REDRAWING CONTEMPORARY ART AND COLLABORATIONS THROUGH THE WORKS OF KOO JEONG A:
The Korean Cultural Centre in London has made a beautiful habit out of its annual award programme, which introduces key figures from Korea’s vibrant contemporary art scene to UK audiences. Eminent artist Koo Jeong A was the recipient of the ‘2016 Artist of the Year’ award by KCCUK, for her undeniable contributions not only to Korean contemporary art, but also to the global art stage. Riptide’s concept started out as a solo exhibition with Civilising Process, one of the 1001 line drawings from ‘Koo Jeong A: R’ (2006) – the beginning for a number of projects meant to open up the possibilities of creating new narratives and stories.
Koo Jeong A was born in 1967 in Seoul, South Korea. She studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where she focused on creating new means of expression in a somewhat saturated art world. Her sugar cube sculptural installation, minimal yet heavy with poetry, pushed her onto the international stage, with her first exhibition in Europe at Musée d’arte Modern de la Ville in Paris, and with her signing with Yvonne Lambert, the prestigious gallery with which she still works in New York and Europe. Koo’s voyage has been one of self-discovery and constant evolution, as she has consistently moved and explored her surroundings in order to lay new foundations for her art.
She ‘lives and works everywhere’ to create art that incorporates drawing, sculpture and installations that reflect on the mundane, and yet always delve into the uncanny, the unexpected. Whilst exploring the realms between fact and fiction, what is real and what is fabricated, Koo manages to always play with her viewers’ senses, igniting surprising reminiscences and inviting people to look where they’ve never looked before within themselves. Koo Jeong A is represented by Pilar Corrias (London, UK) and Pinksummer (Genoa, Italy); recent works include the ARROGATION Wheel Park project for the São Paulo Biennale in 2016, Evertro Wheels Park project for the Liverpool Biennial in 2015, and 16:07 for Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf in 2012, to name but a few.
Her style is easily recognised today. Her minimalistic line drawings incite conversations beyond their physical medium, and open doors to re-contextualisation and re-interpretation, not only through alternative mediums from her own hands, but also through the eyes of other artists. The stories behind her drawings are the result of a joint collaborative process between her pencil and paper, and the beholder of each piece. Each of her works compel you to stand and look at them, and eventually through them until a story blossoms in the back of your head and you can’t shake it. Riptide takes the experience further, and translates the story into the installation works of other artists, internationally recognised for their anything-but-conventional means of expression.
Their contribution to Koo Jeong A’s Riptide exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre in London mirrors a distinct process of storytelling, which is by nature spontaneous, responsive and heterogeneous – easily noticed in Koo’s own work. Artists Martin Roth, Kyung Roh Bannwart, Yva Jung, Hanqing Ma & Mona Yoo, Mattias Sohr and Melissa Dubbin & Aaron S. Davidson have responded to her Civilising Process, their participation producing multiple alterities of reading Koo’s drawings. The invitations for Riptide sparked during a conversation between Koo and curator Je Yun Moon regarding the meaning of the ‘Artist of the Year’ platform at KCCUK. They emerged from a need to further explore the possibilities offered by such a prestigious nomination, giving not only Koo but also her guests a specific site to express their approach on Civilising Process – from site-specific installations to reformulations of her existing works, Riptide lacks boundaries and is bountiful in contemplation, which is precisely what makes it so special.
The exhibition’s developmental process was as spontaneous as its content: as if playing Chinese whispers, each visual conversation shown in Riptide leads the audience to an unexpected path. It was meant to be one thing, but then through action and further thought, it led to this insightful and almost literary canvas of alternative works that ultimately celebrate Koo’s art and thoughtful minimalism.
Mattias Sohr presents a series of monochromes on this occasion, industrially made from printed circuit board. The ready-made element is repeated in Dubbin and S. Davidson’s work, where traces of repetitive gestures of labour by machines leave their imprint on garments. The same blurred boundary between the artificial machine and nature/humans can also be found and observed in Roth’s Persian rugs and Jung’s video and displaced footage installation, the latter hidden as a surprise at the far end of the gallery in its ‘anchovy version’.
The Persian rugs manage to persuade their viewers to transcend the dimension of what is known and step inside a room where handwoven fabrics and germinating grass unravel at their feet, in a quiet but definitive statement of man’s perishability before the elements of nature. The damps smell and unstoppable rate at which the grass grows creates a specific sensory experience, ultimately leading to a different question of how culture, in all its complexity, is really documented. Another predominant theme in this exhibit is the sense of uncertainty and feeling of the unknowable, evident in Ma & Yoo’s floor installation, as well as Bannwart’s cultural objects. The latter undermine the firm line between copy and original – a recurring thought in the mind of any artist today.
Perhaps what stands out the most through Riptide is the heavy trace of displaced stories, in which different sources of energy push one another in a constant state of becoming, and in which plot twists of scenography transform the visitor’s apparently ordinary process of viewing Koo’s works into an entire experience, with plenty of audio-visual stimuli from the guest artists. In a way, Riptide is an accurate description of life down to its most basic recurrences: you set out to do one thing, and you end up doing something else entirely, different but far more beautiful. The real ‘plot twist’ of Riptide is that the above is merely our interpretation of the events in the exhibition. Our conclusions.
Yours may differ, which is why we strongly encourage you to visit Riptide and immerse yourself in the experience. See what conversations it generates for you, and find yourself surprised at how profound its minimalism can be, courtesy of a finely crafted stage with multiple installations revolving like planets around the same sun – the bird and the man in a Civilising Process. Koo Jeong A: Riptide is scheduled to run until 19th November at the Korean Cultural Centre in London this year.