In the art world, sculpture has long been considered one of the least popular art genres. Yet, 2022 was a landmark year in the history of Korean sculpture. Numerous museum exhibitions showcased the works of young sculptors, including Sculptural Impulse at the Seoul Museum of Art, Kak at the Hite Collection, Our Sculptural Journey: The Path to Today at WESS, The Other Self at the Ilmin Museum of Art, and many other exhibitions at galleries and art institutions.
Then, how about painting? Unlike sculpture, painting has long been the most traditional and popular art genre. However, the genre has been facing various challenges, especially in the contemporary art world, where more artworks are incorporating new technologies, from video to artificial intelligence, and where the boundaries between genres are continually blurring. Even though painting is still the most popular art form, it faces significant challenges in reconsidering and exploring the conventions associated with the painted canvas.
BB&M, a contemporary art gallery located in Seongbuk-dong, opened a group exhibition titled SUNROOM on February 4 to shed light on the work of five young Korean painters who have developed their own visual language through keen experiments with the genre.
The exhibition features the works of five artists: Junghae Park, Sikyung Sung, Jieun Oh, Yun-young Jeong, and Sujin Choi, who were all born in Korea between the late 1980s and early 1990s and are currently based in Seoul. These artists have developed their own visual language due to their familiarity with contemporary painting in the Korean art world. This exhibition was organized to support the artistic experiments of these promising young artists and explore their potential.
In SUNROOM, Junghae Park, who creates abstract paintings, has continued her exploration of the materiality of light since 2017. Never before have we encountered such a diverse spectrum of light and color as we do today; we see tens of thousands of different colors, ranging from natural light to the light emitted by various prints and even the light displayed on digital screens. Park collects both the light she has seen and imagined to create a new composition.
Park’s exploration of light is emphasized by objects such as pieces of paper and ribbons. The artist assembles the visual traces discovered in these thin, light objects, such as lines and planes, into a surreal, geometric, and abstract plane. Just as the smallest mark on a blank canvas creates a sense of space, the artist’s painting imagines the plane of the canvas as a flat, endlessly expanding world with no depth. Park’s painted canvas somehow oscillates between the virtual and the real, harmonized with light.
Junghae Park (b. 1989) studied painting at Hongik University. She has held solo exhibitions at Whistle (Seoul, 2021), Onground 2 (Seoul, 2017), and Archive Bomm (Seoul, 2016). Park has participated in group exhibitions at various institutions, including the Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, 2022), Doosan Gallery (Seoul, 2021), Deoksugung Palace (Seoul, 2020), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Gwacheon, 2017), Kukje Gallery (Seoul, 2017), Hite Collection (Seoul, 2016), and the Busan Biennale (Busan, 2012).
Sikyung Sung, an abstract painter, explores the formative language derived from repetitive brushstrokes. Through his Zamboni series, the artist connects his works to the Zamboni, a vehicle used to smooth the surface of a sheet of ice. Just as the Zamboni leaves traces as it traverses the ice surface, the artist’s thoughts, senses, and brushstrokes that traverse the canvas leave a formative trace.
In this exhibition, the artist presents works that express patterns created by light and shadow in the structure of a sunroom. For the artist, the canvas itself is a frame, another form in which his drawn patterns must form a subordinate mutual relationship. Thus, the canvas itself serves as another form in Sung’s paintings. To create his paintings, Sung establishes rules within the conditions of the painting to discover a certain pattern. Within those rules, the artist creates abstract paintings that incorporate both improvised and deliberate forms.
Sikyung Sung (b. 1991) majored in painting at Hongik University and earned an MFA from Seoul National University of Science and Technology. He has had solo exhibitions at Art Space Hyeong and Shift (Seoul, 2019), two-person exhibitions at P21 and Whistle (Seoul, 2022), and group exhibitions at One and J. Gallery (Seoul, 2020) and Art Space 3 (Seoul, 2019).
Jieun Oh depicts detailed scenes from her daily life that resemble still-life paintings. Yet, these scenes wander somewhere between reality and memory. As some parts of memories can be erased or combined with other memories, they do not convey exact information. Therefore, instead of depicting exact scenes, the artist incorporates colors and objects that metaphorically represent the atmosphere of the time to reveal the emotions she experienced in everyday life.
The artist breaks away from the traditional method of still-life painting and uses bold compositions in her works. Her works are a record of specific memories, but at the same time, they also capture the emotions that accompany those scenes. Just as scenes in memory constantly change, the artist attempts to capture the fluidity of images through her works.
Jieun Oh (b. 1990) majored in painting at Kookmin University. She has held solo exhibitions at Drawing Room (Seoul, 2022), Gallery Grida (Seoul, 2020), Art Space Seoro (Seoul, 2020), and group exhibitions at Eulji Art Center (Seoul, 2022), Artside Gallery (Seoul, 2021), and Art Space 3 (Seoul, 2021).
Artist Yun-Young Jeong, who studied Buddhist art and contemporary painting, developed an abstract painting style by combining Eastern and Western techniques and materials. She creates organic forms using the technique of adding silk to the frame of the canvas and allowing the paint to permeate. In Jeong’s paintings, images of body parts are overlaid on paintings of plants.
Jeong, who once stood at the crossroads of life and death, sublimates her personal experiences about the cycle of life that entails extinction and recovery through the images of exotic flora. Jeong expresses anxiety, despair, and internal conflicts between life and death. The images are expressed in a somewhat ambiguous and unfinished state, with smeared colors and free brushstrokes, but the overall scene is rather lively. Unfinished forms are traces of life and expressions of their own beauty.
Yun-young Jeong (b. 1987) majored in Buddhist art at Dongguk University and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in painting from Kookmin University. Jeong has had solo exhibitions at the Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art (Gwangju, Gyeonggi, 2021), Gallery Doll (Seoul, 2021), and Park Soo Keun Museum (Yanggu, 2021). She has also held group exhibitions at the Buk Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, 2016) and Buril Gallery (Seoul, 2016).
Artist Sujin Choi depicts fable-like scenes that oscillate between reality, memory, and illusion using photographs from her travels. However, rather than the depicted scenes, the presence of light is the true protagonist in her paintings. The sunlit interiors in her paintings are recognizable, but the shapes of the objects are somewhat abstract as if they are gradually being absorbed into the background.
Choi continues her experimentation with colors by expressing experienced realities and imagined scenes. Rather than using dots, lines, and planes to distinguish objects from one another, the artist depicts and composes them in lumps of color. Choi paints the mundane, blurring it into the fantastical by combining various senses, memories, experiences, and fantasies with a mass of color.
Sujin Choi (b. 1986) received a BFA and an MFA in painting from Chung-Ang University. The artist has held solo exhibitions such as those at Artmia Space (Hainan, 2022), AIT (Seoul, 2021), and Hapjungjigu (Seoul, 2017). She has held group exhibitions at the Daegu Art Museum (Daegu, 2021), Blue Square Nemo (Seoul, 2020), and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Cheongju, 2020).
In 2022, BB&M presented its first group exhibition introducing the works of young Korean artists. The works of four artists, Jeongsu Woo (painting), Sinae Yoo (video, installation, and sculpture), Hyangro Yoon (painting), and Goen Choi (sculpture), were featured in Cold Pitch.