Art exhibition portrays Korean anxiety

By Lee Woo-young
  • Published : Aug 15, 2012 - 19:44
  • Updated : Aug 15, 2012 - 20:40

“Commemorating Their Own World” by Im Sun-iy (Arko Art Center)
Society’s mental state expressed in awkward, uncomfortable settings

Anxiety seems to be the word that best explains the current state of Korean society, as demonstrated in the choice of anxiety and tension as the focus of an upcoming experimental art exhibition.

The annual thematic exhibition at Arko Art Center in Seoul portrays different aspects of anxiety under the theme of “Playground” from Friday to Sept. 28.

It features works by nine artists, illustrating the anxiety-ridden state of contemporary Korean society through painting, video, sculpture and installation.

“The art center saw anxiety as the key word that portrays the current state of Korean society based on several pieces of evidence, including the fact that Korea ranks at the top in OECD’s suicide rate and low birth rate indexes,” said the exhibition curator Ko Won-seok.

“We will look deep into the psychological state of our society through artworks that portray anxiety, doubt and depression.”

The exhibition title “Playground” ironically alludes to the isolation, violation and hierarchy that exist in children’s playgrounds, but also points out numerous adult players confronting each other in today’s society.

The works do not flat out express anxiety, but rather show the mental state through subjects that look awkward and uncomfortable. 
“Fishing” by Kong Sung-hun (Arko Art Center)

Kong Sung-hun’s “Fishing” is one of the works that best represent the theme. In his painting, a man is fishing in a river flowing through a neighborhood where apartment blocks and suburban scenes coexist.

The artist attempts to show the anxiety derived from the unmatched setting and focuses on the reality where Koreans continue to find compromise amid uncomfortable objects and situations, according to Ko.

Viewers may recognize a similar anxiety in the corridor painting by Roh Choong-hyun who employed limited use of color to express the grayish tone and foggy atmosphere.

The places in his paintings are deserted places once used by military intelligence officials for interrogating or spaces that have not been used for a long time.

As the artist explained, the painting was drawn by “the reaction toward awkward an uncomfortable reality.”

Choi Xoo-ang shows how communication can create anxiety between people through his lifeless looking human forms with exaggerated mouth and ears, the key body parts used in communication.

Choi highlighted such parts to express his observation that communication nowadays between people is nothing more than delivering messages.

The exhibition runs from Aug. 17-Sept. 28 at the Arko Art Center in Daehangno, northern Seoul. Admission is free. Guided tours are available at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)