As France and South Korea celebrate 130 years of diplomatic relations with each other, the two countries have coordinated a vast agenda of events over the next year to promote the rich cultural exchange between the two countries. On the occasion, Opera Gallery in Paris has organized a special exhibition titled “Regeneration, Perspectives on Contemporary Korean Art,” featuring the work of 11 leading contemporary artists from South Korea. Conceived in collaboration with Opera’s Seoul-based gallery, the exhibition explores convergences of nature and technology and how they have influenced a younger generation of artists working in Korea today.
Much of the work included in the show reflects an intriguing tension between traditional techniques and materials and recently developed digital or high-tech possibilities. Some highly detailed, labor intensive works were made by artists influenced by the Process Art and Land Art movements of the 1960s and ’70s. In Ode to Second Full Moon (2013), for instance, Ran Hwang applies hundreds of tiny pins adorned with pearls, crystals, or buttons to create flowing, celestial landscapes built up through accumulation.
A similarly painstaking method goes into the works of Suh Jeong Min and Ilhwa Kim. Hanji paper, the sturdy, centuries-old artistic medium, is revitalized in their respective works. Through a laborious process of hand dyeing, cutting, twisting, and rolling, the artists create pulsing, rhythmic, three-dimensional canvases that merit extensive observation.
Son Bong Chae’s “Migrants” (2013-2015), a series of painted trees, strikes a perfect chord between nature and technology. Clearly a master of painting, though he is better known as a pioneer of Kinetic art in Korea, Chae uses oil paint to create numerous exacting brushstrokes of gnarled branches onto to a series of glass panels that are aligned and then backlit by LEDs, bringing the trees to life as if they were technicolor animations.
The mannequin-like sculptures of Seo Young-deok, meanwhile, are made by welding together hundreds of small metal chains. The hollow figures seem to be caught in a moment of transformation, as though coming into being and finding themselves in this rapidly changing world.
“Regeneration, Perspectives on Korean Art”is on view at Opera Gallery, Paris, Nov. 6–28, 2015.
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