Lee Lee Nam at Cernuschi Museum in Paris During FIAC

Lee Lee Nam at Cernuschi Museum in Paris During FIAC

South Korean artist Lee Lee Nam is perhaps one of the most notable video artists of our time and will be exhibiting at the Cernuschi Museum in Paris during globally renowned FIAC, as well as satellite art fair Asia Now. The Lee Lee Nam Museum will be opening in Gwangju early 2019, an exciting endeavor. His artwork A Path to Peace (2018) acted as the visual backdrop at the inter-Korean summit in April 2018, where Kim Jong-un crossed over to the South Korean territory to meet Moon Jae-in – a first for a North Korean leader since the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. A significant moment between the two historical enemies, and for the artist himself.

Reappropriation of Classical Art

Lee Lee Nam has exhibited alongside video art heavyweights such as Nam June Paik (whom he has been likened to and influenced by) and Bill Viola, ultimately aiding his international recognition. Central to his oeuvre, he places new technologies at the heart of his artistic approach whilst synthesizing significant art historical images using multiple new media techniques – breathing life into these classical artworks. He engages with traditional Korean art, animation, European old masters as well as digital art, going back and forth between East and West, past and present, dreams and reality, thereby probing the differences between cultures. A strong poetic charge emanates from his creations creating a cross-cultural dialogue replete with references to art history and technology. By using video as his medium, he is critiquing the society in which we live by responding to today’s generation of hyperconnectivity.

By blurring traditional contours of art, Lee Lee Nam allows new apprehension of his artworks, transporting the viewer from 2D to an interactive and animated sphere of video in 3D. Elements move slowly and silently, engaging the viewer with a hypnotic invitation to travel to another world that is imagined through his acutely technical digital manipulation of images.

Lee Lee Nam at the Cernuschi Museum

The 2nd edition of Cernuschi Video Art ‘Survivances’ at the Cernuschi Museum runs from 16th – 21st October and is dedicated to the theme of history and it’s ghostly presence, as well as the trauma that it presents to contemporary Asian societies. It explores a reflection of the memory of wars that once tore apart and disconnected societies and creates dialogue in terms of how new generations are confronted with this past. When one travels to an undesirable place, nostalgia sets in, and the artists selected for this year’s edition reappropriate their heritage by using digital manipulation, introducing the stylistic and technical diversity of video art in the Far East.

Lee Lee Nam at Cernuschi Museum in Paris During FIAC

New General view of Mount Geumgang – 2009 – Video duration: 7:14 min

‘New General view of Mount Geumgang’ (2009), the reappropriated artwork that will be on display at the Cernuschi Museum, begins originally as the famous landscape painted by Korean artist Jeong Seon in 1734 during the reign of King Yeongjo. Against a backdrop of tranquil sounds of nature, we are transported to a world steeped in historical references, beginning with a way of life that is seemingly peaceful. As the image slowly starts to take on a life of its own, the music gradually becomes more ominous. One hears a world that has been imprinted with the hand of industrialization, visually moving towards scenes of anarchy. The landscape transforms to one filled with city lights and skyscrapers, with a sinister tone of war plans and helicopters hovering, underscoring a time of mass destruction. Clouds of smoke gradually fill the air, indicative of explosives and suggestive of war.

This visual storytelling technique that is employed takes us on a journey through the history of Korea, the pinnacle being that of the Korean War that was a by-product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. The war began in 1950, and the conflict ultimately resulted in Korea being split into two sovereign states. It was also the first time in history where jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat, which is also reflected in the artwork. 1953 marked the end of the war when an armistice was signed, leading to a separation of North and South Korea. No peace treaty was signed, and the two Korea’s are technically still at war and engaged in a frozen conflict.

Lee Lee Nam depicts this trauma of war that is still very much prevalent in today’s society with the political tensions and dislocations that it stirs. He communicates with a contemporary audience whilst immersing them in a historical experience, underscoring the disturbance that presents itself alongside war.

The Breviloquence of Art

The Breviloquence of Art

Lee Ufan is a man who needs no introduction. In the serenity of his work, there is almost a phenomenological reflection behind his paintings. “It is the things themselves, from the depths of their silence, that it wishes to bring to expression.” This utterance from French philosopher Merleau-Ponty quite aptly summarises Lee’s methodology.

