Posted : 2013-06-19 17:47
Updated : 2013-06-19 17:47

Seoul searching

Fahrettin Orenli's installation "The Project THE CITY SeOUL" highlights his works displayed at the Corner Art Space in southern Seoul.
/ Courtesy of Corner Art Space

Artists juxtapose subtly differing images of a sprawling metropolis

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Seoul, a bustling cosmopolitan city that never sleeps, is increasingly a source of artistic inspiration.

This is nowhere more evident than in the city's own art galleries that allow visitors to discover the many aspects of this sprawling metropolis caught by the eyes of artists here and abroad.

Korean artist Roh Choong-hyun is exhibiting 25 of his landscape paintings of Seoul at the Kukje Gallery in central Seoul under a theme he titled ''Prosaic Landscape.''

The main objects of Roh's paintings are the areas near the Han River, perhaps the city's most significant gift, which flows through an urban forest mixed with state-of-the-art skyscrapers and aging apartments stacked like egg cartons.

Roh's paintings also breathe a sense of dreaminess into mundane locations such as convenience stores, basketball courts and swimming pools.

Roh Choong-hyun's "End of Summer 3"

The exhibition begins in a small room that gathers Roh's portrayals of the city's night views and nocturnal riverside scenery, which are stunning.

The main room is highlighted by "A Walk,'' a painting of pedestrian walking alone along the Han River on a snowy day.

Roh said inspiration for the work came from Korean traditional landscape paintings, in which people are drawn in tiny figures at the bases of mountains in simple colors and lines, which he believes ideally captures the sense of a person and their surroundings.

Roh uses bolder expression in his paintings of Seoul in summertime. The image of deserted swimming pools overflowing with water during the monsoon season is familiar to Koreans, but Roh manages to make it look exotic and whimsical.

Yoo Jin-sang, professor of Kaywon School of Art & Design, said Roh's paintings are smart, contemporary extensions of traditional styles. He described the works as a breath of fresh air in a Korean art scene predominated by photos, installation and media art.

Orenli's "Divide and conquer—family band"

"Roh is an artist who expresses images as he was taking a picture. His works seem to carry a sentiment that are uniquely Korean, but he keeps a certain distance from his objects at the same time,'' Yoo explicated.

Roh's solo exhibition runs through July 14. For more information, visit or call (02) 735-8449.

Plastic surgery on Seoul

Fahrettin Orenli's "The Project THE CITY SeOUL'' at Corner Art Space in Apgujeong-dong represents the Turkish artist's effort to find the things in Seoul that remain uniquely Seoul, during a time when it seems that the Starbucks god has thrown up on its streets.

Through his work, Orenli has always displayed an interest in a sense of "borders'' and "boundaries,'' which may have something do with being born between parents with faith in different Islamic sects and his current frequent travel between Istanbul and Amsterdam. To him, Seoul, a city where the ultra modern coexists with the past, is a desirable subject.

Catherine Sarah Young's "Seoul43"

He previously held a few exhibitions in Korea including "Contemporary Exuses" at the gallery Take Out Drawing in 2010 and group exhibit "Be mobile in immobility (The materialized memory)" at the Total Museum of Contemporary Art in 2011.

In the current exhibition, Orenli created a huge crossword puzzle that plays on the spelling of Seoul, which becomes "Soul'' without the "e.''

"Seoul became a part of endless accumulation of capital and it is important to understand the soul of the city in search for the future of urban life in Orenli's works,'' Yang Ji-yoon, director of Corner Art Space, said.

Orenli also took inspiration from the city's obsession with plastic surgery. Seoul topped the chart of plastic surgery procedures per population in 2010, according to The Economist. Another survey shows that one in five 20-something women in Seoul had gone under the knife to alter their appearance.

Roh's "Convenience Store"

Orenli sees a connection between Seoulites refusing to hesitate to transform their physical features artificially and the city that went through rapid changes in the past decades in the process of industrialization. Even the gallery where his works are currently exhibited shares the building with a cosmetic surgery clinic.

His perception of plastic surgery is connected to restoring artworks and he brought a copy Henri Matisse's work "Parakeet and the Mermaid,'' which went through restoration in 1996 at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He removed coloring from the painting and installed it on the window of the gallery, so viewers can see the fuss of urban scenery through the painting.

The exhibit runs through July 7. For more information, visit or call 070-7779-8860.

Seoul Seoul Seoul

Another art exhibition inspired by the city is "Seoul Seoul Seoul,'' organized by the Changdong Art Studio of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The works at the exhibits are from nine artists from six different countries participating in an international exchange programs, such as "Asia Pacific Artists Fellowship'' and ''UNESCO-Aschberg Bursaries for Artists Programme.''

Irish artist Linda Quinlan created a video combining opposing sound and images in "ACOUSTIC REAL ESTATE," while Finnish artist Maija Blafield imparted new meaning to her documentary footage "Golden Age" in Seoul by editing them after returning to Finland. Another Finnish artist Mikko Kuorinki continued his "Shrine" series in Seoul, in which he displays personally special objects on a shelf.

Indian artist Manali Shroff sold an imaginary food at a traditional market near the studio and captured people's reactions in "Real eyes, Realize, Real lies!" Catherine Sarah Young from Philippines climbed 43 mountains in Seoul during her residency and collected soil from the mountains to plant seedlings in the soil with visitors.

For more information, visit or call (02) 995-0995.

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