Here is the video of the opening performance of the KAAUK’s January 2017 residency at the KCC:
Thanks to Jason Verney of Native Nomad Pictures.
Here is the video of the opening performance of the KAAUK’s January 2017 residency at the KCC:
Thanks to Jason Verney of Native Nomad Pictures.
Here is the video of the opening performance of the KAA’s 2015 residency at the Korean Cultural Centre.
Video by Jason Verney of Native Nomad Pictures.
Here is a video of the opening performance of the Korea Chronicles residency at the KCC, by Jason Verney of Native Nomad Pictures.
The film features the 12th August performances and concert in its entirety, along with added extras – the preparation beforehand, the artwork associated with the KAA’s, rehearsals and more.
The Collaboration exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre in London is an important event organised by The Korean Artists Association in the UK.
The Korean Cultural Centre’s project gives priority to spreading the knowledge of oriental creative thought with annual exhibitions in which the KAA member artists express their ideas through art in different media. Additionally, the cohesion and unity of the KAA artists gives them the possibility to reinforce their links with the UK. This year’s exhibition Collaboration draws inspiration from linguistics as an expression of Korean culture with respect of object and gesture analysis.
The project includes performances, conferences, workshops and videos. KAA brings together visual artists and musicians such as Ji Eun Jung celebrated interpreter of the Korean traditional harp, Se Young Jeong, Hyun Seok Kwon and the composer Tae Hwan Rho. The relationship with sound in Korean music is equivalent to the search for the essential of visual art. The relationship between the two compositions is tackled by Joo Hee Chun and Jee Soo Shin in the work White Blessing. The white thought is a sketch on a surface on which it is difficult to write notes. The musical score is a free path which extends itself on the canvass as an emanation of itself. Jee Soo Shin’s musical composition searches the primary sound which accompanies the white origin of all things.
Soon Yul Kang’s creative conception is based on the relationship with the invisible. The artist chose as the theme of her work the relationship between Yin / Yang and the five elements: Wood, Water, Metal, Fire and Earth. Wood and metal, which are in conflict according to the artist, become the body of the dialogue with the other elements. Soon Yul Kang expresses her idea through wooden circular shapes. The three sculptures analyse the relationship between the five elements represented chromatically by open rings. The interruption of their circularity corresponds to the question the artist asks about the energetic flows which are at the root of any life form. There is nothing more mysterious for the artist than to imagine the energy of the primary elements and reflect on their dynamics. The study is close to Delaunay who defined a chromatic symbolism with geometric forms in order to modulate the perceptive flows of sight and hence of feeling. The transformation that takes place in the retina corresponds to the same passages of the soul.
Se Hee Kim explores the invisible through the behaviour of one’s own cells, creating an observation journal. The dynamism captured by the artist is a fractal route in which the observer loses all sense of direction!
Even though it is a real physical movement, some things which happen inside us become theoretical creativity. An example of this is the work of Seung Joon Lee and Li Ju Kim, who establish a relationship between a Korean bozagi map with the work of Mondrian. From the confrontation of these two artistic expressions which belong to different cultures and periods appears a friendly work as the artists themselves have defined it. The project is concerned with the echo of Mondrian’s map. He lived abstraction as a form of spirituality. With Broadway Boogie-Woogie (’42-43), Mondrian establishes a relationship between his work and the map of Manhattan. The line is the result of internal tensions that converge on the layout.
For the artist Jeong Min Moon, the white centre crossed by black signs is the symbol of the conflictive system between dark/light, male/female, peace/war, stillness/movement, etc. The attention to some oriental philosophies has become great in the XX century as a social concern as demonstrated by Greenpeace who has commissioned the multimedia artist Sung Hwoa Gong. In the darkness of the sea, white narwhals, a symbol of the threatened arctic animals, dance a life in the round as in The Dance by Henri Matisse. The image is rich in poetry and makes one reflect on the circularity of existence that involves the life of man even in its most unexpected expressions.
The Mandala of artists Ki hyun Kim, Eu rim Kim, Brian Johnson, Clarence Chan, is the result of an alliance among independent artists in the UK and Korea, it is the symbol of unity par excellence, is the harmony from which the universal good derives. The same immigration re-enters the natural transformation project, in social life this phenomenon is coloured in different values and in the individual sphere, the separation is a wound which memories maternal blessing, the search for identity alleviate and maybe even cure! The photographic work of Mi So Park builds a clear path underlined by a clear separation from the scene as indicated by two domestic colours.
