This summer is expected to be even hotter in South Korea, and many of us are planning our holidays to cool off by the seaside, rivers, and valleys. If you’re planning a trip to Seoul, Cheongju, or Gimhae in South Korea, why not escape the heat with a visit to a water-themed exhibition?
The summer season is the most anticipated time of the year for everyone, especially after several years of travel cancellations and delays. This summer is likely to be even hotter in South Korea, and many are planning to spend their vacation time by the seaside, rivers, and valleys, looking forward to a refreshing break from the heat.
If you happen to be visiting Seoul, Cheongju, or Gimhae in South Korea, why not cool off by visiting water-themed exhibitions along the way? We recommend visiting Seoul Citizens’ Hall, Cheongju City Art Museum, and Clayarch Gimhae Museum in Gimhae.
Unfortunately, plastic and Styrofoam are now common sights when strolling along the seashore. Just as rocks erode and become weathered by the impact of waves, the plastic pieces and Styrofoam discarded by humans also take on a rock-like form through weathering processes.
In 2017, while walking along the beach, the artist Hanna Chang discovered debris that had acquired a rock-like appearance due to natural phenomena. Since then, she has amassed more than 2,000 samples from beaches and riverbanks throughout South Korea. The artist refers to these samples as “New Rocks.”
If you visit the Dome House at Clayarch Gimhae Museum, you can view over 300 samples of Chang’s “New Rocks,” along with videos capturing the collection process, close-up photographs of the samples, observational drawings, and more.
The “New Rocks” collected from coastlines all over the country, including Jeju Island, the East Sea, the South Sea, and the West Sea of South Korea, are the results of human desires and capitalist society, but at the same time, they serve as a new subject of aesthetic exploration for the artist. The artist documented the degradation of plastic in the natural environment using videos and photographs. Through the paradoxical beauty of “New Rocks,” the artist conveys a message about the awe-inspiring aspects of nature and the climate crisis, emphasizing the importance of practical actions.
The New Rock exhibition, part of the 2023 Ki;um exhibition at Clayarch Gimhae Museum, is taking place in the children’s exhibition space.
Daecheongho, or Daecheong Lake, an artificial lake located between Daejeon City, Boeun-gun, and Cheongju City, is dotted with numerous attractions. If you visit the Munui Cultural Heritage Complex located on the Cheongju City side of the lake, you can enjoy Korea’s unique traditional culture, from the dolmens to the traditional tiled-roof houses. Moreover, as you stroll through the park, you have the opportunity to come across the Dacheongho Museum of Art.
The Dacheongho Museum of Art showcases diverse exhibitions with themes revolving around the importance of the ecosystem, corresponding with the geographical characteristics of the lake. The current exhibition, The Space of Water, focuses on the theme of water.
This exhibition sensually reinterprets the image of water through the works of six Korean artists. Water is an essential element for sustaining life, yet its presence is frequently overlooked as it is constantly intertwined with our daily lives. The exhibition allows visitors to “recognize the existence of water, experience its uses and circulation, and even explore the unknown civilization and mysterious world of water.”
Artist Wonjung Kim draws inspiration from the laws of nature to explore the complexity of human life. Kim’s work effectively depicts the concept of circulation, illustrating the cyclical nature inherent in all aspects of life. One example of this can be seen in her visualization of water’s transformation from its liquid form to vapor and back to precipitation. In another artwork, seeds are used as the medium, and the viewer is required to water them to complete the piece.
Artist KIM LEE-PARK engages in a plant therapy project, revealing the emotional connection between the plant owner, the plants, and the artist and showcasing how the dynamics of their relationship influence the plants. His group of works encompasses a range of mediums, including video, photography, and drawings, all of which portray the process of healing suffering plants by emphasizing the impact of light, wind, and water. Among these elements, the “water” element takes center stage, symbolizing the vital life force and its significance in the ecological cycle.
Artist Yeonsook Lee reconstructs spatial installations by recombining the lives and narratives of other people. The House that Walks in the Water (물을 걷는 집) creates the illusion of walking through a submerged house. The artist creates a spatial representation of her feelings upon hearing about the former residents’ stories of the submerged area of Daecheongho. A Place Built by Water (물을 세운 장소) expresses the space of water as seen from outside, evoking faded memories that remain only as traces in the light.
Based in Cheongju, artist 2Changsu creates three-dimensional works by layering images on multiple sheets of glass. By stacking layers of glass with progressively changing images, the artist represents the passage of time, aiming to trace the essence of the Musim Stream that has shaped the lives of Cheongju’s residents. Through the artwork Water, Trees, and the Story of Civilization (물, 나무와 문명 이야기), which showcases the stories of ancient trees that were submerged, the artist encourages reflection on the destruction of nature caused by our seemingly advancing civilization.
Artist Haejung Jung focuses on symbiosis with various organisms, veganism, ecofeminism, the relationship between nature and media, humans and non-humans, and organic and inorganic materials. She particularly emphasizes “water” and “liquidity” as keywords in her work. One of her exhibited works End Island (2021) allows for the experience of perceiving and sensing the world of extinct animals through the combination of their forms. The other piece explores the interior of a liquid body floating in a space that resembles the fluidity of the sea.
Artist Sooyeon Hong expresses various forms that exist within her inner self through abstract painting, exploring the essence of abstraction. The ongoing series Synchronicity evokes the movement of water. Through the process of deconstructing layers of color built up through control and tension, the series reveals accidental effects. The video work (抽象)DRAWN ELEPHANT summons the memories of the artist’s near-death experience during childhood. The work represents the illusion of being drawn into the depths of water as the hidden layers of the two-dimensional process are reproduced on a three-dimensional screen.
Seoul City Hall is the chief administrative building of the city, but it also has numerous open spaces for the citizens. Many visitors to Seoul may come across the modern glass building of Seoul City Hall, which reinterprets the eaves of traditional Hanok architecture. If you happen to come across it, we recommend you not just walk past it; instead, go underground and explore.
The Seoul Citizens’ Hall is located on the ground floor of the City Hall, where you can enjoy various exhibitions and performances. Among them, the Sound Gallery is a space that showcases exhibitions on the theme of “sound,” in line with the Citizens’ Hall’s objective of creating an environment where the voices of the citizens can be heard. Equipped with a surround sound system, the Sound Gallery features exhibitions that combine sound and media art.
The exhibition, W Symphony, which opened on July 3 and runs through September 30, is a solo exhibition by artist Nakyum Hong. This exhibition was selected and organized as part of the “Wave 2023 Capital ‘Waterway(水道)’ Seoul” open call project in the field of “sound media art.”
Artist Nakyum Hong employs video and sound in her artistic practice. She investigates the relationship between humans and nature while posing existential questions, focusing on the phenomena of light and sound captured from “natural forms.”
Her latest work, W Symphony, is centered around the Hangang River, an iconic place in Seoul. The piece, composed of three parts titled “Water is Dance,” “Water is Light,” and “Water is Harmony,” prompts viewers to reflect on their own existence within the city where the Hangang River, a massive lifeline, flows. The artist portrays the primal power and nature of the Hangang River by exploring the energy of the ripples flowing along the river’s course in the ecological park created along its banks.
Due to the urban noise surrounding the Hangang River, it is difficult to concentrate on the sounds of nature. Although many ecological parks have been established along the river, the sense of wilderness has nearly disappeared. The artist captures the true nature that coexists with artificial environments, documenting it through video. By employing the “long take” technique, the artist presents not only a visually observable Hangang River but also an auditory experience, revealing the multitude of ecosystems that can thrive.