Installation view of Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa with works by Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, Kim Whanki, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
What is Dansaekhwa?
Dansaekhwa is an art movement born in South Korea in the 1970s. The pioneers of Dansaekhwa are born between 1913 and 1936 and avoided any reference to Western realism in their works, creating primarily monochrome and minimalist paintings. Dansaekhwa has had a breath of new life, thanks to the efforts and talent of Octogenarian artists that stuck to this art style. Now, dealers, art fair organizers, museum curators and collectors can breathe a sigh of relief because what has been neglected for close to half a century has come to the public limelight. It was at a time of political strife and dictatorship1 that this painting technique sprouted. While the art had been practiced as a movement for all this time, it would not be until two years ago that the West got wind of its existence.
About TV Garden
No one would think televisions are artistic under normal circumstances. Handy, yes. Useful, quite so. Nam June Paik, however, managed to put television in circumstances where he reveals their artistry. The celebrated artist is regarded as the father of video art and has used manipulated television sets, broadcasted live performances and video installation to depict electronic images in an artistic manner. TV Garden first created in 1974 is a large-scale installation consisting of forty television sets lying on the floor amidst many tropical plants while a video of Global Groove (see below) plays on the screens of the TV sets.
There are many interpretations one can draw including the rather obvious one that this is a merge of nature and technology and the effect each has with the other or on the other hand, the numerous curated content in the media could be considered disorderly as to leading the public back into the jungle. One thing is evident though that TV Garden seeks to tease the senses with a mixture of color and sound. Color from the lush tropical garden makes the canvas for his TV sets. Sound emanates from the TV sets and rustles through the leaves of the various plants that the television sets are nestled among. This artwork grabs the eye and the mind in its juxtaposition effect where the attention of the viewer moves from plant life to television sets and vice versa.
The Artist – Style and Inspiration
Nam June Paik was born in Korea in 1932 and graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956 where he studies music and study furthering these musical studies at the University of Munich. In Germany, he allowed his fascination with merging music, electronics and arts to reign free. Since then, the artist had used this fascination to make art using television sets featured in video walls, ceilings, quirky robots and floors among other ventures. This has evolved and his work continued to playfully critique and celebrate electronic media.
Paik drew inspiration from his interest in electronics intertwined with his foundation in music and performance. In the mid-1960s, he arrived in New York and joined the Fluxus movement and quickly rose to the forefront of the movement with his work depicting elements of surprise and unfamiliarity. His production, TV garden, is one of the seminal installations resulting from this inspiration and resulted in a merging of the scientific and the natural coming together in a surprisingly aesthetic outcome. TV garden is an example of why an artist should not limit new forms of expression but must keep on reimagining his creativity to bring about innovation.
At Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
At Nam June Paik Art Center, South Korea
At Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
Nam June Paik – TV Garden (2002 Version), 1974, video installation with color television sets and live plants, dimensions vary with installation, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
Global Groove, 1973 (video excerpt)
Nam June Paik – Global Groove, 1973, Video (color, sound), 28 min 30 sec
Nam June Paik – Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, fifty-one channel video installation (including one closed-circuit television feed), custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood; color, sound, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Understanding a diverse nation through technology
Electronic Superhighway is one of the most noted works of Korean Nam June Paik artist. It illustrates how he interpreted a diverse nation through media technology. The Electronic Superhighway is a large installation, constructed with 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing.
Electronic Superhighway creates an overwhelming impact on visitors when they first see it. The wave of audio and visual media along with flashing neon lights make it awe-inspiring. It becomes challenging to concentrate on any state that the neon lights border or the video dialogues that play for each state.
Yeesookyung is a South Korean artist living in Seoul. She is known for her complex and enchanting ceramic designs and sculptures. The Translated series series, like many of her works, is made up of shards and fragments of broken ceramic pieces that are carefully pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. Yeesookyung created her Translated Vase back in 2002 after she observed discarded trash from the ceramic master Lim Hang Taek glimmering in the sunlight. The reflection of light from the shards and the organic forms of the cracks inspired her craft.
To create the Translated Vase, Yeesookyung uses epoxy resin to glue together the different fragments of the broken pots. To make the fissures and the cracks more prominent, Yeesookyung uses 24-carat gold leaf for glazing. The gold acts as the perfect addition to complement the beautifully misshapen fractures of the re-constructed vase.
The biomorphic form of the vessel helps to capture the eye immediately as the repurposed pottery created manages to surpass the original beauty of the vase. The Translated Vase combines the delicate fragility of ceramic pottery with the fortified strength of the glue and the gold, the end result of which is something truly magnificent. Yeesookyung covers the cracks in gold because the Korean word for crack and gold is similar. The use of products that share the same name also helps to add an element of humor to the work.
What is Kintsukuroi?
Yeesookyung’s technique in pottery, as stunning as it may be is not new. For years, artists in Korea have been reconstructing and rebuilding discarded ceramic pieces that would typically be considered trash in other parts of the world. The waste is sometimes restored to create new Korean ceramics while others like Yeesookyung’s are used as art. This art form, known as Kintsukuroi1 also uses metals such as platinum and silver for the repairing process.
What do the vases represent?
The Translated Vase represents the struggle that all individuals face in life. The cracks on the vase represent the wounds that are formed from the struggle, while the gold represents the beauty and maturity that people experience when they overcome suffering. Aside from denoting the suffering, Yeesookyung’s attention to detail helped break the ceramic tradition that insists on perfection.
Rather than discard a perfect piece, like a master potter would, Yeesookyung chose to create new forms from the useless pieces to emphasize that imperfection can also give way to stunning beauty. It is safe to say that the Translated Vase succeeded in channeling the imperfections and irregularities that exist in nature.
Photos of the vases
- Beautiful sculptures made entirely from soap – Meekyoung Shin
- Ai Weiwei’s coloured vases: Clever artwork or vandalism?
- Ai Weiwei dips 2,000 year old Chinese vases in paint
Sea Hyun Lee – Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.
Gimhongsok – Canine Construction, 2009, 164x231x90cm
This Canine Construction by South Korean artist, Gimhongsok is one that anyone would fall in love with, coupled with the enigmatic quality it has. This work is the sculpture of a dog remains one of the artist’s most well-known works in recent times. The creation involved using garbage bags, balloons, cardboard boxes, all assembled with expensive materials like resin.
Meekyoung Shin – Crouching Aphrodite, 2002
Meekyoung Shin, a South Korean sculptor, became popular for her Translation series, using soap as her medium of art. Trained in the tradition of European sculpture, her statuettes are made factoring in the Western and Eastern styles of relief. Her works are usually made from palm oil, a vegetarian soap.