The concept of memories and of Korean tradition is the basis for the the work by photographer Tae Hyung Kim and the visual artist Ha Neul Shin. Naming their work after the exhibition, the artists reinterpret the historical event known as The six martyred ministers or Sayuksin, who were executed in 1456 for plotting against king Sejo. The story is about a collection of poems in which the King asked them to repent. In turn, ministers had to reply with other poems. However, they refused and preferred martyrdom. The artists, through this historical example compose an invitation to tolerance. The images proposed are of a reflective or interrogative nature among architectural symbols which hint at possible openings although still closed.
Artists Eun Jung Seo Feleppa and Sook Hee Kwon revisit and interpret in a contemporary language the traditional Minwha painting which decorated Ch’aekkori screens with simple strongly evocative scenes with animals. The painting is completed with a textile art work and the sculptural insertion of a book!
The Collaboration exhibition proposes to the visitor a reality which cannot be directly visualised but which can be felt. A work of art, by definition, attempts to fulfil superior spiritual interests. The exhibition proposes with apparent simplicity forms and shades of the different realities which are the vehicle of deep concepts and notions, just as the ears or the skin allow music to flow to the mind!!
Art historian & Art critic
For the first time the KAA’s performance at their KCC residency was filmed in its entirety. Good news for those who couldn’t manage to squeeze in to the standing-room-only event!
Thanks to Jason Verney of miniminimovie.com for the film.
By Philip Gowman of London Korean Links
With the KAA residency at the KCC having become a regular annual fixture in the latter’s calendar, it is possible for the organisers to plan with greater certainty, more secure in the knowledge that there will be a space ready to showcase their talents. The fifth such programme fell in the fifth year of the KCC’s having a permanent home in Northumberland Avenue. 오방색, O Bang Saek, the five traditional Korean colours, with their rich range of symbolism and associations, was chosen as the theme, and this nicely complemented the theme of Korea’s participation in the London Cultural Olympiad, 오색찬란, which roughly translates as ‘five colours shining bright’.
With the theme chosen in plenty of time, it was possible for the visual artists to create new work inspired by that theme, thus aiding the curator’s task in the selection process. And it was similarly possible to plan the opening performance to harmonise with the theme of the residency.
Dancers from Roehampton University joined as guest performers in a work entitled Bridging Colours, in which the dancers unveiled and re-folded long sheets of fabric in the O Bang Saek primary colours, as if reinterpreting a shamanistic ritual. Guest percussionists brought the audience to attention with their drums, and a small ensemble of musicians playing western and traditional Korean instruments performed a new composition by Jee-soo Shin.
A video of the opening performances can be found here.
Kitty Jun-im‘s work greeted you as you entered the exhibition itself. Her painting is abstract but is inspired by calligraphy, and one of her works was virtually a self-portrait, with her name Jun Im inscribed boldly on the canvas. The background, in reds, blues, creamy yellows, white and black respected the O Bang Saek theme.
The next works to catch your eye as you proceeded through the exhibition were by Soon Yul Kang. She is best known for her tranquil tapestry work, and it was interesting to see a different side to her practice at this exhibition. The most prominent work was A Spiritual Journey, a large white circular collage made of countless tiny pieces of white cotton (something laden with funereal significance), each of which at the word abeoji (아버지) hand-written on it – The repetition of the word forced a meditation on the memory of a beloved father.
Her other two works formed a complementary pair – circles of red and blue like celestial maps . The contrasting colours explore the concept of Yin and Yang, emptying and filling, and visible and invisible in harmony and unity.
Bada Song‘s work references traditional Korean roof tiles – of which one was included in the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects. While the BBC roof tile was an august Silla dynasty tile from Gyeongju, Song’s are more homely, based on the tiles on the roofs of traditional hanoks, such as those in Jeju where Song grew up. In this exhibition 16 deep blue prints of a roof tile in different perspective views were laid side by side, as if vanishing into infinity.
