Posted : 2013-03-22 17:07
Updated : 2013-03-22 17:07

Young and imaginative

"Rituals 085 — Return & Separation" by Je Baak is composed of finely grounded 1,000-won bills.
/ Courtesy of National Museum of Contemporary Art

Contemporary art museum highlights works of innovative new artists

By Kwon Mee-yoo

The National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMOCA) is featuring the works of nine promising artists who have vowed to give the country's art scene a creative jolt.

The museum's ''New Visions New Voices'' exhibition, which began in 1981, has previously unearthed influential artists like Lee Bul, Suh Dong-ho and Koo Bohn-chang and continues to be committed to developing new talent in paintings, installation art and photography.

While it's obviously too early to forecast the future for this year's crop, the early impression of their works currently displayed at the museums indicates potential. The works are intellectual, imaginative and often provocative, exuding the zeitgeist appeal of a generation of artists who grew up in the era of the ubiquitous Internet and 24/7 media.

It's difficult to find one word to describe the underlining characteristics between their works. Intriguing will have to do for now.

New Visions New Voices has been a biannual program, but the state-run museum converted into an annual event starting this year to give more exposure to young artists.

The exhibition is being opened by photographer Kim Tae-dong and his pictures of Seoul's nightscape. Kim captures the spiraling Korean capital from midnight to dawn, highlighting the expressions of the few people wandering the otherwise vacant streets and the tension they create.

Kim said he talked to everyone of the people he took pictures of to get a genuine feel for them, although their personal details obviously aren't revealed.

''I wanted to portray the enigmatic nightly atmosphere, not their identities,'' Kim said.

You Hyeon-kyeong's paintings are faceless portraits. She said she spent a lot of time with her models and the challenge was to authentically recreate them on canvas without using their faces. You believes that it's paintings, not photography, that have the power to express the essence of a person.

''My hand moves quicker than my head does when I paint. This is fine art at its purest,'' she said.

Beak Jung-ki is probably the most experimental artist of the bunch. His works seem like a cross between fine work and a laboratory science project.

His ''Is of: Seoul'' is a series of photos of the city printed in blue over purple-colored paper. The ink used is actually a chemically processed version of Han River water. After painstakingly trying to come up with the right color to represent the city, he decided to use the water of its biggest river.

"Fortune Plating" is Beak's interpretation of symbolic objects. A bronze lucky toad statue sits in a water tank full of glacial acetic acid and it electroplates everyday objects such as scissors. Another of his works "Historical Antenna" is located outside the museum, which uses propagandistic statues as antennas for shortwave receivers.

Kim Min-ae, an installation artists, attempts to distort the sense of space but using structures that seem ill-fitting and unnecessary in them. For this exhibit, she said was inspired by the main staircase of the museum, which she thought was authoritarian. She created replicas of the handrail of the stairs and placed them in the middle of the hallway and around a pillar in the exhibition hall. An upward railing comes out of nowhere on the wall.

Gu Min-ja is all about social commentary. Her ''Atlantic-Pacific co.'' could be described as a small store full of odd stuff she purchased from shops on Atlantic and Pacific Avenue in New York. She also questions the value of labor by hosting two mock hearings of artists who were imaginatively appointed as public servants.

Illustrator and animator Sim Rae-jung is inspired by her stress from daily life. Her three minute animation ''FF'' illustrates her frustration about noise and inconsiderate neighbor upstairs.

Ha Dae-joon is the only artist who pursues Oriental painting in this exhibit. His delicate paintings of a chicken came from his experience of an unexpected eye contact with the bird from the window of his basement room. Ha unravels the fear and anxiety in pale ink on Korean traditional paper.

Je Baak questions the values modern people pursue unconditionally. "Rituals 085 _ Return & Separation" looks like a pile of periwinkle pigments, but the powder is actually finely ground 1,000-won bills. Baak also pasted sanded 1,000-won bills on the wall, raising questions about a world where money rules. The geometric patterns on the nearby wall are in fact photos of Piet Mondrian's composition paintings taken sideways. He shows how easily common beliefs can be broken.

Last but not least, Park Jae-young's elaborate showcase of Mindcontroller developed by DownLeit Company brings out the question regarding the weakness of human psychology. The name of the company is an abbreviation of "a downright lie," which suggests the falsehood of the product, which is made from daily objects bought at a local hyper mart.

The exhibit runs through June 23. Admission is 3,000 won. An English exhibition tour is available upon reservation. For more information, visit or call (02) 2188-6114.

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