There has been a growing interest in the works of young and emerging Korean artists along with the influx of young collectors. These artists work in a wider variety of genres and fields and share the same interests as these young collectors.
To illuminate the artistic activities of these emerging artists who will lead Korea’s contemporary art scene in the future, major galleries in Seoul are holding their solo exhibitions.
Artist Kwak Intan’s solo exhibition Palette is taking place at K.O.N.G Gallery, Keem Jiyoung’s Scattering Breath at P21, and teamVOID’s Factories at One and J. Gallery.
K.O.N.G Gallery (38, Samcheongro7gil, Jongrogu, Seoul)
K.O.N.G Gallery, which represents artist Kwak Intan (b. 1986), is exhibiting Palette, the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery through November 5, 2022. Combining sculpture and painting, Kwak pursues a new artistic style and creates sculptures with novel forms, structures, and textures.
Kwak combines the images of the artworks by great masters such as Kim Whanki, Lee Ufan, Willem de Kooning, Auguste Rodin, and Alberto Giacometti to create abstract and surrealistic sculptures. After attaching cement and resin to a framework, Kwak applies different colors to the sculpture as if it were a palette. The color scheme of a sculpture may be reminiscent of Kim Whanki’s blue-hued paintings or Willem de Kooning’s intensely colored works, while its form somehow recalls Giacometti.
The exhibition also includes Kwak’s new group of relief works. In each piece, a tiger head that symbolizes the artist who was born in the year of the tiger, the hands of sculptors, the shape of dinosaur toys that the artist favored as a child, and emojis are scattered across the relief works. The fragments of everyday life in various colors and shapes that make up the artist are spread and pasted on the surface of the artwork like thick paint on a palette.
Kwak Intan’s works received a great deal of attention from the Korean art world after participating in the exhibition Sculptural Impulse at the SeMA Buk Seoul Museum of Art, which highlighted young contemporary sculptors. He had solo exhibitions at Ohzemidong Gallery (2016, Seoul) and Studio 148 (2019, Seoul). In 2018, he had a two-person exhibition with media artist Ifie Sin at 2/W. Before being a part of SeMA’s Sculptural Impulse in 2022, he participated in the group exhibition at the Osan Museum of Art this year.
Painting candlelight has become Keem Jiyoung’s (b. 1987) primary interest since 2020. At first sight, Keem’s paintings may resemble abstract color field paintings because of their flat, solid hue spread across the canvas. Yet her works are not exactly abstract as she depicts the color of the light source emanating from a candle’s wick and its surroundings with careful observation.
The walls of one of the galleries are filled with small paintings of candle flames. Each flickering candlelight is expressed in different focus, size, and angle. They remind us of the different luminescent glows of the sunset. But when observing the whole gallery wall, each row of the paintings appears to be a collage of interconnected candle flames.
In Korea, candles represent collective gatherings, especially after the Candlelight protests in 2016 and 2017. Keem was greatly influenced by these social incidents, and as a result, she sought out ways to face and document these issues and violence coming from social structures through her paintings. Yet her works convey not only social messages but also personal ones. Candle flames that have different temperatures and hues also illuminate the lives of individuals in various shapes and colors. Keem attempts to reflect the finite nature of life without fear of death to emphasize the uniqueness of every life.
Keem Jiyoung has had solo exhibitions at Wess (2020, Seoul), Sansumunhwa (2018, Seoul), Onewwall (2015, Seoul), SongEun (2021, Seoul), Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (2021, Ansan), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (2019, Gwacheon), Korean Cultural Center in Hong Kong (2020, Hong Kong), Boan 1942 (2019, Seoul), Art Space Pool (2017, Seoul), etc. In addition, Kim Jiyoung was selected as a resident artist for Geumcheon Art Factory (2022), Incheon Art Platform (2021), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Goyang Residency (2020), and SeMA Nanji Residency (2019).
The media artist collective teamVOID consists of Junbong Song, Jaehyuck Bae, and Booyoung Seok, who studied engineering and new media art. Through works that combine art and technology, the group raises questions about the art world system. teamVOID expands their ongoing The Factory series, which reflects the growing technological sophistication of automation and mass production systems.
The group presents industrial robot arms and conveyor belts that resemble an actual machine factory. These installations produce drawings. Through its automated system, sketching, stamping, and coloring are done without a person, raising questions about the distinction between production and creation.
The Mint Factory is the group’s new project that experiments with the technology of NFT (non-fungible tokens) to examine the recent NFT phenomenon in the art world. With the advent of NFTs in the art market, many physical artworks were converted to the virtual world. In Mint Factory, teamVOID reintroduced a non-material, virtual object to the physical world by reversing this process.
teamVOID explores contemporary social systems and phenomena by creating interactive, kinetic, and robotic artworks using various technological media. teamVOID has participated in various art institutions to present their works and projects, including Geumcheon Art Factory, ZER01NE by Hyundai, and Canada’s ELEKTRA Festival 2017.