Joohee Chun’s work dominated the side wall as you approach the KCC’s multi-purpose space. As her first major work since becoming a mother, this work had special significance for Chun. 복 福 Bok – Blessing (2012) involved experimenting with new techniques – it was the first time she had used aluminium, or applied her acrylic layers to unmounted paper. The rich palette of colours respected the title of the exhibition without being bounded by it, and the mauves and purples were particularly effective.
Unmi Li‘s bold acrylics were a re-interpretation of the five elements of Korean culture – wood, fire, earth, metal and water, each of which has one of the five O Bang Saek colours. Her work explores the relationship between the external and internal, the macrocosm and microcosm. The characters in Five Emotions showed feelings ranging from sadness via envy to desire, the range emphasised by the vibrant use of contrasting colours.
Jean Kim‘s pair of works were dominated by the colour black – symbolising deep water and wisdom. In one, her father’s head is sketched in a simple white outline, viewed from above as if the viewer himself is having an out-of-body experience, looking down into a deep pool of unattainable knowledge. In the other work, a grinning face similarly in white outline looks slightly schizophrenic, but again against a background of deep, dark water.
Taehyung Kim continued the black theme, his work being based on recycled black bin bags. His photograph of a melting refuse sack looked like a distant nebula, a galaxy created afresh from waste. And although the raw material for the photograph was black, somehow in the photograph, hints of blue come through.
Sunju Park presented a glass sculpture in reds and blues. The surface of the glass looked as if it had just been sprinkled with water, with large drops seemingly wanting to make their way to the ground, but frozen in time, motionless on the surface.
Bookbinder and restorer Young-shin Kim presented an interpretation of O Bang Saek through her own craft. For her, bookbinding is a form of Gesamtkunstwerk that has five elements: History, Culture, Senses, Science and Craftsmanship. The volumes she chose to present for this exhibition, richly and colourfully bound, were a selection of poems and some recipes from the Joseon dynasty. Definitely too precious to be used in the kitchen.
Miso Park‘s photographs, taken in the area of Jikjisa (직지사) in Gimcheon, (김천) at the foot of Mt Hwangaksan in Gyeongsangbukdo showed a pair of temple roofs with the traditional dancheong colour scheme, while two monks live harmoniously both with each other and with the landscape in which they are set.
Jeesun Hwang‘s work told the story of a journey in five different colour spaces. The work was laid out like a manhwa, with each canvas subdivided into cells in which the three main characters explore the five O Bang Saek colours and grow psychologically and physically as they continue their quest.
Enya Elswood explored the beauty of nature in her watercolours. In her Birch trees, the slender black trunks stand out against a misty white background, while a carpet of yellow flowers and vegetation gives colour to the forest floor.
Eunjung Feleppa‘s paintings inhabit a dreamworld of lost innocence and vividly-remembered childhood. Her colour palette recalls the bright colours on traditional Korean folding screens and fabrics which she remembers as a child.
Dean Shim’s multiple-exposure images showed the same female dancer performing western classical ballet and Korean salpuri, both in white against a dramatic black background. The costume of both dancers was transformed into a cloud of energy by the trick of laying one exposure on top of another, layer upon layer.
Possibly the work which attracted the attention of the passers-by in Northumberland Avenue was the installation by Sooyung Lee and Hyunseok Lee entitled 108 Agonies. The centrepiece was a construction which could have been a stylised city – a 6 x 18 grid of towers made of yellowish-white hanji and wood lit from below – symbolising the 108 agonies with which man is afflicted. From the top of each tower a square character was resting, or from some towers the character was lifting off and floating heavenward, perhaps symbolising the prayers we intone when performing the 108 bows. An animation of these same prayers floating upwards was projected onto the back wall, and faint music in the background made this exhibit one to linger over.
Kihyun Kim‘s Romance was displayed in the KCC’s multi-purpose space – which meant that unfortunately if you visited the KCC over the weekend you were likely to miss this work, as the K-pop Academy were rehearsing their end-of-term song there.
The work shows Shakespeare’s 18th and most famous sonnet, set in a passionate or anguished blood-red typeface against a sombre black background, whose colour perhaps symbolised the wisdom achieved through a painful parting – or maybe the depths of despair. Each letter Y in the text was coloured white – as the artist asks Why the parting had to happen. The words ebb and flow like waves in the sea, while individual letters shrink and grow in font size giving an uneasy feeling of disquiet. In the background, Ccotbyel’s haegeum playing provided a soothing soundtrack to contemplate the text.
