July 1, 2014 - National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea - Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature
July 1, 2014

Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature

Hyun Sook Song, 2 Strokes, 1997. Tempera on canvas, 160 x 240 cm. © MMCA.

Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature
May 17–September 28, 2014

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (MMCA Seoul)
30 Samcheong-ro Jongro-gu
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm,
Wednesday and Saturday 10am–9pm (6–9pm free of charge) 

T +82 2 3701 9500


Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature aims to examine the original perspectives and aesthetics of contemporary Korean artists. In this exhibition, the viewers will be able to observe the distinctiveness, universality and creative aesthetics of contemporary Korean art.

Even in this present day when contemporary Korean art is characterized by its diversity and use of a wide range of modes of expression, the public tends to confine the concept of “Korean beauty” to several-hundred-year-old traditional artifacts such as Buddhist statues, stupas, ceramic works, and Hanok. Intending to prevent making the error of not being able to discern the unique characteristics of Korean art while being taken away by the present-day tendency to lay emphasis on international university, this exhibition shed light on the artistic originality and distinctive aesthetics of contemporary Korean art.      

The subtitle “Two Kinds of Nature” came from the following questions: how Korean artists’ deep thoughts and philosophies on “nature” as the origin of all beings are embodied; what is a common perspective among them. In this exhibition, therefore, are unfolded the artists’ warm attitudes towards and empathies for “nature” and the world of “another nature” created on the basis of their deep contemplations and understandings of the fundamental attributes and essence of “nature.”   

Nature 1: Resonance 
Gallery 1 focuses on the properties of “nature” as essence and origin. While conveying suggestiveness and metaphor, emptiness, and lingering impression and resonance, the works featured here demonstrate the original “spiritual” aesthetic senses realized in contemporary Korean art. 

The extremely simplified forms contain the concentrated energy of the artists who constantly attempted to empty their minds in order to attain certain moments of originality and essentiality while eliminating the intentional, the unnecessary, and the ornamental. 

On one of the walls of the gallery are showcased the works influenced by the Korean “white porcelain ware,” especially the aesthetics embodied in moon jars, which have been a unceasing source of inspiration to Korean artists. Contemporary Korean artists have seen the highest perfection of contemporary formal beauty in the mystery of the milky pure white color of moon jars and their ample forms of simple circularity. 
Nature 2: Harmony
In the high sky above the huge wall surface that connects Gallery 1 and 2 beautiful clusters of clouds are floating around and a chain of islands on the horizon engender a landscape of remoteness. Wild flowers and weeds sprout from the soil and release the energy of life, and the faces of small rocks jutting above the mirror-like surface of a calm stream and the willow leaves floating on the water purify our minds. The branches of pine trees are reaching for the sky, and the cool breeze through a dense forest of bamboo trees fills the gallery.   

Upon entering the gallery after those natural landscapes, one is greeted by the scenes of ordinary people’s lives. The viewers find themselves in the detailed depictions of the multitudes of anonymous city dwellers crossing at the crosswalk and of their neighbors in the subway trains. The video images which show ordinary people’s lives in the identical spaces of thirty two households reveal the mediocre, yet happy lives of our neighbors concealed by the modern life of absent communication in closed spaces.   

Standing gallantly against the backgrounds of white walls, the seven “horned artiodactyls” are the artist’s tribute to hoofed animals such as horses, cattle and sheep that played a critical role in the survival of mankind. Especially to Koreans, a bull was more than a farm animal. In the agrarian society, they were the essential source of labor and were considered to commune with human beings.  

“Nature,” which has contained itself through the process of generation and degeneration, has been the constant source of creative “inspiration” to all the artists throughout the world. In the simple forms of abstract works in which artists’ thoughts and understandings of nature are reflected and the subtle expressions of nature that artists captured through empathy and observation, the viewers will discover the aspects of contemporary Korean art’s original aesthetics and artistic visions. 

In other words, they will be able to experience the inspirations and expirations of nature that tend to be veiled by the absurd arrogance of man to consider himself as the lord of all creatures, the lingering imageries before our eyes, and the resonances ringing in our ears. Art can be described as a sharpened hatchet that breaks the icy-cold shells of our senses blinded by the intense light of the artificial civilizations and of our thoughts stiffened due to our materialistic thoughts and desires.


MMCA Seoul presents Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of Nature
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
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