Speeding into the future, full throttle, firing on all cylinders – what if you stop and think about what’s been left behind?
This is the predicament for the contemporary artists of South Korea, a nation that has rocketed from rural economy to technological powerhouse in the space of only a few years. Living through seismic geographical and social changes, they have been forced to hit the ground running in the brave new globalised world. To take stock of how this progress affects and shapes contemporary Korean culture, ‘Ideal Worlds’ brings together the work of three exciting emerging artists: Koh Sang Woo, Luca Sangjun Kim, and Gee Song.
Koh Sang Woo’s vibrant photographs explore an idealised version of pure love, uncorrupted by power or greed. Working with real couples to document their relationships, he paints onto their bodies before taking their portraits as part of a theatrical performance. By reversing the colour and light in the exposure, he gives his photographs an unmistakeable visual electricity and intense emotional charge – hyper-real romance for the IT age. Koh Sang Woo has exhibited at Christies and the Armory in New York, and SUN Contemporary in Seoul. This is his first UK exhibition.
Luca Sangjun Kim’s paintings are a process of sedimentation, reduction and renewal. Into compositions of natural phenomena – a horizon line, the sun’s disc – he pours “skins” of brightly-coloured paint, working into each wet layer with one intense gesture so that each one evolves by human intervention, much like the landscape itself. The edges are left clean, like a geological cut in the painting, while the centres glow vividly as an idealised space where artist and nature meet. Luca Sangjun Kim has exhibited at the Jerwood Space in London as well as throughout South Korea.
Gee Song’s paintings are like stereotypical snapshots of holiday paradises – a tropical beach, diving in a coral reef, or a sunset above a jungle canopy – with bold, lush colours enhancing their allure. But beneath the innocent idealisation, the paintings underline how these are just ideas, dreams, and how, the more we live removed from the natural world, the more nature itself becomes an idealised, packaged product – an “other” to be consumed in our increasingly complex relationship with our environment. Gee Song is a South Korean painter and recent MFA graduate from Goldsmiths.
Each artist grapples with issues of rapid change over the past decades in their native land, and how this has altered traditional relationships to the land and to each other. Each has their own way of examining and resolving the beauty of an ideal with the stark realities they find in contemporary society. Together, Ideal Worlds gives a timely insight into the cultural dynamics of one of the world’s most exciting ascendant economies.