Eva Presenhuber's Show Offers Respite in Seoul
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In a new group exhibition in Seoul, Galerie Eva Presenhuber brings together recent works by 13 international artists scrutinising the conditions of contemporary painting and sculpture (6 September–28 October 2023).
Exhibition view: Group exhibition, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Taxa, Seoul (6 September–28 October 2023). Courtesy the artists and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / Vienna. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano.
The Europe-based gallery first introduced its artists to Korea's capital last September, participating in the inaugural Frieze Seoul with a booth that included a cast aluminium cypress by Jean-Marie Appriou (Cypress [Blade], 2018) and Verne Dawson's fantastical oil paintings depicting allegories and mythological characters.
Since then, Galerie Eva Presenhuber has returned to Seoul outside of the art fair to show Norwegian photographer Torbjørn Rødland's solo exhibition Metal Balm (18 March–28 April 2023), demonstrating its growing interest in the Korean art scene. The exhibition took place at local project space Taxa in Songjeong-dong, one of the quieter residential neighbourhoods in Seoul that offers a momentary respite from the bustle of nearby Seongsu and Gangnam.
Once more on view at Taxa, the current group exhibition features paintings and sculptures by Jean-Marie Appriou, Martin Boyce, Austin Eddy, Amy Feldman, Louisa Gagliardi, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Shara Hughes, Wyatt Kahn, Sofia Mitsola, Chemu Ng'ok, Tobias Pils, Tschabalala Self, and Sue Williams. While Galerie Eva Presenhuber is known for its international roster of artists working across different and new media, like Doug Aitken and Trisha Donnelly, the Seoul exhibition places a strong emphasis on the myriad ways in which contemporary artists engage with the more traditional mediums of painting and sculpture.
American artist Tschabalala Self, for example, has built a practice reconfiguring representations of the Black body by constructing the figure from various shapes, patterns, and materials such as textiles, paper, felt, and fur—what she calls 'studio debris'—in addition to paint.
The motif of a seated figure recurs throughout Self's recent work, with the simple pose emanating a sense of self-assurance and authority. When presented in pairs, Self's figures generate a conversation about relationships and intimacy, like the bronze sculptures Seated Woman 1 and Seated Man 2 (2023) shown at Self's solo exhibition Spaces and Places at the gallery's Zurich Waldmannstrasse location (9 June–22 July 2023).
On view in Seoul is her Leisure Couple Together (2023), a square canvas depicting a seated couple against a backdrop of blue and yellow argyle. The figures overlap with the furniture, with parts of their limbs morphing into chair's legs, as they look on with content smiles on their faces.
Self's confident figures resonate with Greek artist Sofia Mitsola's Taka mini (2023), an oil painting in which a topless female figure, wearing red bikini bottoms and knee-high boots, squats before a seascape.
The broad brushstrokes that make up the scene suggest a new direction for Mitsola, whose earlier female figures were rendered with pearly skin and smooth, dreamlike backgrounds as seen with the two dancers in Fittings (2021) or the figure reclining amidst swimming fish and beneath an orange moon Dark BB, Blood Moon (2022). Her figures' brazen awareness of their bodies, however, is characteristic throughout Mitsola's works.
French artist Jean-Marie Appriou's sculptures span different temporalities from ancient mythologies to futuristic worlds. Just under one-and-a-half metres in height, the patinated bronze sculpture The seahorse Shaman (2022) echoes traditional figurative sculpture with its upright silhouette, while being simultaneously unfamiliar in its hybridised form. The sculpture depicts a human figure cloaked with the bony armour of a seahorse, the sea creature's head resting on the human's like the hood of a cape.
Swiss artist Louisa Gagliardi's paintings, by contrast, are far removed from the traditional process of painting in the sense of applying pigments to canvas. The surface of her works, often depicting contemporary interiors and daily moments through an uncanny lens, appears sleek, not only when they are on the screen, but also in real life: they are first rendered digitally, then painted onto gloss vinyl with transparent gel.
The gel medium offers Gagliardi a useful substitute—one that mimics the quality of painting without actually using pigments. Resulting works unsettle conventional understandings of the medium. In an anecdote that the artist shared with Ocula Advisory, a prospective interview got cancelled over the other party's realisation that her works were not 'real' paintings.
Gagliardi continues to trouble the medium's expectations with Performance Anxiety (2023), which has been painted in nail polish and ink on a sheet of PVC plastic. Human silhouettes rendered totally black gather on one side of window blinds, shared with the viewer, as they peek out at passersby rendered in colour on the other side.
American painter Shara Hughes takes a more introspective and intuitive approach to painting, considering her works as 'self-portraits in one way or another, whether it's very specific or very abstract' as she told Ocula Advisory. Reflect (2021) falls in between, taking the eye to a striking view of sunlight, painted in a stripe of bold red paint that drapes over a tall waterfall in the woods.
With a painting by Hughes having been presented by the gallery at Frieze Seoul last year, the exhibition marks a new opportunity for her work to be seen by audiences in the city alongside the 12 other artists. Opening in tandem with Frieze Seoul 2023 (6–9 September), it reflects the gallery's 'commitment to and interest in the city's art scene,' as gallery founder Eva Presenhuber told Ocula Magazine.
'We see Korea, and Seoul in particular, as an important market, a cultural hub for the exchange of artistic ideas and a great opportunity for the presentation of our artists and artworks,' she said. —[O]