The week’s residency of exhibition and performance left one wishing that the KAA was permitted longer than just seven days for visitors to enjoy their work. We look forward to the 2013 residency, to be entitled Collaboration.
Simeon Lumgair’s video of the opening event for O Bang Saek:
A higher res version can be found on Vimeo.
And a video of the complete music performance:
Photos of the artworks and visitors to KAA’s recent exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre UK. All photos by Miso Park ©misofactory.
It was good to see the KCC so busy last Saturday afternoon. The attraction was the Korean Artists Association’s one-week exhibition: Delayed Sojourn – London, home away from home. And while there was plenty to enjoy inside, it was an unusual exhibit in the window that was drawing people in: 48 small glass bowls, each containing a small goldfish.
Entering the exhibition space was a calming experience: Soon Yul Kang’s hand woven tapestry Blue Moon (2011) welcomed you on the side wall,
while beyond were works by Joo-hee Chun (her abstract work built up with layers of acrylic) and Kitty Jun-im McLaughlin (her muted paintings based on hanji and calligraphy); and further on was an installation by Bada Song:
Song’s work was a tribute to Richard Serra’s Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself (1967-1968)
But her work was also in part an attempt to explore the Korean language – for Korean does not have words which are the direct equivalent of some on Serra’s list, for example “entropy”.
In the opposite corner of the space was something more down-to-earth:
Jean Kim’s Naked Journey is accompanied by a verse:
Long and winding roads
Off she goes
Naked as she is
Dancing to the city rhythms
Oh, here she comes
Naked as she is
In the multi-purpose space was a video projection and sculpture by Jung-gyun Chae:
The video contained interviews with members of the public about the nature of beauty and divinity. Chae himself gave an impromptu performance at the exhibition opening, holding up a protest placard containing the words 주먹이 운다 – in homage to Ryu Seung-wan’s Crying Fist – postcards of which line the reception of the KCC since the recent retrospective at the LKFF.
Hyeonseok Lee’s digital animations of Buddhist temple construction lined the video wall facing the street. Lee has just exhibited at the exhibition at Haeinsa celebrating 1,000 years of the Tripitaka Koreana.
At the end of the wall of video screens Joon Hwan Lim’s origami boats were pinned to the wall: an attempt to encapsulate the cultural diversity you find in London as an armada of tiny ships intermingling with each other.
Miso Park’s creative photographs took a more pessimistic view of the foreigner’s life in London, focusing on solitude, anonymity and the difficulty of managing their new life. In one work, a bewildered girl holds a duvet while waist-high in water, with the London skyline in the distance.
Shera Hyunyim Park gave a more naive, pastel-coloured view of London in her Memory of Richmond Park…
…while Unmi Lee’s collages of fabric and found objects presented a lively impression of West London.
In the final room the emphasis was on the crafts.
Myung Nam An’s Eyes dominated one of the walls…
…a selection of colourful porcelain items with shiny glaze – sea anenomes, artichokes and other delicately made circular objects.
Sun Kim’s ceramics were arranged against another wall, with delicately muted colours and matte surface…
… some of the items looked as if they could almost have been made out of carefully folded paper.
In the same room was a chandelier by Soo Ji Shin…
… with wisps of polypropylene paper sewn together like sails.
Returning back to the entrance along the video wall you were faced with Yonghyun Lim’s Oak Barrel inside which kaleidoscopic designs were projected, somewhat reminiscent of the Dr Who opening title sequence.
It was the end of the afternoon, and the 48 goldfish needed to be put to bed for the night. Young children were intrigued as Hyun Jun Kim carefully netted each fish one by one, putting them in a large bucket whence they could be safely deposited in a decent sized tank overnight to get some properly oxygenated water. The installation, entitled Swarm with Me by Hyun Jun Kim and Taeyoung Kim, represents the “personal journey of finding a home in London through the repetitive process of relocation.”
Delayed Sojourn – London, home away from home only lasted for a week, until 8th December. It’s a shame it couldn’t last longer, because it contains more of interest than many of the KCC’s longer-running shows. But maybe the fish will need a rest from being constantly on show.
