With lights, mythical creatures come to life

By Shim Woo-hyun
  • Published : Jan 17, 2019 - 15:49
  • Updated : Jan 17, 2019 - 15:49

Korean artists Kwon Ha-youn and Jin Si-yon have installed their media artworks at a pavilion outside the Times Square building in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

Under the title of “Lunar Fantasy with Ancient Auspicious Animals,” the two Korean artists have presented their own digital renderings of eight mythical creatures from the Chinese tradition of Feng Shui, which are believed to bring luck, prosperity and wealth. 

A pavillion in front of Times Square building in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (Gana Art)

“Other than the white tiger, they are all man-made creatures. They are spiritual and superstitious beings as they reflect people’s various longings. They are built upon beliefs. Through the latest work, I have tried to explore how the old mythical elements can be retold in the current time,” Kwon told The Korea Herald by phone Wednesday.

Born in 1981 in Seoul. Kwon is an up-and-coming media artist who has worked in France and South Korea. Her works were shown at the Cinema du Reel Festival at the Centre Pompidou (Paris) in 2014, as well as Doc Fortnight at MoMA -- the museum’s annual international festival of nonfiction film in February. 2017. She also won the Prix Decouverte des Amis du Palais de Tokyo in 2015 and the first Prize of the 62nd International Short Film Festival held in Oberhausen, Germany, in 2016.

Throughout her career, Kwon has been working on media works that interweave documentary research and the digital techniques, facts and fiction, reality and virtual reality, to question the complexity of the “real.”

Her past projects “Model Village” (2014) and “489 Years” (2015) -- research-based works that the artist digitally visualized the unreachable land between two Koreas -- were results of her constant endeavors.

An installtion view of exhibition “Lunar Fantasy with Ancienct Auspicious Animals,” co-organized between Gana Art and Hong Kong Times Square Limited (Gana Art)

“I recently began looking back the past years and the works I have done, and I realized that I have often dealt with imagined places, objects or creatures. The latest work is also in line with my works trying to represent the unseen, un-visited and unreachable,” Kwon said.

Kwon’s latest work “Naissance,” is a 2-minute video work that presents the full scale of the aritst’s own 3D digital drawings of how four mythical creatures come to life. The colorful 3D representations of creatures come together with calligraphy works by Hong Kong-based calligrapher Wah Gor.

“People’s perception of those auspicious animals appears to be quite different here, compared to in Korea. Here, those mythical creatures are regarded as more like talismans. They seem much more proximate to the lives of people here. It has been quite odd to see how close the distance is between the people and tradition from the long past,” Kwon said.

It is not the first time that Kwon has dealt with something from the Asian tradition.

“I am interested in traditional culture, narratives, objects and many others. More specifically, I am drawn by the ways how they are passed down from a generation to another through time,” Kwon said.

“When you get there” – Kwon’s submission to The Seoul Museum of Art’s 2018 exhibition “Digital Promenade” was one of her works that epitomizes her interests in tradition, myth, the unknown and the imagined.

In her interactive media work “When you get there,” the artist has made connections to An Kyon’s 1447 traditional landscape painting depicting Grand Prince Anpyeong’s dream, as well as Suk Chul-joo’s 2009 painting “New Scenery in Dream,” which was reinvention of the 1447 painting came before Kwon.

Her retelling of the tradition, with using contemporary mediums to reinterpret, is Kwon‘s way to speak with the past.

“To me, art is a way to push the boundaries of so-called the “real.” What art can offer us is opportunities to extend those boundaries of the reality that appears to be unbreakable,” Kwon also said.

The recipient of the 2017 Doosan Artist Award, Kwon will soon move to New York for an artist-residency program offered by Doosan Art Center.

Kwon’s video work Naissance will be shown through Feb. 24.

Also introduced at the pavilion is artist Jin’s video work showing four auspicious animals, expressed by dancers wearing costumes equipped with light-emitting diodes.

The pavillion exhibition has been co-organized between Gana Art and Hong Kong Times Square Limited.

By Shim Woo-hyun (