PKM Gallery is pleased to present 'Epic Shanghai', a solo exhibition by Cho Duck Hyun (b. 1957, Professor at Ewha Women's University, Seoul) from January 19th to February 20th, 2018. On view at PKM and PKM+, the exhibition will showcase 18 new works by the artist ranging from paintings, including two mega-sized paintings with a height and width of 3.9m and 5.8m each, to photographs and a video installation.
Cho Duck Hyun questions the significance of life and time by recreating the time and space of 'Old Shanghai', a city that used to be one of the five largest cities in the world in the 20th century where both the Chinese and the Western capital had converged and flourished, then perished futilely in a twinkling. Old Shanghai (the name the Chinese have given to the city to differentiate the old and new city of Shanghai), with its splendid past of its heyday, might evoke a sense of nostalgia to the modern man. At the same time, however, Old Shanghai was a city of dreaded chaos, a city filled with ominous forewarnings, in which extreme conflicts between the East and the West, premodernity and modernity, colonization and decolonization clashed altogether resulting in rampant social discrimination, terrorism, crimes and wars. Within this bizarre space-time of Old Shanghai, the artist succeeds in catching a glimpse of the contemporary global world.
This exhibition can be referred to as a 'narrative project' of which Cho follows the trajectory of life of a deceased (fictional) character, discovering the different aspects of his lifetime and visualizing them through the artworks. The protagonist of this narrative is the fictional character 'Cho Duck Hyun', born in 1914 and died in solitude in 1995 after going through the perilous times of the turbulent period of the 20th century. The works presented at the artist's previous solo exhibition titled 'Dream' at Ilmin Museum of Art in 2015 were alluded to the story of Cho's later years. This time, the story revolves around the times of his twenties in Old Shanghai as a prequel to 'Dream'.
The story, written in collaboration with the artist and Mien Mien, a writer from Shanghai, features coeval real historical figures including the legendary actress of the 1930s Shanghai Yuen Ling Yuk, Kim Yeom, the actor from Chosun who became a superstar in Shanghai, and Zhou Xuan, the iconic Chinese actress and singer of the time, along with the eponymous protagonist 'Cho Duck Hyun' and a heroine named Hong.
From the works in this exhibition, the grand-scale painting '1935' shows the most faithful depiction of this narrative in which the elements of the real and the fictional, including both real and fabricated images, characters and time periods of Shanghai are all intermingled within the enormous screen. These elements create different layers of time-space, and a variety of stories and interpretations can develop depending on how the viewer reads through the conflicts and harmonies of these different layers. This is an experimentation of the artist's attempt to find out how a literary epic can be visualized through fine art, and for this reason, the painting requires a differentiated method of interpretation than analyzing genres of art that are narration- oriented such as literature and film. Cho's other painting of the same scale titled 'gguum' holds stronger symbolism with depictions of the refugees and the wounded from the two World Wars and the Syrian Civil War. It is an apocalyptic scene with dramatic compositions that reminds you of the aesthetics of baroque and romanticism. Cho's work that plays the role of a grand finale of the show is the video installation 'Epic Shanghai'. Multiple scenes from the 1930s Chinese films The Trail, New Women and Angel of the Road show up on small monitors, and as the scenes multiply into hundreds and thousands of reflections on the pentahedral mirror, Cho's installation provides the viewer with an illusion of drifting in a virtual reality of infinite time-space.
Artist Cho Duck Hyun has held more than thirty solo exhibitions at world-renowned institutions around the world including Sogetsu Museum (1994) in Tokyo, Institute of Contemporary Art (1995) in Philadelphia, Andre Emmerich Gallery (1997) in New York and Jeu de Paume (2000) in Paris. His works have also been presented at many international Biennials including the Sao Paolo Biennial, the Istanbul Biennial, the Johannesburg Biennial, the Gwangju Biennial and the Venice Biennial (special exhibition), and had the honour of receiving 'The 2nd Korea-France Culture Award' for his active role as an international artist. Cho is notable for creating hyperrealist paintings with mostly using pencils. His photographic paintings restore the narratives of one's once forgotten memories and sheds light on his existence and fate as an individual within the historical frame of the modern and contemporary world with great subtlety. The artist is also known for his unique artistic productions that encompass collaborations of different genres of art including literature, archaeology and film. Cho's works are part of permanent collections of many institutions worldwide, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, USA, the Gorinchem City Hall, the Netherlands, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Fukuoka City Art Museum, Japan, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.
Press release courtesy PKM Gallery.