This review was first published on London Korean Links.
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.
Last summer, the Korean Artists Association put on an evening of performances at the Korean cultural centre. The evening was well attended and popular, but somehow you felt that they could do better. They came back 15 months later and did just that.
Recognising that the visual artists did not get much of a look-in last time (their work was projected onto the walls of the KCC’s multi-purpose space after the post-performance drinks had commenced), they were put at the beginning of the evening this time round. Five visual artists each showed two works on a powerpoint slideshow, while the evening’s presenter gamely attempted to do their work justice. The quality and variety of the visual art was picked up later in the evening by the quality and variety of the performers. Soon Yul Kang’s peaceful and lyrical tapestries, Kim Young-shin’s bold and imaginative bindings for special Folio Society commissions, Kitty Jun-im McLaughlin’s paintings, fusing east and west with the use of both canvas and hanji paper; Sunju Park’s bold glass sculptures combining so many different techniques, and finally Song Bada’s thought-provoking and humorous sculptures, again exploring east west. All the work shown would have been better appreciated if it were physically present in the room, and it is hoped that an exhibition will be organised for 2010.
As a transition to the musical performances, poet Park Hye Kyung recited her poem “the Rain that Fell in Season” to an atmospheric aural backdrop.
The first musician to perform, splendidly attired in traditional costume, was Hwang Dong-yoon, who played a 15th century piece for solo daegeum, followed by a contemporary fusion piece with the benefit of backing soundtrack, which had a distinctly latin flavour. Gugak fusion is a way of increasing the repertoire for traditional instruments in a way that is accessible for modern audiences – particularly western audiences unfamiliar with the idiom of Korean traditional music, and this particular example, like some of the pieces played by Sorea, was highly enjoyable.
The fusion theme bridging East and West, traditional and modern, was continued by the next performers, Lee Heimi from the Royal Academy of Music opera course, with her accompanist Ku Jian. Starting with a modern take on the traditional folk melody Arirang, Lee then dazzled the audience with her vocal pyrotechnics in an aria from Bellini’s I Puritani, set in the English civil war.
Next, a change of mood, and a multimedia experience. Jung Ji-eun, performed her own kayageum composition, accompanied with Jeon Sung-min on guitar and Hwang Dong-yoon on Sogeum. Meanwhile, on the main wall of the multi purpose space an evocative portfolio of black and white photographs by her father was projected. There were scenes of rural life, market day and the seaside from 30 years ago. One member of the audience from Busan said it took her right back to her childhood.
Younee announced her arrival on stage with the thunderous first few bars of Chopin’s Revolutionary Study, which morphed into her opening number summing up the theme of the evening: “East West”. A slower song followed, and then finally the title track from her new album, “True to You”. The keyboard, on loan from a Korean church in South London, can’t have had that much exercise since leaving the factory. The songs worked well accompanied with just the keyboard, enabling one to focus on the music, while the CD recording is sometimes too busy with added effects. Younee appreciated the chance to perform “East West” before a live audience prior to her upcoming gigs at Pizza Express. “I was very happy to see their eyes, and contact them through the music,” said Younee afterwards.
Finally, a healing dance from Park Sunnee, partly envisioned during a Son meditation retreat the previous month. Sunnee was accompanied by Piero Pierini on percussion and Therese Bann on flute. Both Park and Pierini have a strong interest in the healing aspects of shamanism. The part-improvised choreography and music brought feelings of both elation and meditation in turn, and the performance was a fitting end to the evening.
After all the work behind the scenes, the evening passed off seamlessly, encouraging people to expect even more next time.
There will be a report of the evening soon, but in the meantime, here are some photos, courtesy of Lee Hyung-wook, managing editor of The East.
In addition to the photos accompanying Jennifer Barclay’s account of the evening, here are some photos of the event by Jo Seong Hee.
If anyone else has any images, do send them in.
An Evening with UK-based Korean Artists, sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Cultural Centre, 27 June 2008
Report by Jennifer Barclay, with photos also by David Kilburn and Saharial
Let’s hope this is the first of many evenings devoted to young Korean artists living in the UK, because the Korean Cultural Centre provides an ideal central venue – and Friday night events mean out-of-towners like me can run across to Waterloo and catch the last train home, knowing we don’t have to be up early next morning for work. Judging by the turnout of well over a hundred guests, if word is spread through various channels there could be a regular audience for similar evenings organised by the eleven-year-old Korean Artists Association UK.
H. E. Ambassador Chun Yung-woo, formerly ROK representative to the Six Party Talks, this week saw his hard work come to fruition with the symbolic demolition of part of the Yongbyon nuclear installation in North Korea. Such a promising result had to be mentioned, but the Ambassador with modesty simply noted it was an auspicious occasion, and went on to give a brief, genial and upbeat speech recognising the value of artists in helping to define ‘who we are, the Korean people and nation’ and promoting ‘cultural exchange, friendship and understanding’.
Francesca Cho, chairman of the Korean Artists Association UK, made a great choice by asking London Korean Links’ founder, editor and principal blogger, Philip Gowman, to be master of ceremonies for the evening. He put everything perfectly into context for a mixed Korean-British audience, and his musical knowledge particularly helped to introduce the first performance of violin and guitar by the elegant So Ra Lee and Jieun Park in little black dresses and strappy heels, and Roger Norkie, a South African honorary member of KAA. The beautiful Elgar piece felt, as he said, like music for the English ‘tea ceremony’ of cucumber sandwiches. The three pieces they played were not too long, popular and very nicely presented. A great start to the evening.
Next came poet Hye Kyoung Park reciting ‘The Face of Separation’. It was clever to choose something short and poignant, though I couldn’t catch the English version and thought it might be interesting another time for a native English speaker to perform the English half.
I’ve seen them before, and everyone loves them: Ji Eun Jung on kayagum – in a stunning silk gown that gives her arms freedom to roam with such precision across the wide instrument – and Sung Min Jeon on guitar. Personally, I love it when Ji Eun Jung plays older Korean music on the traditional 12-string kayagum, which looks like a zither, a big plank of wood with strings, invented in the sixth century. What an amazing sound – dare I say it, a bit bluegrass-like, with rhythmic ebb and flow – they call it a Korean harp but the sound has a more masculine twang to me, like a slide guitar. Then she swapped it for a 25-string later variation on the kayagum, and the two of them played ‘Amazing Grace’, Arirang and the Korean and English national anthems – the crowd were delighted. I think maybe the guitar was overpowering the kayagum slightly at first, but the sound mix was fixed halfway through.
Philip admitted that his wife Louise first knew of Korea when she saw the dance troupe the Little Angels on Blue Peter. And now a former member of the Little Angels, Sunnee Park, was to perform a shaman ritual dance. She waved incense into the corners of the room, shook a very loud bell at each wall to ward off evil spirits, span around with swathes of cloth in a pretty way, all the while trying to show the trance-like state of the shaman. It was a stylised dance inspired by shamanistic ritual, which for me didn’t convey the slightly scary, ecstatic emotion of the real thing. But as a dance based on an aspect of Korean culture, it works well.
To round off the performances came the troupe of very young students of taekwondo, led by Seung Soo Ha. ‘Don’t try any of this at home,’ quipped Philip, as perhaps the youngest and tiniest of the martial artists punched and kicked his way through a series of wood blocks. In another routine, three of the kids knelt to the ground together while another leaped over all their backs and then roundhouse kicked through another block. The tallest of them was blindfolded, took three steps back and then kicked an apple off a knife. What’s even cuter about these kids is that it’s not always perfect. When their instructor ended the display by punching his way through six blocks together, one sweet kid at the edge of the stage raised his eyebrows above the rims of his glasses and stuck his tongue right out in admiration.
The evening’s displays were cleverly kept to an hour, and there was time to mingle afterwards over a drink and a buffet, during which I discovered my new favourite Korean food, squid and vegetables cooked in a spicy sauce, which I believe is spelled something like ojinga hae muchim. Let’s hope I can find some at the Korean Food Festival coming up in New Malden on 12 July.
I was gutted to discover last week that I’d missed Dulsori performing at Petworth Park in Sussex, my own neck of the woods, only finding out about the concert a day later. Please let us know about Korean artists’ performances across the country. London Korean Links aims to spread the word, but it relies on getting the information from the organisers and sponsors. The Korean Cultural Centre and the Embassy seem to be doing a fantastic job of sponsoring fine events. Keep it coming.