Monday, 20 August 2012

Saatchi Gallery: Korean Eye 2012

The Saatchi Gallery is in the beautiful and perfectly proportioned Duke of York HQ building on the King's Road in Chelsea, less than five minutes' walk from Sloane Square tube, and entry is free. Membership to the gallery is also free and gets you invites to special events, talks and members' evenings as well as advance notice of exhibitions; get proactive and sign up in the online room on the second floor.

Korean Eye is the largest exhibition of new Korean art to date and the first time these artists have been shown as a group. Thirty-three artists were chosen from around two thousand applicants, providing a huge range of influences and styles in the works on show. Here are some of my snippets, pictures and highlights but I strongly recommend you go and wander round yourself and make your own choices (by the way, the gallery is fiercely air-conditioned - bliss on the muggy day I went, but you might want a warmish top).

I found shapes crafted from the porcelain deliberately broken and discarded by ceramic masters when the finished piece is not up to standard; Yeesookyung has taken these unwanted, destroyed pieces and made them into something new and desirable, covering the joins with gold leaf.

One room shows huge pictures with embedded photographs on acrylic like holograms that change as you walk past; people (and clothes) appear and disappear, details change, your interpretation of the work alters.

I loved the mesmerising portrait of an elderly Mother Theresa by Hyung Koo Kang painted in oils on aluminium, and pictures of braided hair painted using a single-haired brush.

Huge, photo-realistic pictures of cacti by Lee Kwang-Ho flank a delicate latticed sculpture in one room, and a selection of vases atop packing crates in another.

Cho Duck Hyun's apparently traditional portraits force their way into the present and trail fabric over the gallery floor, contrasting with Kim Buyoungho's wall-mounted bursts of twigs or aluminium.

The lower floor houses 20:50, a site-specific installation by British sculptor Richard Wilson and my favourite piece in a very rewarding visit. The viewer looks down on the piece from a gallery on to what appears to be a drop of several feet and white rectangles on the floor. As a fan of - but no expert in - contemporary art, I dutifully kept looking and awaiting enlightenment; it was the distinct smell of oil that dropped the penny for me.

The rectangles on the floor were in fact reflections of the ceiling lights, there was only one row of windows, not two. In one of the moments I love in art, when you suddenly have to reassess everything you thought you were looking at, I realised that there was an almost impossibly smooth reflective surface over the whole room, and that it was one of the least glamorous (Chris Ofili aside) substances possible; used sump oil. Deceptively simple, disorienting, genius.

Really, go. If you like contemporary art, I'm betting at least one thing there will make you catch your breath.

Yours, impressed,
Girl About Town xx


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