Artists of ‘young power’ who will drive the art world of tomorrow have been selected. They are the so-called, ‘Newcomers 77’. Nine art experts participated in this Special Feature as nominators. They are all ‘young players’ in their 30s and 40s, all active in the Korean art scene today. Art In Culture proposed three requirements for nominations: (1) ages younger than 39, (2) held more than one solo exhibition, and (3) exclude participating artists of ‘Contemporary Artists’ of Art In Culture March 2018 edition. Here, a total of 77 next-generation artists have gathered. The composition of the newcomers are as follows. 47 women (teams), 29 men, and one mixed-gender team, showing an overwhelming share of women artists. The ‘women’s power’ that hit the art world of Korea is strong. In terms of age, 50 artists were born in the 1980s and 25 in the 1990s. It is a collective of the digital natives, Generation Y. Distinction in region is also notable. Artists based in the metropolitan area of Korea focus on exploring contemporary media, while regional artists voice out social statements or personal desires.
We categorized the work of Newcomers 77 around five keywords. It is a work of art criticism against the keywords of contemporary art, an on-ground exhibition that sums up the landscape of ‘the young and the new’.
Kwon Soonwoo (CEO of Tastehouse), Kwon Hyukgue (independent curator), Nam Woong (art critic), Lee Dongmin (curator of Daegu Art Museum), Lee Sun (curator of Gwangju Lee Kang Ha Art Museum), Chung Hyun (professor at University of Seoul), Choi Sooyeon (CEO of P21), Hong Leeji (curator of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea), Hwang Seomi (curator of Busan Museum of Art)
Meta-Painting, the Never Ending ‘Flat Surface Mission’'
Young Korean painters struggle with the question of ‘painting’. Their paintings talk of paintings itself and they search for a methodology to question the way of being. Unlike painters of the past who focused on finding new content and form, contemporary artists of Korea embrace the ‘meta’ environment around painting. Some explore the formative elements of painting like even the medium of painting such as supports, materials, and tools. They cut and edit canvas frames, moving beyond the boundary of the square flat surface, and expand the means of painting by coarsely rubbing blankets, twigs, or weeds onto painting. There are also many artists who respond sensitively to the everyday life surrounded by digital devices. They transfer the flat screen into painting remaking the virtual reality of our time into layers of materials or capture the empty and light media sensitivity. There are also a group of artists who consider themselves the successors of expressionism. Anxious young minds and all kinds of desires erupt in the paintings jumbled with abstract conceptualization and conceptual abstraction. This is the ‘new conception’ that combines the already established thinking in art history.
Cho Eunsol places an interest in multiplicity of self. To the artist, the movements of hands represent the imperfect communication of modern society and the wandering self. “Thread play is an act of giving and receiving with others. Here, thread, hands, and fingers are multiple selves made to adapt to relationships, people, and situations, respectively. In unexpected situations where the knots of the thread untangle or entangle in thread play, one must reset or adjust the relationship.”
So Minkyung selects images detached from context and draws them on canvas like a montage. The artist mostly works with canvas frame that is the support for images, fabric, overlap of paper, and overlap of the original and the copy. Her painting is the ‘wrapping’ made by reproducing the original image. Wrapping paper stacked in layers on a thin paper protects, hides, and hints at the texture and content of the original image.
Cho Hyori explores the time and space aspects of painting. An image of illusion made by imagining and combining the scene of the drawing, materiality of the canvas itself, and the space beyond the painting. “Summer was ending on the island I arrived at the end of winter. I saw a landscape of the night behind the landscape of the day reflected in the mirror.” The artist, who thinks of the crossing of time and space, creates an illusionistic surface by collecting scattered memories like picking them up along the road.
Chung Heemin remakes the nature of digital images into painting. The artist transfers virtual still objects made by 3D modeling program into painting or compose a painting with images and texts that exist temporarily before disappearing on screen, applying a thick gel medium to create layers. There is contemporary melancholy beyond the light digital images in the artist’s work. Chung has recently expanded genre, experimenting with objets that move between firmness and suppleness and touchable video and tactile sound.
Yoo Jiyoung focuses on new relationships made by the conditions of painting. The artist compares the support for canvas to leftover sticker paper. Yoo deconstructs and reinterprets the conventional conditions of the wall that is the background to artwork and the outside space, the frame of paintings, and images, moving between painting and non-painting.
Kim Seoul analyzes the whole of the tools, materials, and techniques of painting of the past and today. The artist’s painting, which is thin and (semi-) transparent in layer upon layer and looks as if it will never crumble, is a ‘technique of building surfaces.’ “This anachronistic artist, who is absurdly slow and modest compared to contemporary artists, believes in the divinity of painting to be true, pouring out his emotions that will harden inside the mold called the past.” (Chung Hyun)
Painting that looks like digital illustration. Park Hyunjung’s paintings are a mixture of vectorized digital images and drawings in no order. The artist scans actual images, vectorizes them and changes the size, location, and color before printing them. Then, she completes the painting with drawings and brush strokes. A balance and tension of images coexist in the performatively produced world of flat surfaces.
Lee Insung begins his work with the will to leave traces of life. The artist recomposes today’s phenomenon, senses, and society through symbolic and metaphorical expressions. Lee brings out the moment of the conscious and the unconscious of the simple memories of life into his paintings through allegory of painting in art history. The bright orange balls painted across his paintings are visual devices that signify the artist’s psychology. “The orange balls are signs signaling the purpose of life, surrounding them are the intense feelings we feel.”
Rough lines that freely dominate the surface, pieces of green tape that barely secure the paintings seem to be a metaphor for the unstable life of a young artist…. Kim Sangduck records every moment of ordinary everyday life in tremendous number of drawings, alters them by adding imagination, and then moves them onto large-scale paintings. His paintings, which reflect his desires, passions, emotions, actions, and taste that are difficult to express in real life, are primitive, exaggerated, and sometimes heavy.
Park Minha abstractly records certain scenes by segmenting them into units of light, color, and shape. The artist expands the scope of landscape to the everyday life we pass by carelessly and the senses we feel with our bodies. The intangible light that appears in the artist’s paintings as basic element is brought out as organic form by being layered upon other shapes nearby.
Woo Jeongsu contemplates on the relationship between individuals and society by appropriating motifs of classics and myths. The artist’s paintings that use pretty colors, cute characters, and simple figures may seem light at first glance, but they speak of the brutality and violence of our time. To the artist, painting is ‘sentence’. “I arrange image elements into clear compositions like subject, object, and predicate. Artistic expression seems to me like flowery words that are more about the appearance of the sentence than the context.” Woo has recently expanded his scope to various methods including sheet paper, wallpaper, and fabric installation.
Lim Nosik repeatedly transfers his experiences or observations onto the canvas. The honest and calm style of drawing of the landscape of the artist’s hometown or people or places of certain time periods in his life is a distinct feature of his work. To the artist, art is in itself a practice and vestige of recording and remembering something. “…hope (painting) does not stop at seeing but expand to what we are thinking….”
Heo Chanmi calls her work drawing, not painting. The artist uses comforter, weeds she picked, and twigs as brushes to draw certain places or the physical and psychological journey of traveling to a certain place. In 2019, Heo drew with the blanket that kept her warm to remember the violence committed by ‘Samil Corporation’, the Defense Security Command’s Busan branch. To remember “the stories that can only wander and cannot settle”….
The artist compared a model crow placed to drive pigeons away to an ‘outsider’. Instead of passionate chants for human rights, she focuses on the same emotions both insiders and outsiders feel such as love, hope, hatred, fear, and terror. Her work depicts the history of the other, which is filled with prejudices, in a holistic way as a humanistic attempt to understand the emotions of individuals.
Neo-sculpture, Conflicting Materials : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
Hashtag Culture, the ‘Virtual Hierarchy’ of Real and Fake : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
‘Real’ Rightness, A Drama of Resistance and Solidarity : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
Micro-Narrative, A Sea of Micro Stories : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts