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The International Group Exhibition "Alternative Sea for Asia" at the Jeonnam Museum of Art Connects the South Sea of Korea and Asia

The Jeonnam Museum of Art has opened the international group exhibition Alternative Sea for Asia, which aims to connect the regional ideology of Asia from April 11 to July 16, 2023.

Poster image of "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the museum.

The Jeonnam Museum of Art, located in Gwangyang, Jeollanam-do, has opened the international group exhibition Alternative Sea for Asia, which aims to connect the regional ideology of Asia from April 11 to July 16, 2023.

Curated by Junghee Moon, professor at the Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan, and Seowoo Han, curator at the Jeonnam Museum of Art, Alternative Sea for Asia examines how Asian art transcends the boundary of the ‘sea.’ The exhibition presents 30 works by 16 Asian artists, particularly from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, born between the early 1900s and the 1980s.

Installation view: Honggoo Kang, 'Mud, Eouido,' series, 2022 Digital print and drawing collage on canvas, 138×276 cm. "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and the museum.

The sea could be an obstacle that divides and disconnects regions, but at the same time, it could also be a medium that connects various regions and facilitates cultural exchanges. The “alternative sea” that the exhibition refers to is a medium through which diverse thoughts and ideas can be shared in Asia beyond the limitations of time and space.

Alternative Sea for Asia attempts to explore the ideology in Asian art between Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, the three countries that can be connected by the southern sea of Korea.

The exhibition is divided into four sections to unfold this idea: Pa (파, 波, wave): Waves of the Sea; Mong (몽, 夢, dream), Sea, and Dream; Cho (초, 超, transcendence); and Gyeong (경, 境, boundary).

The first section, Pa (, , wave): Waves of the Sea, presents media artwork by artists Nam June Paik and Chen Yu-Jung, whose works incorporate the element of waves that can spread far beyond the material world.

Installation view: Nam June Paik's 'TV Fish (Video Fish),' 1975/1996, 24 TVs, 24 Fish tanks, live fish, 3-channel video, color, silent, Dimension variable. "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and the MMCA.

Nam June Paik (1932–2006) was an artist who blurred the boundaries between music and visual arts, and his exhibited work TV Fish (Video Fish) (1975, 1966) provides a visual-auditory experience through a single-circuit TV. 

Taiwanese artist Chen Yu-Jung (b. 1989), who works in a variety of media based on a modern musical background, explores the natural and the artificial through sound. The artist has been working on visualizing the sound of the sea in various places in Asia. Southern Sea (2023) collects the sound of the sea around the Jeonnam Museum of Art and visualizes it based on the collected data, revealing the regularity of sounds in nature.

Mong (, , dream), Sea, and Dream shows artworks that capture the sea.

Installation view: Kim Seung Yong and Murai Hironori's 'Picnic on the Ocean,' 1999~2022, Water, stainless steel, sheet paper, 55x50 cm each. "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the artists and the museum.

Oh Chi Ho (19051982) was a South Korean artist who expressed the natural beauty of Korea in his unique way, focusing on color and light. He also established painting theories and put effort into fostering oil painters in the Jeollanam-do region. Oh’s practice was influenced by French Impressionism and Japanese plein-air painting. However, he deviated from the conventional methods of these painting styles and painted something that can be shared and empathized with in Korea.

Artist Honggoo Kang (b. 1956) creates digital landscapes by combining paintings and collages with photographs. Among the exhibited works of Kang, a black-and-white photograph of a mud field in Sinan is printed and colored with acrylics. He captures the landscape and space of the times by portraying scenes of human beings and civilization from a critical perspective.

South Korean artist Kim Seung Young (b. 1963) and Japanese artist Murai Hironori (b. 1962) collaborated on a performance that aimed to transcend the differences between the two nations. The performance involved the artists enjoying a picnic together by meeting on the high seas of the Korean Strait, located on the border between Korea and Japan.

Japanese artist Uchida Aguri (b. 1949) is one of the most widely represented artists of modern Japanese painting. Using the raw material of color, he expresses the flow of life by conveying the experience of nature. He captures vitality and circulation by expressing rhythmical colors and dynamic shapes in the scene where dreams flow into a river and reach the sea.

The works in the Cho (초, 超, transcendence) section examine the Asian art world through the reinterpretation of traditional landscapes. 

Installation view: Kei Imazu, 'Survivor,' 2019, Oil on canvas, 292×388 cm (115×152 4/5 in). "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and the museum.

Heo Baek-ryeon (1891~1977), an old Korean master of the Southern School style of painting, drew traditional Korean landscape paintings that focused on depicting the artist’s spiritual aspects. He was also an important figure in the Jeollanam-do region who was active in social movements and fostered younger generations. Unlike traditional literati paintings of rivers and lakes, Heo discarded conventional subject matter and drew the image of the sea instead. 

Heo Geon (1907~1987) was also one of the artists who rejected past traditions of artwork. Heo was an artist who established an independent and free-spirited painting style without being constrained by traditional ink painting techniques.

Contemporary landscape painter Chunil Kim (b. 1951) inherited the vision of these old master painters. Kim considers landscape painting to be the core of East Asian painting and has been studying the genre by visiting various fields and sketching landscapes.

The exhibition expands its perspective to shed light on artists from other Asian regions who are continuing the legacy of traditional Asian landscape painting. Taiwanese artist Lee Yihong (b. 1941) pioneered a new painting style that expresses the northern coastal scenery of Taiwan in a three-dimensional sense and is regarded as an important figure in modern ink painting.

Imazu Kei (b. 1980) is an artist who creates paintings that blend traditional painting techniques with modern technology. Through modern seascapes, her works explore the relationship between contemporary images and past history. They paradoxically reveal the problems created by mankind by depicting the ecology of the sea and metaphorically capturing the history of human aggression.

Another Taiwanese artist, Yuan Huili (b. 1963), also created modern landscape paintings using various mediums based on the techniques and ideology of traditional landscape paintings. Lee reinterprets traditional landscape painting by transforming materials and techniques, such as using ashes from burning rice paper instead of ink, using fingers instead of brushes, or incorporating moving images.

The Gyeong (, , boundary) section presents works that depict Asia differently from the Western culture that traverses fiction and reality. 

Installation view of Nakamura Kazumi's 'A Birds in its Existence' series, "Alternative Sea for Asia," Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, Korea. (April 11, 2023 - July 16, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and the museum.

Taiwanese artist Huang Bohao (b. 1982) views ink as the fundamental element of painting and uses material characteristics as the formative principle of painting. The artist expresses Eastern philosophy in materialistic colors and unfolds the invisible reality through abstraction.

Nakamura Kazumi (b. 1956), one of the most prominent artists of contemporary Japanese art, has been examining the space expressed in traditional Eastern painting in the style of American modernism. The artist, who has constructed a certain symbolic system within his paintings, attempts to express the essence of art through the image of a bird that transcends the boundaries of life and death, heaven and earth.

Whanki Kim (1913~1974), the pioneer of Korean abstract painting, created a cosmic space through all-over paintings composed of pure formative elements of dots, lines, and planes. He worked on oil paintings but created Korean abstraction using single color tones and smearing effects. 

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