Set amidst the hustle and bustle of Sheung Wan, Soluna Fine Art gallery’s latest exhibition offers an oasis of calm.
Enter, and time seems to stand still. The exhibition’s name, Obangsaek: Indigo, comes from the traditional Korean color spectrum of five-orientation-color.
The exhibition, running until March 28, features eight artists who use indigo in their works. It is one of five in the gallery’s Obangsaek Series, featuring artworks by emerging and established South Korean contemporary artists.
“In East Asian philosophy, indigo or blue signify several concepts: spring, youth, hope and utopia,” said Rachel Lee Eun Ju, founder of Soluna Fine Art.
“The works included in this exhibition give the sense of a calming, feminine aura, at the same time bringing hope with certain motifs associated with spring and utopia.”
An example is Kim Yong Chul’s Peony and Birds series, depicting two birds frolicking near the peonies in his garden with a blue sky and glittering clouds in the background.
In the 70s, Kim used to be passionate about politics and often criticized the government through his works as the country went through a period of economic transformation. But after 1984, Kim changed the way he created art, employing Korean pictorial traditions to capture vivid and fresh scenes of everyday life, seeking to convey a positive energy.
By using vibrant colors, glitter and heart motifs, his works healed emotionally and promised a bright future.
Choi Myong Young’s Conditional Plane is more like an inspiring new year resolution. The artist applied white acrylic to his fingers and pressed it to blue graph paper.
Taking the graph paper as a representative of secular restrictions on human life, the artist sees the pressure, speed and motion he exerts on the graph paper as the emotional part of his being, expressing the human desire to go far beyond the secular.
Lee Kyou Hong’s Breathing of Light is more experimental. It is hard to imagine how the finished product was made. The work seems to create a dreamy underwater world that imitates the angle of the audience looking up through the water at the sky to seek the light, providing a soothing sense of calm.
The artist first acid-etched the mirror and sprayed it with customized glass paint before polishing. After breaking a large chunk of glass into small pieces and polishing them, he applied them to the mirror with customized glue, which would prevent oxidation.
Choi Sun’s large-scale work Butterflies relates to breathing, which the artist sees as the fundamental right of beings.
Choi invited people to blow on the paint he dropped on the canvas, creating irregular shapes like butterflies.
By injecting people’s breath into the work, Choi aims to create an engaging artwork that connects individuals. He considers it a work of the people instead of a conventional art piece.
Although the exhibition aims to convey the eum or yin, a cool, feminine energy represented by blue, the works mentioned above were all created by male artists.
That’s because their works have a sense of tranquility and softness that are usually associated with feminine energy, Lee said.
A gardening enthusiast, Park Ji Sook took the meticulous details of plants and plant cells as inspiration for her Breeze series – a direct reference to the element of wood represented by blue.
One of Lee’s favorite pieces is Park Yoon Kyung’s chiffon painting AAGMPR: Six Definitions of Love, an abstract painting in which the artist applied multiple layers of paint onto translucent materials and allowed the wet paint to flow over.
All the works in the same series are hinged, which allows the artist to combine her individual paintings into an installation.
Audiences can see the transparent front and back of the paintings while viewing the vertical installation, in which the artist aims to expose the space behind and turn all three spaces into one work.
Yin and yang energy is not clear cut female and male in Asian philosophy, Lee said.
As in the exhibition, female artists’ works use experimental techniques and bold colors – characteristics associated with masculinity, Lee said.
“We would say, at least for our Korean artists, their works can be noted as femininity in masculinity and masculinity in femininity.”
(This article was published at The Standard on March 13, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Crystal blue persuasion )