The latest exhibition O Bang Saek has to be one of our favourite exhibitions held at the Korean Cultural Centre this year! The Korean Artists Association UK (KAAUK) has returned for their annual showcase featuring 17 Korean artists who are based here in the UK. The KAAUK aims to promote the understanding of Korean Culture to the UK and the pieces at this exhibition are very accessible (believe us, we’ve seen things, crazy “artistic” things) and featured some amazing pieces. O Bang Saek (오방색) refers to the five colours of Korea: blue, red, yellow, black and white. This was also the theme of the Korean Cultural Centre’s summer programme: All Eyes on Korea. These colours are said to symbolise: wood, fire, gold/metal, water and earth, the five elements of life as well as the 5 points of the compass, north, south, east, west and the centre. This exhibition is only on till the 4th so make sure you get down to the Korean Cultural Centre now!
All the pieces had the same theme, but they all differed in style, technique and skills. The pieces of this exhibition were all so diverse ranging from installation, photography, video, textiles to all different kinds of paintings using mediums such as oil, prints, waterworks.
When we arrived at the KCC, we went straight to the end and found our favourite piece of the exhibition instantly. Artists Lee Sooyung (이수영) and Lee Hyunseok (이현석) have created one of the most beautiful installations we have ever seen. Named 108 Agonies, this work incorporates the Buddhist’s universal principal and portrays the human desires to be freed. Lee and Lee’s installation is a physical presentation of how these agonies such as ambition, discord and conceit can be lifted if we focused on the yellow lights, one of Korea’s 5 symbolic colours. Interpret that as you will. This installation is accompanied by a digital video of the same word blocks floating upwards. The reason why we love this piece is because you can really visualise the beautifully crafted “typography patterns” all representing a Buddhist universal principle peeling off and floating up into the air. The lighting, the shadows, the compositions of this whole installation is perfect. It’s absolutely beautiful, just go see it already!
We were also lucky enough to bump into one of the artist Soon Yul Kang (강순열), who spoke to us about her pieces. She pointed out that all the cuttings on her larger piece actually said 아버지 meaning father and that this piece was actually dedicated to her dear Father. This piece wasn’t so much a representation of her Father physically but something that represented the feeling and emotions of a father. This piece took months as the words were written on pieces of white cotton which is said to be the most natural white in South Korea, and then gradually made into this large circle collage. The use of white cotton is also symbolic as when you are born you are wrapped in white. and when you die you are wrapped in white shroud; you begin your life in white and you end your life in white.
KAAUK Artist Soon Yul Kang (강순열)
Kang Soon Yul also spoke to us about her other piece Unity, also featuring circles which portray a sense of eternity and infinity. In these two circles, you see the unity of two contrasting colours red and blue. Even though they are so different, they work harmoniously in this piece, complementing each other just like the concept of ying and yang.
We’ve been to quite a few exhibitions this year, some absolutely crazy and mind boggling, so it was nice to see this exhibition feature a lot of classic art skills such as painting and water colours. You really don’t have to be a hipster art enthusiastic to appreciate all these pieces. There are some beautiful watercolour pieces by Enya Elswood, that are full of depth and intricate detailing. Hwang Jeesun (황지선) also displays some very cool illustrations in a comic book style using the theme of O Bang Saek to create a story. Eunjung Feleppa (서은정) and Jean Kim (김전) have both decided to use oil on canvas in two very different ways. Eunjung’s pieces especially The Ghost of the Flower is beautiful with vibrant colours. Eunjung says she used to be fascinated by the patterns on beautiful traditional furnishings such as folding screens and mother of pearl furniture and you can definitely see these influences in this pretty portrait of a lady in a traditional appearance. Whereas Jean Kim has gone a different route keeping their pieces simplistic and dark. Both entitled untitled, Jean has decided to concentrated on the colour black which stands for deep water and wisdom, as it’s fascinating how no light can penetrate through deep water making it just seem black. Jean questions what could be down there, could that be where wisdom lies? Definitely remember this when you approach Jean’s pieces and see what you interpret.
Park Miso (박미소) exhibits some breath taking and sentimental photography. At first they just look like normal photos but as you look at them deeper, you slowly become overwhelmed with emotions. We particularly loved the pieces displayed here where you see two identical images of a palace roof with only a different “sky” colour. When you look at them individually, the different emotions you get simply because of the different backdrop is really interesting. Dean Shim (심대용) also uses photography but in a more unique and abstract style. Through this static platform, Dean tries to reflect the movements and expressions of dance and try to capture the intimate emotions that dance portrays. Dean’s photographs require some time to explore as you look at all the different layers, but when you take a step back and take in the piece as a whole, you also get a sense of religiousness as the array of arms liken to Buddhist imagery (personal opinion).
There are so many pieces, we really recommend that you visit this exhibition if you have the chance! It’s not on for long and will be finishing on Tuesday 4th December! It’s sad that this exhibition only gets one week at the Korean Cultural centre when you think of all the hard work and effort put into the installations, especially Chun Joohee’s (천주희) who feature some beautiful and colourful discs that looks almost crystalised.
There are many more pieces from Kitty Jun Im (키티 준임), Bada Song (송바다) and Kim Young Shin (김영신), as well as some very abstract pieces from Kim Taehyung (김태형) and a video installation by Kim Kihyun (김기현). We especially love Li Unmi’s (이은미) piece called theFive Elements as the different textures really bring the five different elements to live. And lastly make sure you don’t miss Park Sunju’s (박선주) A moment in Rain standing modestly to the side of the KCC. Make sure you take a moment to look closely at the amazing craftsmen ship put into this little tower. We especially love all the colours and how it looks frozen and solid yet Sunju was able to capture the fluidness of rain fall.
So head on down to the KCC and show some support to the artists of the KAAUK. The exhibition opened with a bang with a very special performance with dancers and traditional music. We unfortunately missed this as we were at our Korean class downstairs, but we sure heard all the drums! Here is a very special video of the evening from the KAAUK: