CultureReview
A Step Closer To Contemporary ArtSelected eMerging Artists 2008
Kim Hwa-young  |  hwa0_2@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2008.05.27  19:17:25
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

WINDING LINES, incongruent colors, bizarre shapes. Do these constituents of contemporary art alienate you from it? Then the Selected eMerging Artists 2008 (SeMA 2008) exhibition is the chance for you to familiarize yourself with contemporary art. The exhibition commenced in 2004 and is hosted biannually by the Seoul Museum of Art (SMA). The aim of SeMA 2008 is to introduce young and competent Korean artists and look to the future of Korean art by acquiring their aesthetic sense. 

                                                              Four Ways to Look at Art 
   The SeMA exhibition of 2008 started off with the question, “Wouldn’t there be a way to explain abundant types of ‘art’ concisely and fundamentally?” In this era, no specific art trend covering an epoch exists, since artists realize their own goals through their unique styles. As Choi Jung-hee (Curator of the SMA) states, “The most prominent feature of contemporary art is that its identity and its requirements are indefinable.” This is why people find contemporary art unapproachable.
   SeMA 2008 features the theme, “Four Ways to Look at Art,” indicating a way to go back to fundamental consideration of what artistic activity really is. The exhibition narrows down the wide spectrum of viewing art into four subjects, assisting the audience in synthesizing what they have seen from the four sections and forming a whole frame for appreciating contemporary art. 

                                                             Echo of Lines and Colors
   The first section, “Echo of Lines and Colors,” is where artists focus on the composition of line, surface, color, matter, and shadow to express the echo of their inner heart. Artists in this section have the most traditional attitude toward art, for they are interested in unaltered pictures and investigating the properties of matter. In The Right Twin for Me, artist Lee Hyun-jou expresses “light” through an assembly of exotic colors and lines spreading out from a center point. She arranges the artwork on both the floor and the wall in order to bring about the illusion of light coming out of, or being absorbed into, the work. Paying attention to the echo of lines and colors rising to the surface of works, spectators will be presented with undiluted visual pleasure and emotional sympathy. 

   
 
  Lee Hyun-joo, The Right Twin for Me  
 


                                                         The Beauty of the Ordinary
   The artists in the second section, “The Beauty of the Ordinary,” reinterpret everyday subjects found in their surroundings through their identity. An artist in this section, Jang Suk-joon, takes pictures of familiar places and puts them together like a quilt to compose them into an artwork emitting a completely different ambience. In Sky (Ha-neul), each constituent photograph of store shutters has been edited to look like the sky, leaving behind a trace of sentimentalism. Compared to art in the past used as a means to speak out about society, today’s art turns its attention to ordinary lives. This section shows the change in contemporary art, where the wall between art and life has collapsed. 

   
 
  Jang Suk-joon, Sky (Haneul)  
 


                                                          The Slogans Written in Water
   The third section, “The Slogans Written in Water,” criticizes the young generation’s solipsistic attitude toward society. “Water,” which boils and eventually evaporates, represents the attitudes of today’s generation that are indifferent to social issues, focusing more on capitalistic values. An opposite concept to “water,” “blood” symbolizes the outspoken and fierce behavior of the elder generation toward social problems.
   Artists in this section consider the essence of art as playing a central role in changing the world. Artists such as Lee Jun-yong criticize the commodification of art, saying, “Financial matters should not rule over artists’ expression of thought or communication with the public.” In one work, he used mold to make a map of the world. “I believe the world concocted by humans is similar to decaying mold. Through this piece, I wanted to convey one whole message, including those of environmental pollution and war,” he comments. 

   
 
  Lee jun-yong, Map of the World Made of Mold  
 


                                                   Imaginary Crevice, Becoming a Monster
   The fourth section, “Imaginary Crevice, Becoming a Monster,” introduces works of artists who directly voice their desire for social and cultural change, trying to communicate with the world by taking on forms of monsters that appear alien to the general public. Artists in this section wish to shout out to the world by becoming monsters themselves, offering an exit to freedom. Monsters caught at Seoul, Korea Min-soo’s home by Lee Seo-joon shows how “Beaugly (a compound word of “beauty” and “ugly” meaning a combination of two contradictory images)” is fastened by installations. By seeing monsters locked up, people feel relieved; yet, because they do not know the inside of the monster, they can never be free from fear itself. 

   
 
  Lee Seo-joon, Monsters Caught at Seoul, Korea Min-soo's Home  
 


                                                      SeMA 2008 and Contemporary Art
   As to when contemporary art started, standards vary from individual to individual. Many artists practice the same activity called “art,” but, intrinsically, each individual is creating different “art.” This is why art in this era is so diverse, so that no ruling art trend exists that can encapsulate it. Although present-day art is too diverse to define simply, there are some common characteristics. “The core ideas of contemporary art are ‘everyday’ and ‘mutual understanding.’ Connecting one’s everyday life to an artwork and extracting a meaning from it allows a mutual understanding between the artist and each audience member,” says Lee Joo-eun (Art History Ph.D., Curator of Ewha Womans University Museum).
   Such features of contemporary art can be seen through the four ways that artists view art indicated by SeMA 2008, which help people form a fundamental framework for viewing contemporary art. However abstruse contemporary art may be, the steps that the SeMA 2008 exhibition took in guiding the public to approach contemporary art were meaningful.


                                                                *           *           *


   The reason people love art is because it adds inspiration to their lives. As modern-day people live more busy lives, they have little room for leisure like contemporary art; besides, people often find it complex and unfamiliar. SeMA 2008 is a good opportunity for people to include it in their lives. Some tips about treating contemporary art might help. “There are many reasons why artists make artwork, but the common reason is to grab attention and communicate with the audience. This is why the public should see how the artists try to catch their attention, open their minds, try to comprehend, and add meaning in order to understand a piece of art well,” says Lee Joo-eun. However new you are to the field of contemporary art, you should not fear it; instead, you should approach it first and try to appreciate it step-by-step. Let it blow your mind.

The Concise Stream of Contemporary Art 


   The beginning of contemporary art cannot be regarded as the date photography was invented; in a broad sense, it can be defined as the time since there have been efforts to find something new and innovative, apart from what was traditional. Here are some of the most significant events leading to the birth of contemporary art.

The invention of photography (1839)
- The end of realistic portrayal in art

Impressionism (late 1870s)
- Captured images that looked different according to light

Cubism
- Depicted the abstract. Initiator Pablo Picasso expressed not one aspect but also simultaneous views from diverse perspectives, such as the side, rear, etc.

Surrealism (after World War 1 and 2)
- The expression of unconsciousness and inner thoughts.

Abstract Expressionism (1950s)
- Represented by Jackson Pollock.

Pop Art (1960s)
- Still continued today, as Post-Pop Art.

Feminist Art Movement (1970s)
- Shifted the paradigm of existing art.

Post Modernism (1980s)
- Since this era, there has never been one main voice. An epoch of multiculturalism.

(Information contributed by Lee Joo-eun)


“SeMA 2008”
Where: Seoul Museum of Art, Main building 2nd, 3rd floors
When: March 28, 2008 ~ June 15, 2008
Price: General - \ 700
         Less than 19 (Korean age) – Free
Docent (Commentary):
         Korean - 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
         English - 3 p.m. Wed and Thurs


 

 

 

 

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