The atmosphere is relaxed and calm. However, there is a deep, long-lasting resonance. Among the many opinions towards CHUNGNAM (Chungcheongnam-do province) that are often mentioned about this province, include locals' signature relaxed behavior and tone, and their honesty. Such signs are also seen in the exhibition UNEXPECTED TIME IN HOMETOWN, which Arario Gallery has exhibited to look at the major trends of modern and contemporary art in CHUNGNAM, with a focus on the gallery's permanent collection. This exhibition, which covers works from the 1950s to recent works, is an attempt to present various concerns that were revealed in the flow of time from modern to contemporary times through the process of development, starting with Korea's early painting traditions, expanding into Western painting and sculpture, and then moving on to photography and videos. The relaxed, calm, casual and private gazes of the seemingly lonely and quiet villages, nature, and hometowns were captured in these artworks. And at the end of the honest, direct gazes, viewers come face to face with the deep authenticity of artists from CHUNGNAM. Their works fully reflect the zeitgeist of each artist's time period and their intense concerns.
The exhibition begins with Korean painting masters that represent modern art from CHUNGNAM. Starting with LEE Sangbeom's work, which contrasts Korea's nature and common people's lives—expressed in soft and dreamy ways with powerful brushstrokes that create harmony—the exhibition shows the flow of modern Korean landscape paintings, showing CHO Joonghyeon, who enjoyed painting animals, flowers, and trees in colors using slender brushes, and KIM Hwakyung, who indigenously and sensitively captured thatched houses and rural life in winter by adopting a unique ink-and-wash style. This trend leads to the process in which the Korean tradition of using paper, brushes, and ink was interpreted in a modern way, such as LEE Ungno's works depicting groups of human beings crossing over the white blank space of canvas. The modern acceptance of later Korean paintings is well illustrated by the works of LEE Jongsang and MIN Kyoungkap, who added abstraction to Korean paintings by spreading ink over a traditional Korean canvas. Eventually, the long presentation of Korean paintings is completed with KIM Soungui's work. KIM attempted to experiment by completing paintings through the drawing of a single stroke in one breath after bringing her mind and body together while interpreting the Korean painting tradition of using paper, brushes, and ink—something based on the practice of mental discipline—in a contemporary way.
At the same time in history, the transformation of Western paintings in Korea began with the works of LEE Madong, a first-generation Western painter well known for landscape paintings and still life paintings, and someone who was devoted to realistic naturalism. This included LEE Chongmoo, who portrayed the beauty and nostalgic scenery of Korea's natural landscapes. This culminated with CHANG Ucchin, who attempted to move towards a more contemporary painting style by emphasizing an individual's personality, breaking away from modern customs through the method of simplifying his paintings and reducing the subject while pursuing traditional Korean ways of living, thinking, and acting in a human group. With artists of later generations, SHIN Yangseop, who emphasized the cozy sentiment of a hometown, family, and rural feelings, and LEE Jonggu, who depicted landscapes that were approached from a more realistic perspective, and who also expressed a relaxed yet thoughtful view of a subject unique to CHUNGNAM in an accomplished way. In a different way, LIM Oksang offers a new trend through socially critical works that express the voices of people living in difficult realities. Contemporary attempts at sculpture can be found in the works of KANG Taisung, KIM Changhee and BAIK Hyunok, all of whom have led new artistic expressions since the 1960s. Over that time, they have conducted distinctive experiments while expressing characters such as family members and women. Furthermore, NOH Sangkyoon opened up a new era by expanding the means to express himself beyond traditional media. Two artists, PARK Youngsook and HWANG Gyutae, the founders of contemporary photography in Korea, clearly show the journey of experimental photography from the early 1960s to today's digital photography. And in the last part of the exhibition, through the works of two younger artists from CHUNGNAM—HONG Wonseok's paintings and KIM Woonghyun's videos and installation works—we discover the identity and critical mind of a new generation in a different media from the past, allowing us to explore new possibilities, thereby completing the long—relaxed but compelling—journey of the artists from CHUNGNAM from modern to contemporary times. Through the exhibition, audience can feel the excitement of the stillness conveyed by CHUNGNAM artists who have confronted the trend of the times in their journey through 70 years.
Press release courtesy Arario Gallery.