It was by chance that Lee Ufan, the octogenarian South Korean native, adopted the lifestyle of a traveler since his family settled down in Japan sixty years ago. Lee lives in the solitude of displacement but he does not suffer from the circumstances. He communicates a similar kind of desolation in his art. Perhaps, in a similar vein to the way Malevich describes his Suprematist composition. Notwithstanding that the comparison limits itself to the Russian counterpart’s search for the “zero degree of form”, Lee’s reflection on the world we inhabit as an artist and as an individual, reveals that he is responsible for his work from ground zero and that all is built in his own solitary existence. In fact, due to his constant travels, Lee translates this sentiment, in a process of maturation and purification, into an artistic element. To borrow Malevich’s words, it may well be “the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts.”

The Cane of Titan, 2014 – Photo: Fabrice Seixas

Writer and philosopher Ayn Rand, first expressed the philosophical system Objectivism, which revolves around the tenet that reality exists independently of consciousness, in her 1943 book The Fountainhead. Reality is a matter that prevails human cognition. To illustrate this notion, Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie (1943) depicts the dynamic rhythm of Manhattan’s architecture and American jazz, the painting’s construction is in direct conversation with the reality that surrounded the artist at that time. Similarly, Lee recognises the process of fulfilling an expression is, in its nature, an interaction between the exterior and the interior. As such, his creative technique relies on harmonious relationships with space, time and location. As a result, like mercury, Lee adapts to the environment in which he works. In 2014, his solo exhibition took place in the Château de Versailles, a place with which he was not unfamiliar but, that he insisted revisiting to be, once again, inspired by the location, to reify his ideas. His ten works, collectively entitled Relatum, exhibited throughout the palace and the gardens, conversed with the weight of the material surrounding Lee’s made oeuvre. If one chooses to understand Lee’s work by way of Rand’s Objectivist definition of the role of art and looks at The Tomb (2014), the interpretation may be rather convoluted and does not correspond to Lee’s passivity. The artist ruminates on the tension between the conscious and the subconscious, echoing Sigmund Freud’s musing that “the conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.” In his work, Lee suggests that through this pool of subconscious, one comes into contact with the infinite.

Infinity does not equal eternity, as the latter is completely construed by humans. While Objectivism says that in a closed system, humans may come into contact with reality through sense reception, vision is a concept constructed out of the necessity of the human gaze, which is only part of the process of consciousness according to Lee. Like Merleau-Ponty posing doubts on the faith in the perception of the world, in his words, Lee thinks that it is more important to feel art, through the reverberations with the Other, and that what is visible to the naked eye is only an illusion of the invisible world. His canvases, more often than not, consist of one or two coloured brushstrokes, emblematic of his 2016 series Dialogue, his minimalistic composition sets forth “a true reform of the comprehension of reality”. Rather fitting to be exhibited in a large space, Lee’s paintings reveal only a minimal part that is visible and through the conspicuous, spectators feel the things that are invisible filling the space. The artist’s involvement is to crack open a window for the artwork to resonate with its surroundings, with the white walls on which it is hung and with its spectators in the space.

Lee Ufan, 2013 – Photo. Fabrice Seixas

Considered as the pioneer of the Mono-ha movement in Japan through his article Beyond Being and Nothingness – a Thesis on Sekine Nobuo (1969), Lee has personally experienced his artistic impetus in the 1970s, an epoch of political unrest and revolution. Lee attests that at that time, artists carried a self-commitment to their own narratives. This kind of zealousness was and still, is not what Lee’s artistic pursuit entails. Mono-ha is a critique on its predecessor, modernism, and contrasts with the modesty and self-constraint on the canvases and materials of its followers. Lee emphasises the passiveness of his methodology, which runs parallel to Primo Levi’s allegory of the alterity of the single carbon atom and its lonesome journey in Carbonio, a short story in The Periodic Table (1975). A seemingly insignificant affair but necessary as an element of life.

In Asian philosophy, a point is the beginning of everything and a line is the continuation of said point. Everything that is present will disappear and likewise, everything that is absent will reappear. Lee’s work is situated in the middle of the two, manifesting both aspects at the same time.

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Known as “representing the beauty of South Korea”, the Leeum Museum’s architecture symbolises the 3 most important values of the Samsung Foundation of Culture: Korean traditional values, the movable nature of contemporary art and the importance of cultivating the future of world culture.

The complex project came to light in 2004, even though talks to construct it had started long before in 1995.  Due to the crisis of 1997, building had to be postponed until 2002. Each of the 3 buildings were erected to convey a fundamental value representing the strengths of Korea and of the art world, for instance, Museum 1 symbolised Korean tradition, history and aesthetics.  The Swiss architect, Mario Botta, employed a geometric design and used terra cotta materials that created nuances when exposed to light, to explore the city’s heritage as a castled town during medieval times.

