SUP HAM, JEONG MIN SUH
ILHWA KIM, SUNG HEE CHO, WON HA
FEBRUARY 9, 2017 — APRIL 29, 2017
The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery (SWPK) is pleased to present the group show Paper Revelation, showcasing contemporary works employing Korean traditional paper in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and video formats by Korean artists, Sup Ham, Jeong Min Suh, Ilhwa Kim, Sung Hee Cho, and Won Ha.
The works on view each explore the versatility of the unique Korean paper tradition while examining themes of duality, nature and cultural heritage. Drawing on the centuries-old craft of hanji, handmade paper produced from the bark of mulberry trees, the artists in the exhibition not only translate their inspirations onto paper, but also completely alter the medium itself. Through their investigations of the paper medium, everyday materials are transformed to reveal contemporary works in which sustainable, age-old cultural traditions are metaphysically morphed into our realm of modernity.
Included in the show are collage works from Sup Ham’s (b. 1942) One’s Home Town series. Using antique manuscripts made of Korean hanji paper, Ham explores themes related to cultural heritage and sustainability. The artist refashions the original appearance and nature of his materials through a process of dying, soaking, tearing and kneading the pieces of paper before superimposing them in layers, lending a painting-like character to his canvases. Employing a palette of traditional Korean colors made from natural dyes, Ham’s works of contemporary abstraction bear traditional Korean references while simultaneously revealing a stylistic synthesis of Eastern and Western practices.
Jeong Min Suh (b. 1962) creates three-dimensional wall pieces made of repurposed paper scrolls of calligraphy and ink paintings. Works such as Lines of Travel 69 (above) and Korea House Roof 17 (below) present fusions of painting and sculpture that — in both material and theme — draw on the cultural heritage of Suh’s native Korea. In his works, Suh recycles discarded paper scrolls made on hanji paper, which he compresses and tightly rolls into the thousands of small, scrolled cylindrical units that are then assembled to create his relief compositions. The faintly discernible ink marks visible along the cut cross-sections of the individual scrolled components reveal the former life of the materials, with their internal dialogue between the past and the present pointing to the continuity of traditions in contemporary culture.
In her Seed Universe and Space Sample series, artist Ilhwa Kim (b. 1967) creates three-dimensional macrocosms composed of tens of thousands of paper “seeds”, each representing its own tiny microcosmic universe. Each unique seed is formed through a meticulous process of hand-dying thousands of sheets of hanji paper, which the artist then layers, rolls and cuts before arranging them into rhythmic patterns of vibrant colors. Inspired by the Cheonhado, a seventeenth-century world map from the period of the Korean Chosun Dynasty, the tactile, wavy surfaces of Kim’s works suggest topographic aerial views of an energy-filled universe.
Also included in the exhibition are relief paintings by Sung Hee Cho (b. 1949), in which the artist employs Korean hanji paper and oil paint to explore explore themes of the multiplicity, unity, and inseparability of nature and human existence. Often appearing as highly tactile monochrome surfaces that are tempered with restrained color variations, Cho’s works evoke a transcendent simplicity conveyed through the artist’s traditional Korean sensibility. In constructing her paintings, Cho employs a laborious process in which small fragments of hanji paper are hand cut, shredded, rolled and formed, then meticulously attached to the canvas and painted with oil pigments.
Artist Won Ha’s (b. 1952) video installation, Forest, comprises video imagery of trees, underbrush and woodland projected onto a myriad of squares of loosely hanging sheets of paper. Exploring perceptions of the real and the virtual, the interactive video investigates questions of subjective relativity versus objective absolute. Repeated on a continuous loop, the projection of trees onto paper also presents a virtual reunification of source and creation, revealing the cyclical nature of life and the process of change essential to nature.
Paper Revelation has been produced in collaboration with the Donghwa Cultural Foundation and supported in part by the Arts Council Korea.