Beccy Kennedy reviews the KAA’s Invisible Bonds exhibition at the KCC
The latest exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre, Invisible Bonds, explores the unobvious unions which continue to develop between Korean artists and British people, places and spaces. It is the annual show from the Korean Artists Association UK and it aims to build on and reinforce the existing community of Korean artists and their audience base in London. The four curators of Invisible Bonds – Kang, Jun-Im Mclaughlin, Park and Song – are also contributors to the art selection, which consists of mixed media pieces by thirteen artists, most of whom have studied and/or live in Britain.
Bada Song (director/curator/artist of the show) offers the largest piece, Match (2010) – a spread of impressively intricate and thoughtful pencil drawings of locally found sticks, many of which look like fallen tree branches. These extend across the entire wall of the back of the KCC theatre. ((Where Korean singers, musicians and dancers gave memorable performances at the exhibition opening on Friday night. )) Song hereby renders the mundane into the meticulous and the magnificent. She also represents each stick’s scale using a life-sized drawing of a matchstick in one corner, thereby juxtaposing the natural quality of her drawing with the machine-manipulated, scientific-looking match.
Each of the British based Korean curators of the exhibition offer a different medium, style and approach to the exhibition’s theme. Soon Yul Kang produces seductively serene hand woven tapestries which border between seen landscapes and imagined sanctuaries. Kang is interested in stillness, simplicity, emptiness and meditative contemplation. Her tapestries appear to embed all these concepts but whilst they offer a peaceful, pictographic refuge away from the tangles of the inner London urbis, they also signify the assiduousness of handmade endeavours. The threads are woven using a carefully selected palette of colours intermingled gently across the surface, manifesting in both vertical and horizontal gradations of hue. From a distance they could be mistaken for paintings, but where paint pigments swell once given to water then merge across their surface once they leave their brush, wool has to be manipulated in order to evolve into an image.
Kitty Jun-Im Mclaughlin carefully layers delicate Korean hanji paper, paint and ink on Western Modernist style canvas, making semi-abstract compositions, inspired by Korean calligraphy and Eastern and Western philosophies. Each layer seems to represent and capture her experiences as an artist and more personally as a survivor, who embodies her duality of Korean and British cultures and encounters.
Sunju Park uses glass as her surface, onto which she paints or prints mysterious, acid etched or silk screened images, before firing them in the kiln at 600 degrees. A little like Kitty, she uses layering to achieve a multifaceted and enigmatic composition, placing the printed glass pieces on top of each other so the pictures merge. The transparency of the surface gives the images a unique, ethereal quality. If you look closely you will find a still from Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet, an upside down building from Gyeongbok Palace or hundreds of miniature photos of parts of Park’s everyday life. Or you can refuse to recognise the familiar and, instead, imagine the unfamiliar.
Other fine art highlights in the exhibition, include painter Joo Hee Chun’s abstract, layered formations of semi-calligraphic black and golden swirls caught inside translucent areas of polymer acrylic;
… current Goldsmiths student, Sung Feel Yun’s black, flat yet terrifically textured vortex;
… and Yun-Kyung Jeong’s optically invigorating, organic patterns which collaborate influences of Gothic architecture with Eastern animism.
Photographic contributions to the exhibition are equally stunning and thought provoking, including Jung Hoi Jung’s black and white, 1970s captures of traditional Korean life;
… Mi So Park’s delicate shots of elderly people’s personal and religious rituals in Korea and Britain;
… and Seong Hee Jo’s digitally collaged scenes of London by night. Running on a loop is Jihye Park’s psychoanalytically charged, beautifully granular film which presents a short, esoteric narrative about a woman who appears to bundle up and drown her unwanted self:
Unifying most of the art works is a subtle attention to colour; mostly presented in monochrome or pastel shades, working to symbolise invisibility or, perhaps, rather, the nuance of fusion. But the exhibition doesn’t just seem to concern the fusion of Korean culture within British surroundings, but also the fusion of our consciousness and our unconsciousness, our rationalisation and our imagination, capacities which comprise or are comprised by the human condition. When confronted with an image, the eye looks and the mind behind perceives. The visibility of the bonds, the patterns and the creations depends on your perceptions.