Artist File 2015 – Next Doors: Contemporary Art in Japan and Korea
The National Art Center Tokyo (国立新美術館)
7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-8558, Japan
Artist File, organized by the National Art Center, Tokyo (NACT) since 2008, is a group exhibition consisting of a collection of solo shows by contemporary artists who are producing some of the freshest and most substantial work today. This year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Korea, we present Artist File 2015 Next Doors: Contemporary Art in Japan and Korea in cooperation with the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), one of Asia’s foremost museums. This exhibition, featuring Japanese and Korean artists, is scheduled to begin at NACT before traveling to MMCA, Gwacheon. The subtitle of the exhibition, Next Doors: Contemporary Art in Japan and Korea, is intended to suggest the continuing use of the solo show format, one of Artist File’s trademarks as well as the geographical proximity between Japan and Korea, and the loose-knit way in which the aesthetics and styles of the two countries’ artists are linked.
What is Artist File?
Artist File is an ongoing series of exhibitions showcasing a group of contemporary artists which has been organized by the National Art Center, Tokyo five times in the past: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013. By making effective use of the facility’s expansive floor space, the exhibition introduces work by a number of dynamic artists as a collection of solo exhibitions. This exhibition, the first time since the exhibition has been held in two years, consists of Japanese and Korean artists who were selected on the basis of rigorous surveys conducted by curators from the National Art Center, Tokyo and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
In addition to branches in Gwacheon and Deoksugung, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea opened a new branch in central Seoul in 2013. This facility promises to make the museum an even more important presence in Korea and in Asia as a whole. After first being shown at the National Art Center, Tokyo, the Artist File 2015 exhibition is scheduled to travel to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon.
Japanese and Korean Artists
The exhibition consists of a total of 12 contemporary artists, six from Japan and six from Korea, who are engaged in outstanding activities in their respective countries. The artists make use of a diverse range of expressive forms including painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation. Moreover, the exhibition has no age restrictions, and as suggested by its neutral title, Artist File encompasses everyone from artists who are already highly regarded internationally to those who are in the process of distinguishing themselves.
Artist File 2015 bears the subtitle Next Doors: Contemporary Art in Japan and Korea. This is intended to suggest the geographical proximity between Japan and Korea as well as the way in which the aesthetics of the artists (who were not previously aware of each other’s existence) resonate with each other. In fact, this exhibition marks the first time that many of the artists will be showing their work in each other’s country.
Exhibition Catalogue and Artist Archive
In addition to showing art works, one of the most important objectives of Artist File is to assemble information about the artists that can literally be filed. Containing a detailed biography and bibliography, the exhibition catalogue will be published in a trilingual edition (Japanese, Korean, and English). And even after the exhibition finishes, efforts to collect information about the artists will continue and added to an archive of 40 artists who participated in past exhibitions in the series.
- IM Heungsoon (b. 1969-)
- Born and currently residing in Seoul
Im Heungsoon uses video to expresses aspects of Korean history from the perspective of individual lives. In the ‘Public Art Project’, He formed a project team with local residents, and dealt with social problems such as migration and urban life. Another work, Sung Si (2011), set on Jeju (which despite having once been the scene of many tragic events in contemporary Korean history, has now been transformed into a tourist destination), consists of interviews with survivors relating their painful memories and shots of the island’s beautiful scenery. In Jeju Prayer and Apartments (2007-2010), Im branched out into the documentary genre and tried to engage with the general public in a more active manner. Im is currently working on Reincarnation (2015), a more expansive work concerned with Asia, in which he searches for links between individual lives in the modern and contemporary history of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
KI Seulki (b. 1983-)
- Born and currently residing in Seoul
Ki Seulki is fascinated with identifying internal events such as emotions and perceptions, and other phenomena that are not visible to the eye. Using a diverse range of media, including photography, video, and installation, Ki visualizes amorphous entities like water, color, and light, and subtle feelings that are aroused in particular spaces. Imbued with a sense of tension, her works are rooted in contrasts such as planes and solids, the parts and the whole, and intimacy and alienation, and radiate a unique charm. In addition, the artist’s own fragmented body parts and the sudden intervention of traces of action trigger movements in the space, arousing the viewer’s imagination.
KOBAYASHI Kohei (b. 1974-)
- Born in Tokyo, currently residing in Saitama
Kobayashi Kohei is best known for his video pieces. In his recent works, the artist himself makes frequent appearances along with readymade articles purchased at a home improvement center. Then, by subtly changing the places where these articles should be, Kobayashi engages in what initially seem to be unrelated actions. In this way, he urges us to experience deeper realities, which we tend to overlook in everyday life, such as the context that surrounds an object and the intentions that lie behind it. Kobayashi also makes videos using a script based on a text that he asks someone else to write, which he then develops in a dialogue with a group of performers, and stages performances that are created in collaboration with dancers and choreographers.
- Born and currently residing in Goyang, Gyeonggi-do
Lee Hyein makes her work while living in various different places. She draws on the experiences and emotions from each place and expresses them in three dimensions using diverse media, including paintings based on outdoor sketches, drawings, video, and installations. Painting has long remained at the heart of Lee’s work as a means of observing and documenting the world. Her sensitivity to real life and natural spaces is manifested through unusual methods such as painting in a corner of a dark room, or depicting an outdoor landscape from inside a tent. And by installing her works on small walls or in nooks and crannies around a space, Lee invites us into a world of sketches that reverberates deeply within us despite the fact that we are unfamiliar with the pieces.
