Monday, September 21, 2009

KIAF 2009

Art has always been a major part of my life. Despite that my work hours are consumed with teaching children English in my mind I am often thinking about art. In my home I bought a little table that I keep as my "studio." It houses my drawing materials and watercolor supplies. Now and then I put everything that distracts me aside and draw or paint something.

I subscribe to ArtAsiaPacific magazine, which I find to be a good primer on current and historical Asian Art. In addition, as you probably well know by now, I like to frequent art museums and galleries around Seoul and elsewhere.

Then it should come as no surprise that I anticipated participating in the KIAF (Korean International Art Fair) this year. I went last year and it felt like I was a young girl in a candy store.

This year's show was just as great as last year's event. Indeed, I engaged more with the gallery owners and exhibits. I dragged JH out to this and rattled his brain about why some artworks are "art" or not.

Come with me as we walk through contemporary Asian art.

I showed up fairly early to meet JH, around 12 pm. I was early so I waited outside for him near the COEX convention hall building.

We entered and bought our tickets.

As I entered my art brain switched on to hyper drive as I started to see the works. JH innocently entered and made some comical jokes about the first works we saw. But my art brain wasn't having any of it and I started to tell him that the artworks have meaning and historical context. What a good sport! He went a long with it and we had meaningful artsy conversations about the works. I think it taught me a lesson that anyone can feel something from art and that they don't have to have an art background.

Song Myung Jin

Oh Byung Wook "Sea of my mind"

Kim Jeong Geol (I appreciated this piece because of the skill in rendering the nude body. Click on the picture to see the detail.)

Do you see that metal sculpture there? Well there was a man asking the gallery assistant some questions but she only knew English and Japanese. So I helped out a little and helped the guy get some answers. Then I started explaining to JH how it was made and how difficult working with steel is. Another gallery assistant overheard me and talked to me about it too.

You would not believe how refreshing those 15 minutes were. To be able to talk about art and have receptive ears is something I am so grateful for. Makes me think that it would be worthwhile to get together more with artists out here.

Naoko Kadokura

Chun Kwang Young Mixed media with Korean mulberry paper

Lee U Fan "Correspondence"
Here is where JH and I had a little disagreement on what qualifies a work a piece of "art". For him this work makes him feel that anyone could do that. So I asked him how was it made and he looked at it closer and determined its basic elements. But I told him that Lee U Fan is a very famous Korean artist and is well known. Also that his works reflect an aesthetic that is unique. JH kind of just thought about this and I could tell that he was grasping these concepts.

We walked around more in this space and the gallery owner came by and overheard our conversation and so joined in. It was again another great moment where I talked about art and theory.

Lee Eun "Catch Me if You Can." This is a painting and I told JH about how it is part of the genre of photo-realistic. He seemed pleased with this one and I was too.

We moved on, had some lunch and then got back into looking around. At this point an hour had passed and the pace of visitors picked up. I felt a bit relieved to have shown up before the crowds, because after more people came in it was harder to have conversations.

A lot of the works on display were very whimsical and playful. I have to wonder why many Asian artists go this route.

Byon Kyung Soo "The Afro Thinker" Kids loved this one...

Park Won Yung (I liked this piece because it reminded of traditional chekkori paintings, which I don't know if you know what I am talking about.)
Every year the International Art Exhibit has a host country and gives a special exhibition of their works. This year the host country was India, and I think the selected pieces were well represented. However I felt there should have been more reading material on the artists and their statements. In general through out the whole fair I thought there could be more English material next to the artworks for one to read. I know there were tables at each booth where you could read books on the artist but I would have rather liked something readily available near the artworks.

Anyways, the Indian Art exhibit was very interesting and it seemed focused on contemporary issues.

After checking out the Indian exhibit we moved on to some more around the other galleries. Check out this piece it has samples from well known artists on it.

I liked this picture because of the people sitting and talking next to the gallery wall.

Takashi Murakami (One of my favorites and hopefully someday I will see a whole show of his works.)

Kim Kira (We had fun with this one. The lights blinked to different colors.)

Lee Jo Heum (This one I feel speaks to Korean life, where for example if you notice there is a human head in there amongst all the cartoon ones. Walking down the crowded streets of Seoul you often feel this sort of feeling.)
Well did you make it this far? This show closes tomorrow so if you got the time try and make it out there. I want to note that the art world is also feeling the pinch of the global crisis, and this show is not just meant to display art but also sell it. Many galleries around the world are having trouble selling their art. Contemporary Asian Art is part of a recent phenomenon of being widely commercially available in galleries around the globe. I think it is important for these artists' work to get out there because with them they show their countries rich history in art.

It is also important to note who politically sponsors art. Unfortunately in Korea right now the conservative party is controlling what kinds of art goes on display. They also have their hands in Universities and are making some Professors and their classes vanish, because their courses are too thought provoking. In other words, a class that examines culture and theory is deemed unnecessary by the conservative Korean government.

Hyungjin Kim wrote a great peice about this current affair in this Month's issue of Art Asia Pacific.

He wrote:
The conservative government's plan to remake the cultural field extends to Korea's art academies. ... Yoo is attempting to close down the recently established interdisciplinary department of Korean National University of Arts.

Yoo claims that K-Art's theoretical department was designed by left-leaning intellectuals and that the school is neglecting its original mission to focus on studio practice...

...students objected (to closed classes) saying, "Studying technical training without theoretical study makes us technicians not artists."

I was shocked after reading this article, and mostly because I had no clue this was going on. But it is no surprise to find the government reacting and behaving in this way. Art that addresses social and theoretical parts of life often times tends to hold a mirror up to those in charge.

I just hope that this isn't the permemant path for future Korean artists studying here in Korea.

So that was my journey through KIAF 2009, and I hope you weren't too bothered with my artsy lessons and chit-chat. Till next year KIAF!

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