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[November 2022 Exhibitions]
Examining the Connection between Contemporary Art and Traditional Korean Art

Ambitious artists and numerous art museums are the driving forces of today’s growing Korean art scene. However, traditional Korean art has received significantly less attention, and its connection to contemporary art is frequently overlooked.

Nonetheless, a number of artists and institutions are attempting to open a new chapter in the history of traditional Korean art by employing and challenging the materials, methods, concepts, and subject matter used in the genre.

Through the works of various contemporary artists, the exhibition at the Ilmin Museum of Art initiates a discussion on the contemporary significance of traditional Korean art. Gallery Chosun and the Seoul Museum of Art each introduce Lee Houk and Wunggyu Park, who experiments with the methods and subjects of traditional Korean painting in different ways.

Exhibition view of "Korean Traditional Painting in Alter-age" at the Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul (October 28, 2022 ─ January 8, 2023). Courtesy of the Ilmin Museum of Art.

The Ilmin Museum of Art examines Korean painting as a contemporary art genre. The exhibition features the works of twenty-two artists who have played important roles in Korean art history, as well as those of thirteen contemporary artists whose works use traditional techniques and themes and were created after the 2000s.

Korean painting existed before the modern era, but it was suggested as a genre in the 1950s and began to take hold in the early 1980s. The importance of traditional Korean art was especially emphasized after the Korean Peninsula was finally liberated from Japanese colonization. 

At the time of modernization, aspirations such as eschewing the remains of colonial culture and regaining national identity were projected into the discourse of traditional Korean painting. Its concept was founded on the general characteristics of modernity and the uniqueness of Korea’s locality. Today, however, many aspects of the genre have disappeared as the modernity trend has begun to wane.

The Ilmin Museum of Art investigates the continued existence of Korean traditional painting in the contemporary art world and addresses the disconnect between tradition and contemporary art.

The thirteen contemporary artists participating in this exhibition are Noh Hansol (b.1991), Laurent Grasso (b.1972), Moon Joohye (b.1995), Park Grim (b.1987), Park Sohyun (b.1993), Park Wunggyu (b.1987), Park Jieun (b.1990), Bae Jaemin (b.1992), Son Donghyun (b.1980), Lee Eunsil (b.1983), Jung Haena (b.1985), Choi Haeri (b.1978), and Hwang Kyumin (b.1994).

Poster image of Lee Houk’s solo exhibition "Portal of Mystery" at Gallery Chosun, Seoul (November 3, 2022 – December 23, 2022). Courtesy of Gallery Chosun.

Artist Lee Houk captures the inner emotions he experiences in nature. Lee carries paper, a brush, and ink into the woods or onto islands to create ink paintings. By isolating himself in an uninhabited area, the artist is able to use nature as a mirror to direct his attention inward, away from the external world.

The image that resembles blood oozing from the roots of trees symbolizes the agony experienced when an individual is separated from society and the contradiction of collective consciousness. In addition, the image of clouds conveys a sense of “timeliness,” “movement,” and “vitality.”

According to the artist, today’s society is a digital colony since we are constantly dragged around by the constant flow of information, which prevents us from fully facing ourselves. The prevalent totalitarianism and nationalism in Korean society also prevent us from focusing on our individuality. By isolating himself from cities, Lee attempts to overcome these difficulties by emphasizing his ego’s overflowing presence in nature through Korean painting.  

Lee Houk has held solo exhibitions at institutions such as EMU Art Space (Seoul, 2019), Gallery Chosun (Seoul, 2018), and FACO (Seoul, 2016). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions at Seongnam Art Center (Seongnam, 2019), Hakgojae Gallery (Seoul, 2017), Seoul Art Space Geumcheon (Seoul, 2017), and Hanwon Art Museum (Seoul, 2012). 

Poster image of Wunggyu Park’s solo exhibition "Dummy Buddha" at Art Space Boan 1, Seoul. Organized by the Seoul Museum of Art (October 30, 2022 – November 20, 2022). © Namiad.

Selected as one of the Seoul Museum of Art’s 2022 SeMA Emerging Artists & Curators Program, the exhibition Dummy Buddha presents the works of Wunggyu Park (b. 1987) on the first and second floors of Boan 1942.

Instead of depicting divine deities, Park paints grotesque and horrifying beings that flaunt their existence in his paintings. Majoring in Oriental painting, Park borrows techniques from traditional Korean and Japanese Buddhist paintings to depict objects that evoke repulsive feelings, such as insect-like bizarre creatures.

Using Buddhist painting, the artist intends to capture and convey “negativity.” Park brings together the elements of traditional Buddhist paintings that inspired him and reconstructs them in six formative perspectives (imitation, composition, form, texture, transformation, and application). Twelve groups of works are arranged to be organically connected to the twelve exhibition spaces.

Wunggyu Park has held solo exhibitions at Onground 2 (Seoul, 2018), Art Space Kneet (Seoul, 2017), and Cheongju Creative Art Studio (Cheongju, 2016). He has also participated in group exhibitions at the Project Gallery at the Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, 2022), Danwon Art Museum (Ansan, 2021), Art Sonje Center (Seoul, 2021), and Outsight (Seoul, 2019).

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