- LEE Sungmi (b.1977-)
- Born and currently residing in Seoul
Using shards of glass from cars that were smashed up in accidents and strewn over the road, and transparent mutable objects, Lee Sungmi turns our ordinary sense of anxiety into profound phenomena. Through the artist’s manual labor, carefully repeated like some kind of ascetic practice, these materials, containing traces of misfortune, are reborn as beautiful limpid objects. Lee seems to handle his materials in an extremely mechanical and artificial way, but the repetitive acts used in the production process are actually a means of exposing the materials’ unique qualities. By making these miserable materials into art, Lee touches us somewhere deep inside and realizes a unique visual expression.
- LEE Wonho (b. 1972-)
- Born in Suncheon, Jeonnam,; currently residing in Seoul
Using ordinary notions about objects and spaces as a foundation, Lee Wonho dismantles the concepts we associate with these things, and creates work that presents them in a completely different dimension. In one work, Lee removed all of the white lines from a playground and created a “white field” made up solely of white lines. In another, he sent letters to non-existent recipients, and documented the process in which the item was returned (“addressee unknown”) using a recording device contained in the envelope. Through these approaches, which subvert social rules and conventional wisdom, Lee presents us with a new way of looking at the things around us and a different perspective on superficial elements in the world.
- MINAMIKAWA Shimon (b. 1972-)
- Born in Tokyo; currently residing in New York and Berlin
Since the beginning of his career, Minamikawa Shimon has made work that deviates from conventional painting and other formats. From portraits made with pale tones to abstract paintings using brilliant fluorescent colors, and a series called Sign Boards, in which he applies paint directly to an easel, Minamikawa’s works assume a variety of forms. And by showing a number of works with different qualities alongside each other, the artist rearranges the meaning of each individual piece, and turns the space into a work of art. In recent years, Minamikawa has collaborated with performance artists and others, and produced works that traverse artistic genres.
- MOMOSE Aya (b. 1988-)
- Born and currently residing in Tokyo
Against a backdrop of contemporary society, flooded as it is with digital video, Momose Aya asks what these images really are and urges us to reconsider the act and experience of watching them. In her works, which begin by documenting a performance on video, the body and voice are important elements. In her works, which unfold in wholly unexpected ways, people’s mouths are peculiarly out of sync with their voices, and their utterances are divorced from the original context. This disrupts their relationships and communication with others, exposing the violence and immorality contained in the act of shooting. Not only do Momose’s subtle manipulations surprise and disturb us, they reveal the ominous power of the video medium.
- Born in Tokyo; currently residing in Berlin
Known for works in which she unravels preexisting textiles, Tezuka’s art frequently gives rise to a sublime sensation. Her approach dates back to university when she embroidered a piece of canvas that also served as the support medium for painting. This marked the beginning of a shift from oil painting to sculptural objects made with textiles. The original structure of a textile can be seen in both two- and three-dimensional terms, and this versatility makes it possible to freely alter its form. While continuing to expand the potential of textiles as a material, in recent years Tezuka has attempted to add a new layer of images by incorporating symbolic marks.
- TOMII Motohiro (b. 1973-)
- Born in Niigata; currently residing in Tokyo and New York
Tomii Motohiro, who majored in sculpture in graduate school, began by making small plaster works based on familiar motifs like stairs, houses, books, and people, and sculptural works in which he transformed the shape of small people with putty. In these works, he reexamined the relationship between place, pedestal, and sculpture, and developed a strong interest in the environments that surround art works. He frequently makes use of readymade objects like thumbtacks, Super Balls, pencils, files, and balloons. What is essential about these everyday items is not their function but their form. In recent years, Tomii has also continued to produce sculptures using written instructions and to extract sculptures from ordinary landscapes using photography.
- YANG Junguk (b. 1982-)
- Born and currently residing in Seoul
Using observation and experience, Yang Junguk expresses certain a variety of fragmented thoughts using texts and moving sculptures. Yang starts by finding trivial emotions and intuitions in daily life, and then develops them into short poems, texts or short stories. Next, he creates moving structures that provide a sympathetic response to the texts. His sculptures, made with a wholly handicraft-like approach, are presented according to a simple organic working principle, and stimulate a poetic sensibility through light and shadow, sound, and repetitive mechanisms.
- YOKOMIZO Shizuka (b. 1966-)
- Born in Tokyo; currently residing in London
By making use of photography’s special properties, Yokomizo Shizuka questions various relationships between the medium and human beings as subject matter. There is a stark contrast between the intimacy of Sleeping, depicting a sleeping friend in a dark bedroom, and the brusque encounter in Stranger, showing someone writing a letter to a seemingly unknown person without exchanging a word. Yokomizo selects her medium based on the theme of the work. This is apparent from Forever (and again), a video work focusing on the performance of an aged pianist, which deals with the theme of “time.” Recently, all, a series of photographs depicting a pregnant woman’s body in which fantastic images intersect with reality, gave Yokomizo the opportunity to think more deeply about the cultural-anthropological issue of what images really are.