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Nonprofit Organizations Spot Korean Contemporary Artists in Their 40s and 50s

Main image of Ham Jin’s solo exhibition, Mom at Perigee Gallery, Seoul. Image provided by Perigee Gallery. © Ham Jin.

Solo exhibitions of mid-level Korean artists in their mid-40s to early 50s are held at major nonprofit exhibition spaces in Seoul, Korea.

Between the 1990s and 2000s, these artists conducted various artistic experiments on non-institutional platforms during a time when the Korean art market expanded rapidly and reached the international art world. Ever since the Korean art world underwent this rapid transformation, these artists have been experimenting with their own artistic practices and building their own unique art world.

Ham Jin’s solo exhibition is held at Perigee Gallery, Soyoung Chung’s at CR Collective, and Kim Sung Soo’s at CAN Foundation.

Ham Jin, 'No Name 08,' 2022, Polymer clay, aluminium wire, varnish, 6.7 x 4 x 3.5 cm. Photo by Aproject Company.

Ham Jin’s (b. 1978) solo exhibition, Mom, is taking place at the Perigee Gallery from September 23 to November 12, 2022.

Today, with the development of technology and the advancement of tools, artworks are growing in size. Despite this, the artist Ham Jin continues to create micro-sized sculptures with his fingertips. Even a 30-centimeter-tall sculpture is a large work for Ham.

The majority of the artworks in the exhibition are smaller than 10 centimeters, and the gallery is equipped with a magnifying glass for the visitors to enjoy the works. Although small in size, each work is created with intricate details that hold the visitor’s attention for several minutes.

Ham’s former works used synthetic clay and non-artistic materials such as dust and dead insects to create miniature humans, animals, and unidentified creatures that satirize today’s world. His later works became more abstract by emphasizing the sculptural form with only black clay.

In Mom, each micro-sized, bizarre-looking creature, in which organic and inorganic substances are combined into a single piece, is sculpted from polymer clay of various hues. Each work stands on a pedestal, forming a separate world, as opposed to having a narrative that ties them together.

The works are connected to the artist’s reality, but they also resemble unrealistic mythical characters. The pieces are eerie and grotesque yet beautiful, abstract yet concrete, small in size yet with infinite imagination, and disorderly yet precise. Ham’s finger-made creations are a reflection of his world as well as questions about himself.

Exhibition view of Ham Jin’s solo exhibition, "Mom" at Perigee Gallery, Seoul. Photo by Aproject Company.

Ham Jin’s rise to prominence in the Korean art world began in 1999 when he was selected for a call-for-artists program at Project Space Sarubia, one of the country’s earliest and most significant alternative spaces. He participated in the Busan Biennale in 2000, the Gwangju Biennale in 2001, as well as the Korean Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005.

He has held solo exhibitions at PKM Gallery in Seoul, Aomori Center for Contemporary Art in Japan, Hada Contemporary in London, Doosan Gallery in Seoul, and Chapter Two in Seoul. He participated in group exhibitions at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris, Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Espace Louis Vuitton in Paris, Gallery Baton, Seoul National University Museum of Art, and Busan Museum of Art.

Poster image of Soyoung Chung’s solo exhibition, "on my way, baby" at CR Collective, Seoul. © CR Collective.

Soyoung Chung’s (b. 1979) solo exhibition, on my way, baby, is taking place at the CR Collective from October 14 to November 26, 2022.

Soyoung Chung visualizes the relationships and order that occur in space through site-specific installations, sculptures, videos, and participatory works. To understand Chung’s works, one might need to infer the original materials, function, and narrative, as Chung sculpturally expresses a certain issue or historical moment through everyday objects using a cosmology, geology, and ocean science approach.

For example, in Tectonic Memory Chapter V, Words, glass pebbles from Vladivostok are embedded between the pages of a pile of books. Glass waste, which would have been originally shattered into sharp fragments, is gradually worn out by the currents of the beach and reabsorbed into nature. For Chung, the glass pebbles have become etched with memories over the years. Consequently, the artist viewed them as texts that could describe that memory.

Soyoung Chung, 'Tectonic Memory Chapter V, Words,' 2020, paper, sea glass from Vladivostok, shelves, Various dimension. Image provided by Seoul Art Space Geumcheon.

Chung’s solo exhibition at CR Collective encourages visitors to appreciate the works in conjunction with the space. This is due to the fact that the space is also a component of the sculpture, which contains a series of actions directed toward all the loved ones, or “baby” in the title.

In the exhibition, there are sculptural works in which circular bands made of metal plates overlap, roll, and twist into different shapes, as well as a video work of the sea in which a boat creates lines as if drawing an island. The exhibited works create a dimension that may exist somewhere in the universe and reflect the cyclical process and the fluid aspects of nature.

Soyoung Chung, 'The Ugliest fish,' 2022, Powder coating on aluminum, Dimension variable. Photo by Lee Euirock.

Soyoung Chung has held solo exhibitions at numerous art institutions and galleries, including the Kumho Museum of Art, Project Space Sarubia, OCI Museum of Art, Instant Loop, and One&J Gallery. In addition to group exhibitions held at Korean institutions such as the Seoul Museum of Art, Ilmin Museum of Art, SongEun Art Space, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, her works have been exhibited in France, Turkey, Berlin, and London, among others.

Currently, she is one of the participating artists of apmap 2022 seoul – apmap review, a group exhibition held at the Amorepacific Museum of Art.

Poster image of Kim Sung Soo’s solo exhibition, Vanitas at CAN Foundation, Seoul. © CAN Foundation.

Kim Sung Soo’s (b. 1969) solo exhibition, Vanitas, is taking place at the CAN Foundation from October 14 to November 12, 2022.

Each collection of Kim Sung Soo’s works may appear to be by different artists. However, the focus of Kim’s artworks is on us, which reflects the hidden side of contemporary society.

While the artist was studying in France, the Metallica series was created to represent the foreigner’s life in a cold city. Due to their patterns, the silhouette of the precisely measured steel structures appears abstract. The works express the standardization of modern civilization and human desires. The Melancholy series depicts contemporary society. The characters in the background, which are dark and devoid of space, all have empty eyes. The artist creates infinitely repeating images with mirrors to convey the feeling of alienation in contemporary society.

The Vanitas exhibition borrows patterns from Persian carpets, which symbolize the aristocratic culture of the past. The fading gold-colored patterns express the ephemeral nature of today’s desires. The Lapidifier series expresses emptiness through colorful flowers. The faded golden color of the flower seems to reflect the disappointment of desire that holds onto the splendid past. However, other works exhibited at The Old House appear to have allowed the gold to fade in order to gain wisdom.

Artist Kim Sung Soo has held solo exhibitions at various locations, including Johyeon Gallery, Gallery Scape, and Project Space Sarubia. In addition, he participated in a number of group exhibitions held at Korean art institutions such as the Busan Museum of Modern Art, Ilwoo Space, Jeonbuk Museum of Art, Busan Museum of Art, and Gana Art Center, as well as exhibitions held at various international galleries in London, Paris, Jakarta, Beijing, and Taipei. 

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