculpted them with a special carving knife. The right side of the painting shows the uniqueness of dots, lines, sides and colors while the left side surprises the audience with its delicate representation and splendor.

Chun Kyung-ja’s “Gold Fish” does not represent the artist’s iconic woman, but her friendly colors of oriental paintings stand out. Ko Young-hoon’s “Bowl (2013)”, which is placed next to “Gold Fish”, is very realistic. The depiction of the broken rim of the bowl blurs the distinction between the work of art and the real thing. Kim Jong-hak’s “Hundred Flowers Bloom (1998)” depicts a free-spirited but fantastic nature, radiating the vitality that emanates from the canvas.

Although the exhibition distinguishes between abstract and figurative art, what remains in the public’s mind at the end is the fact that the 24 artists wrote history with their own methods and stories. Just as Kim Heung-soo declared in 1977: “A work of art only becomes complete when figuration and abstraction coexist in it”. The exhibition, free and open to the public, will be held until July 27.

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