 

Museum 2, built by the French architect Jean Nouvel, used rusted stainless-steel for the first time as it is a metaphor of the junction between technology and contemporary art, where glass walls and cubes of different proportions embody the contrast and flexibility of contemporary art. The last building, the Samsung Child Education and Culture Centre, conceived by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, expresses the transparency of the institution and its longing for educating its audiences. The three structures take into account the city’s pioneering topography and influencing urbanism in the country’s capital. In 2005 – after the opening – the complex received the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s award of excellence for the design of civic architecture.

 

Beneath each building, lobbies and passages connect, reuniting the three structures and reinforcing the museum’s motto to bridge the past, the present and the future of South Korean art. The museum’s collection includes incredible ceramics from the prehistoric period to the Joseon dynasty (the last one before the country’s division); the institution also possesses works of art from contemporary artists such as Willem de Kooning, Paul McCarthy, Gerhard Richter, Lee Bul, Cindy Sherman, Yee Sookyung, Anselm Kiefer and Mark Rothko amongst many others, consolidating the relationship between the West and South Korea. However, unlike the majority of the museums around the word, the curatorial vision of the Leeum Museum is to display all the artworks combined without making a chronological or geographical difference between them. In 2014, the curatorial team of the museum decided to reassemble the entire collection to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the museum. The exhibition, Beyond and Between, explored the multifaceted nature of the institution’s collection as it explored a new direction within the museum dialectics encouraging the dialogue between cultures, between South Korea and the West. Since this year, the museum has adopted this alternative display providing the spectators with extensive visual experiences.

The museum’s attempts to give another perspective to Korean history are not dictated by the government nor by an imperative identity, their rhetoric is rather closer to allowing the audience to understand history through arts prism.”

Other than giving alternative ways of looking at things, Leeum intends to revisit the past and the present of the nation. The exhibition Korean Rhapsody (2011) examined the tempestuous history of South Korea: the unfinished montage suggested a post-historical approach that allowed the spectator to freely read the unfolding events that marked the country and to ponder about the future. Notwithstanding, the museum’s attempts to give another perspective to Korean history are not dictated by the government nor by an imperative identity, their rhetoric is rather closer to allowing the audience to understand history through arts prism. This statement resonates in the way they envision contemporary art.  Their biennial exhibition Artspectrum aims to discover emerging Korean artists by creating a platform for the young generation and positioning them on the contemporary international art scene. Although the blossoming generations tend to be reluctant to return to the past, Artspectrum has proven the contrary, as young Korean artists are increasingly showing interest in studying and learning the ancient pictorial techniques. The period of modernisation – between the 1960’s and 1970’s – has brought with it technology’s glory, eradicating part of South Korea’s past. The Leeum Museum, along with other institutions such as the Art Sonje Center, have been fighting to recover lost heritage. Furthermore, “Leeum Biennial” endeavours to discover fresh Korean talent regardless of the topic, genre of the artist or area of study, giving the exhibition an incredible diversity.  This year’s edition will include the work of a Danish-South Korean artist pushing Artspectrum’s boundaries further.

 

The museum houses around 5,000 pieces including approximately 40 national treasures, for example, the current exhibition Buncheong: Traces of the Mind exhibits ceramic designs from the Joseon dynasty. Through education, the Leeum Museum aims to create a harmonious architectural environment where the audience feels at ease and empathises with the sometimes closed contemporary art. Healing past wounds and conversing with the present time is the only imaginable path to the future.

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Cogito Ergo Sum – I Think Therefore I Am

Cogito Ergo Sum – I Think Therefore I Am

Merry go round Myeongbeom Kim

Merry Go Round, 2017, revolving platform, deer taxidermy,
door,  artificial plant, ballons, guide rope, 240 x 240 x 280 cm

 

The second retrospective of the South Korean artist MyeongBeon Kim is taking place at the Paris-Beijing Gallery until 17th June. Under the name Amphibology, the exhibition refers to the meaning of the word: a sentence or a phrase that can be interpreted in both ways.

MyeongBeon Kim takes dailyobjects and transfigures them into artworks that he later exhibits. Embracing Duchamp’s methods, MyeongBeon blends two apparently different circuits converting the space gallery into a dreamy space where intellect meets the public sphere. Objects are inserted in a context where they lose their purpose to become part of an aesthetic project.

