We’re sure that many of you have already heard about the “Place Not Found” exhibition happening over at the trendy East side of London. Last month we were treated to a special talk organised by The East and we got to meet with some of the artists featured; Beomsik Won, Jungyun Roh and Luna Jungeun Lee.
The main theme of the exhibition was ‘diaspora’, which means a spreading out or dispersing of people. This exhibition hoped to explore how a relocation by a group of people from one nation to another (in this case, from East Asia to Europe) will effect an individual in terms of artistic processes. What forms of new art will arise when these two different cultures meet? The exhibition also looked at the very abstract concept of how someone stores their “cultural memories”.
New Malden is mentioned as an example of a place where diaspora has happened; a nation has managed to disperse itself amongst a new location and begin a ‘mini-homeland’ in this area (think China Town, but for Koreans). Dr. Beccy Kennedy, a guest speaker who did her doctorate on Korean artists living in the UK, talked about how walking down New Malden is like walking down Seoul. We’ve never been to Seoul before but we’re pretty sure it’s a bit more exciting then New Malden High street (no offense to New Malden, but is it really like Seoul? Really?). But what’s interesting about it is how the Korean community has managed to integrate themselves into the community making it their own, yet still keeping the original British essence and creating this new fusion.
Beomsik Won was the first artist to speak and he talked about how he is fascinated by large constructions and buildings. He loved taking photos of these MASSIVE sites but he didn’t know why. He is not an architect and felt distant and disconnected from these large constructions that he was photographing. He felt a need to make sense of these structures and feel connected to them but didn’t know why. He recalled how when he looked at his photos of large buildings, he felt there was something missing, but didn’t know what. However, he kept wanting to make others feel the wonder that he sees too, and because of this feeling Beomsik Won created his Dimension Finder project to try and explore new dimensions in building work. He was expanding things, manipulating the photos to make them more magnificent to help people experience the wonder of it all. For example, the Eiffel tower is often photographed and taken for granted, but by doubling its height in a manipulated photo, people will stop and take a look at it with new eyes and be reminded of its original structural greatness.
During his time in the UK his art changed. As before it was about expanding and multiplying, however now he’s constructing new buildings through photograph manipulation and combining several architectural structures together to create reality-defying pieces. His work shows how cultural differences can lead others to see our everyday objects differently and break the visual conventions. The combination of all the different architectural structures can also be seen as a symbol of combining cultures and creating something new and different. We really loved Beomsik Won’s pieces, and it was fun spotting all the places we recognised but more importantly it was interesting to see how he chose to combine all the different types of structures, mixing up buildings with different functions with buildings from different periods.
Jungyun Roh, the next artist to speak, has had three major exhibitions; Made in Seoul (07-09), Blurring Boundaries (2011) and Made in London (2012) – a very logical and chronological order of works to portray her life. Unlike Beomsik Won, she likes to feel connected and express her emotional connection with objects through her art. She always draws by hand, saying it helps connect her to her works. She would go and paint in person and paint the things that have great meaning to her. She could see the cultural memory of Korea was disappearing in Korea itself; being over taken by Western influences. She herself is trying to capture the disappearing moment in her own home country. Her London drawings were not as surreal and more straight forward as there is no strong emotional connection, for instance she likes to draw traffic signs for no particular reason. She seems to find everyday things interesting, like scaffolding. She said one of the major things she’s noticed is that all cities seem to be refurbishing and changing, and her work reflects many of these ideas.
Roh’s Blurring Boundaries is very different from her other works, it was more about identity issues and she even breaks away from her style of painting and uses photography and installations. An interesting piece she did was called Tomato where she questioned the whole “a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable” statement. It was inspired by her own personal experience of finding out that the tomato is a fruit in the UK and not a vegetable. Even though people are stating scientifically that the tomato is a fruit, she can’t help but think the tomato is still a vegetable. It’s kind of symbolic as she herself is not quite sure who she is.
Luna Jungeun Lee talked about how the UK was more open minded and therefore gives Korean artists a chance to do other things, which made them question what is ‘Koreanism’ and their own roots. However, she herself said she cannot see Koreanism in her work, a contrast from what Dr. Kennedy said. Luna even said that Dr. Kennedy had analysed her work more than she herself had (we detected a bit of a sarcastic tone at this point). Luna liked to explore how her work could blur the edges between reality and the virtual world. This is reflected in her pieces that showed random objects meshed together to form almost collage like pieces. Luna liked to use bricolage (creating a piece from a wide range of things that happen to be available) techniques in her work, which resulted in her pieces being from photos of shapes made from different objects, to perspex installations. Luna’s works can also be seen at this Summer’s Royal Academy show (9th June-12th August).
There are many more artists in the exhibition and it’s very interesting to see a different cultural take on a place we call home. If you haven’t had a chance to check out this exhibition yet you still have this weekend! This exhibition is on until 3rd June and details as follows: