Suki Seokyeong Kang debuts new 'Mountain' series at Leeum Museum of Art

Artist Suki Seokyeong Kang during the press preview of her solo show ″Willow Drum Oriole″ at Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. [MOON SO-YOUNG]

Suki Seokyeong Kang, a globally acclaimed Korean artist, is presenting her new “Mountain” series for the first time in her large-scale solo show at Leeum Museum of Art in Yongsan District, central Seoul, the nation’s biggest private museum run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture.

The exhibition, titled "Willow Drum Oriole," showcases 130 of her works, ranging from paintings and sculptures to installation works and a film. Kang is famous for taking inspiration from traditional East Asian poetry, music and dance, reinterpreting them in modern social contexts, and creating abstract works, which are mainly installation works and sculptures. During her upper education, she majored in oriental painting.

The new ″Mountain″ series by artist Suki Seokyeong Kang in her solo show ″Willow Drum Oriole″ at Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. [MOON SO-YOUNG]
The new ″Mountain″ series by artist Suki Seokyeong Kang in her solo show ″Willow Drum Oriole″ at Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. [MOON SO-YOUNG]

The beauty of the new “Mountain” series is in its forms. The pieces are made up of steel sheets that curve gracefully like the mountain ridges depicted in old East Asian paintings. The tops of the bent steel plates are covered with colored threads. The plates also have black or gray threads that hang from the underside, reminiscent of the plants and waterfalls depicted in the paintings on the mountains.

Some have said that the abstractness of the new “Mountain” series is easier to understand than that of her former works, to which Kang said: “Actually, abstraction is difficult also for me, but it's also fun, like a daily mystery. I think abstraction is a process of extracting something, so I think it's a process of figuring it out and deciphering the next work through the previous work.

“Actually, I've been working on this ‘Mountains’ series for a long time, but it's the first time I'm showing it in an exhibition,” she continued. “Since I was a student, I've visited Leeum Museum of Art a lot. I would look at sansuhwa [Korean landscape paintings of mountains and water] and look at the landscapes depicted in the ways that people in the old days looked at them, and then look at this contemporary art space and think about how the stories of then and now can intersect. I was thinking more and more about it while preparing for the exhibition in this space. So in my ‘Mountains’ series, some of the ridges from the old paintings are mixed with my own drawings […] and I made four different mountains — for spring, summer, fall and winter.

“In fact, the titles of my works tend to be a bit abstract, with implied meanings, and I don't often use titles that are directly revealing,” she added. “But as I went through big events in my private life in recent years, the mountains in reality and in old paintings that previously felt so big, like a huge abstract mass to me, suddenly started to feel like something small and precious, like one close to me. So I named my new series just ‘Mountain’ and thought it wasn’t bad, and I felt some kind of pleasure.”

Kwak June-young, the curator of the exhibition, said, “I think one of the biggest attractions of Kang's works is that it removes the boundaries of all the dualisms that exist in the West such as art versus craft, abstract versus figurative, heavy versus light, traditional versus contemporary — and fills them with new stories."

Kang, who is also a professor of Korean painting at Ewha Womans University, is one of the leading Korean contemporary artists, and has drawn attention for her wide spectrum of works that combine traditional and contemporary elements.

The view of artist Suki Seokyeong Kang's solo show ″Willow Drum Oriole″ at Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. [LEEUM MUSEUM OF ART]

In the exhibition, curated by Kwak, the Head of Exhibition at Leeum, and EJ Cho, a curator of the museum, in partnership with Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta, Kang experiments with the possibilities of paintings as a medium through a variety of media and methods in an attempt to transcend time and space.

"By focusing on singular and collective interactions with objects, her works reflect on how an individual's past and present actions the future of whole societies," the museum said in a release.

The 46-year-old artist has held solo exhibitions in Seoul, Philadelphia and Luxembourg, and her works have been featured in biennales held in Gwangju, Liverpool, Shanghai and Venice. In 2018, Kang won the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel.

In her previous installation series, "Land Sand Strand," shown at the Liverpool Biennale in 2018 and the Venice Biennale in 2019, performers interacted with space through choreographed movement.

The exhibition runs through Dec. 31.