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Arko show highlights midcareer artists

Arko Art Center is holding its 2019 Mid-Career Artist Exhibition, which comprises two separate solo exhibitions dedicated to Bae Jong-heon and Heo Ku-young.

The annual art show started in 2000 as a way to offer South Korea’s midcareer artists financial support and an exhibition venue.

Bae, 50, and Heo, 53, are showing works that feature everyday scenes and everyday objects. 

Bae works with discarded materials, structures and urban landscapes, often connecting his works to social issues. Since he started his career in the 1990s, he has taken part in many solo and group exhibitions. In 2010, he was also selected as one of the candidates for the 2010 Hermes Foundation Missulsang (Fine Arts Award).

“Entrance to Jeolgol N1-01” (2019) by Bae Jong-heon (Arko Art Center)
“Entrance to Jeolgol N1-01” (2019) by Bae Jong-heon (Arko Art Center)

At the Arko exhibition, Bae shows works that make extensive use of scenes people come across in their daily lives, particularly those he found on concrete walls inside tunnels, on stairs and on streets. Bae uses patterns and turns them into something that look like traditional landscape paintings.
For a painting made of birch plywood panels painted in blue, Bae visited a tunnel to examine the walls with different patterns and stains. A video chronicling his work process is shown at the exhibition.

Bae has said that he always looks out for traces wherever he goes because they are beautiful -- no less beautiful than the mountains found in Korea’s traditional paintings.

“One day, I felt cemented walls somehow more beautiful than the landscape paintings by Gyeomjae Jeong Seon,” Bae said. “Those easily overlooked small traces that we all have left somewhere -- without knowing -- are very beautiful if you take a close look,” he added.

Bae combines these traces on walls with the traditional landscape painting style he has used since 2000, when he introduced “Come from_The Dream of Strolling in a Peach Garden.” This is a traditional landscape painting on a transparent acrylic board, which matches the patterns on the wall behind it. 

An installation view of Heo Ku-young’s exhibition “Still One of My Most Passionate Images,” on the second floor at Arko Art Center (Arko Art Center)
An installation view of Heo Ku-young’s exhibition “Still One of My Most Passionate Images,” on the second floor at Arko Art Center (Arko Art Center)

Heo, a Daejeon-based conceptual artist whose works are on display on the second floor of the exhibition space, also started his career in the 1990s, participating in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Young Korean Artists program in 1994.

His works are made from everyday objects. He sometimes juxtaposes or transforms them to elicit viewers’ thoughts. He cuts out pieces of his works and uses them for his future works. He also often creates homages to other artists.

Heo said he does not strive to achieve authorship in his works. Instead, he tries to make connections between different works and thoughts.

“If I had to narrow down the exhibition into a single concept, it has to be ‘index.’ In semiotics, an index cannot exist alone. It has to be associated with its referent, like a bullet hole is a sign of the bullet that just penetrated through,” Heo said.

Also on view in the exhibition is “Homage to Andy Goldsworthy” (2019), Heo’s stone installation based on sculptor and photographer Goldsworthy’s works using broken pebbles.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 5 next year.

By Shim Woo-hyun (