 

MyeonBeom Kim, Untitled, 2016

Untitled, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable
© MyeongBeom Kim/ Courtesy of the artist / Galerie Paris-Beijing

 

Aside from this unorthodox mixture, MyeongBeong evokes the importance of language in his work. Focusing once again in the ambivalent nature of the word “amphibology” the artist’s intention is to shed light on the multiple readings, on the multiple perceptions and thus the universes created in other people’s mind.

Presenting new creations at the gallery, MyeongBeong Kim will be challenging and inviting its audience to question à prioris and other pre-acquired formulations.

 

Untitled (Shovel) 2017, stainless steel, wood, 24 x 5 x 113 cm
© MyeongBeom Kim/ Courtesy of the artist / Galerie Paris-Beijing  

Untitled (Pickaxe), 2017, stainless steel, wood,  86 X 6 X 96 cm
© MyeongBeom Kim/ Courtesy of the artist / Galerie Paris-Beijing  

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Becoming CI-KIM

Becoming CI-KIM


“Many people are curious to know how I express artistically as a businessman and at the same time, as a collector. They want me to tell some dramatic story or a vivid moment in my life that triggered this passion in me to become an artist.” The eternal smile underneath the stylish fedora is only the tip of the iceberg that is Kim Chang-il. With a multi-million dollar company, three contemporary art galleries and five museums across the nation under his name, Kim speaks with fluidity and sobriety about his work. This energy flows throughout all aspects of his life. In fact, Kim’s professions as a businessman, an art collector and an artist should not be looked at separately. The basis of these dimensions is his originality in the pursuit of simplicity. Kim defines simplicity as a particular that requires concentration on the most valuable thing. This particularity for him lies in art and this is what makes Kim the unique CI KIM in the universe of businessmen, collectors and artists.

Kim first started collecting art at the age of 27. Walking down a small gallery street in Seoul, the landscape and figure paintings by Korean modern ink painters such as Kim Kichang, Lee Sangbeom, Byun Gwansik, Jang Unsang and others caught his attention. Now looking back to the beginning of everything, Kim sighs at the conservative tendencies of many Korean art collectors, with whom he once identified, to limit themselves to one region from one instance in the history of art. Kim travels to the corners of the world, he met the YBA artists, partied with Neo Rauch and Matthias Weischer, made long-lasting friendships with Kohei Nawa and Subodh Gupta. As his horizon broadens, his collection expands. With over 3700 pieces to call his own, Kim deems that this chase after Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter Cindy Sherman, Nam June Paik and other artists in the hall of fame, is an outcome of his self-discovery.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 2006, Photographic silksceen on vinyl, 262 x 432 cm, Courtesy Spruth Magers, Image Courtesy Arario Gallery

In all honesty, Kim’s selection and taste in contemporary art is intuitive and instinctive. His affinity to a certain piece of artwork is determined at first sight: “I select soulful artworks where I do follow my inner counsel.” Kim’s collection is perhaps the incarnation of Chicken Soup for the “Artistic” Soul – tugging at the heartstrings of the mass with contemporary art. He has also quite successfully done so with his galleries and museums. The Arario Museum in Space, Seoul opened its doors in 2014 and houses more than 200 pieces by 43 international artists from Kim’s collection in an exhibition named Really?. The whimsy in the title winks at people’s initial reaction towards Kim’s eclectic choice of artworks. He likens himself to the conductor of an orchestra, like in the 1940 Walt Disney animated film Fantasia, he animates the exhibition of artworks, the lighting, the total experience in his museums. Kim constructs his museums in abandoned structures that once carried significant memories to the neighbourhood or even the nation, building his ideals of sustainability and a brave new world of past and future coexisting in harmony.

Subodh Gupta, Everyrthing is Inside, 2004, part of taxi, cast bronze, 162(h)x 104x276cm, Image Courtesy of Artist and ARARIO Gallery

To quote Kundera in his 1984 masterpiece, “for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”; Kim is susceptible to the weight as life surrounding him expires. He turns to art in its purity and its trustworthiness. He confides in a work of art, in its flawless aesthetic beauty without the peripheral engagement of the story behind. As if situated in the eye of the storm, in the calmness he seeks to minimise the artificial, to reveal the natural beauty of life, to find himself, to find CI KIM.

Language is like a window to the internal workings of the human mechanism. Perhaps lost in translation, it is rather curious to witness Kim’s sense of obligation that he “ought to discover young talented artists at a national as well as an international level”, his sympathies for the “mediocrity of the existing buildings that are disappearing one after another”, and that he has fallen victim to art evident from his choice of Marcel Duchamp as his inspiration.