7 June–1 June 2006
Educated in Korea and America this exciting artist has brought traditional Korean craft and modern art face to face. Large wall reliefs and sculptures give the appearance of topography; indistinct surfaces punctured by meteoric depressions, a large object that appears to have arrived violently or is shedding its outer skin. These abstract and powerful works change once again on closer inspection; We see that these shapes and vistas are in fact made up of thousands of tiny paper wrapped packages, the paper covered in printed Asian calligraphy; this is the traditional Korean element of Chun’s powerful contem- porary art.
To wrap and pack objects in paper for transport or storage, wrapping medicines in paper packets, food or books wrapped in cloth, this is an integral part of Korean culture: the culture of bojagi. This informs Chun’s use of materials; making its first striking impression on the artist as a young boy in his uncle’s pharmacy, watching his uncle unwrap and rewrap medicines, stored in paper packets. Using traditional Korean paper taken from old and discarded books, Chun constructs small paper wrapped packets. These number close on 7,000 for each relief, which he then attaches by hand to make the reliefs and sculptures. His works are powerfully evocative, alien surfaces pock marked with depressions and fissures, and within these features are the gentle undulations of colour produced by the variations in the differing papers and texts derived from books, the alternating size and scale of the packets jostling to fight their way to the surface of the works.
At this time when the focus of the art world is looking to Asia, it is exciting to see the traditional and the contemporary in Korean art coalesce so succinctly in this vibrant exhibition of Kwang-Young Chun.