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Artists Sang Woon Nam and Ji Young Hong exhibit at J/M Gallery London | Pro Club Bd

Curator Rokhee Hwang presents the first of two exhibitions by contemporary South Korean artists at the J/M Gallery in Notting Hill, London. Sang Woon Nam and Ji Young Hong’s Love Under the Blue Moon runs from July 28 to August 14 and is funded by the South Korean government.

Curator Vittoria Beltrame, who recently hosted EU diplomat Beatrice Covassi’s “A European Show” at J/M Gallery, is co-curating the exhibition with Rokhee Hwang.

Ji Young Hong “Love Under the Blue Moon”

South Korean culture has recently garnered global recognition, with tremendous interest in the country’s pop culture, music, entertainment, and arts scenes. Curator Rokhee Hwang of The Mews Gallery in Gangneung is dedicated to bringing the most exciting emerging and established South Korean contemporary artists to a global audience. She brings Sang Woon Nam and Ji-Young Hong to J/M Gallery on Portobello Road to present their new work in her first UK exhibition: Love under the Blue Moon. Both artists have extensively exhibited and are prominent in the art scene of their native South Korea, so Rokhee Hwang looks forward to introducing their work to the London contemporary art world.

Sang Woon Nam’s photorealistic paintings depict a mystical landscape reminiscent of a blue moon. In contrast, Ji Young-Hong’s abstract paintings consist of multiple layers of paint that transport some of Seoul’s vibrant energy into the spaces of J/M Gallery. Sang Woon Nam’s use of blue moon symbolism gives the exhibition the title “Love Under the Blue Moon,” and these spiritual moon paintings are complemented by Young-Hong’s eclectic exhibition of abstract portraits.

The use of blue in Sang Woon Nam’s Blue Moon paintings extends the artistic lineage of the color blue, from the blue color pigment of crushed lapis lazuli used by early Renaissance artists such as Giotto to International Klein Blue (IKB) , created and protected by the 1957 Nouveau Realist artist Yves Klein, who he believed represented the immaterial, pure form and space and infinity of the sky. Sang Woon Nam features the blue moon, an additional full moon that appears in a calendar month. The expression “one in full swing” comes from the fact that this funny event only happens every 2.7 years on average.

Sang Woon Nam has been trying to find the “perfect blue” in his paintings for over twenty years, an obsession almost comparable to Yves Klein’s development of IKB. Sang Woon Nam’s highly photorealistic and intricate paintings are awash with the hue of blue, in which the artist has found solace. However, he believes that the phrase “blue” limits exploration of the color because there are so many major differences Emotions that light shades of blue evoke. For Sang-Woon, his “Blue Moon” color represents the rarity of finding such a discovery, accompanied by the symbolic use of lotus leaves. This shade, which he knows as “Blue Moon”, is used in most of his work.

Lotus leaves also feature prominently in Sang Woon’s paintings. They are of great importance in South Korean culture as symbols of creation, rebirth and reproduction, as well as a magical flower found in Korean Buddhist temples. The lotus is one of the most well-known Buddhist symbols of enlightenment. A Zen verse says, “May we exist in muddy waters with purity, like a lotus.”

Sang Woon focuses on the lotus leaf as a symbol of rebirth, experimentation and new beginnings in his practice. Breathing his version of blue onto the lotus leaves creates an extremely realistic yet abstract feel that evokes a sense of familiarity. His large-scale paintings seek to absorb the repetitive handouts of routine and stress, unleashing them in a constant process of reproduction that can be felt in his practice. As with the lotus symbol, each painting is reborn and reproduced with every viewing. The rarity of Sang Woon Nam’s ‘Blue Moon’ shade offers the mentioned familiar yet abstract qualities. What may seem like a high-quality photo is soon unraveling years of expertise and meticulous engineering? Sang Woon Nam paintings may take 3-36 months to complete. His hand aims to reproduce what the finest macro lens cannot – a world of detail and complexity through a blue moon shaped lens.

Sang Woon Nam has exhibited in nearly 200 exhibitions in South Korea, more than a quarter of which are solo exhibitions. The artist received his PhD in Fine Arts from Hongik University in the 1990s.

Ji Young Hong is a well-known artist, academic and writer in South Korea. Ji Young Hong has exhibited extensively in South Korea, including residencies in national museums and awards from leading South Korean art centers.

Ji Young Hong studied at Sung Shin Women’s University and Chung Ang University in Seoul and quickly gained a reputation for her figurative painting that uses unusual color palettes.

Infusing a previous experience with fear into her artistic practice, Ji Young Hong is fascinated by the idea that multiple layers of paint correlate with the layers of the skin’s epidermis, a fascination stemming from a time of self-harm scarring her inflicted bodies due to their fear.

Ji Young Hong explains: “I tried to unveil a new perspective on fear – my nervous habits found their way into my expression and artistic voice, giving me a basis to develop new ideas. We shouldn’t try to hide or shy away from what’s going on mentally, but embrace it as a part of us, good or ugly. We are so focused on presenting a notion of perfection that we lose sight of what our individual experiences can lead to questioning defined perfection. I hope to make this a reality through my art.”

Text: Lee Sharrock Photos: Courtesy J/M Gallery and the Artist Photo above: Sang Woon Nam “Love Under the Blue Moon”

Sang Woon Nam and Ji Young Hong: Love Under the Blue Moon runs July 28-August 14 at J/M Gallery, 230 Portobello Road, London W11 1LJ

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