New Exhibition at Hapjungjigu: Incompetent Talents by Kang Dong-Hyeong


After the opening of art space Hapjeong Jigu (합정지구, Facebook) earlier this year, this is already the third exhibition. On show are recent works by painter Kang Dong-Hyeong (강동형), graduate of Kookmin University (국민대학교).

If there is a connecting theme, it might be the slightly idealised depiction of situations commonly associated with uselessness. The Korean title “Dajae Muneung” (다재 무능, Versatile Talents/Incompetence) slightly alludes to this, while the English one (“Cultivated Mind”) might be read slightly more cynically.

Three middle-aged men crammed in a small underground room, one immersed in his cellphone, another playing a driving game on an elaborate homecomputer setting, the third somewhere in-between (Guild room / 집회소); two guys shooting cans just for fun, somewhere in the countryside, in a non-descript backyard, a third one taking their picture (Marksmen / 숙련된 사수들); two men drawing comical characters on a whiteboard, certain to be whiped out soon (Trace / 따라그리기); three men sitting on a wooden resting place (평상), in different poses somewhere between exalted and exhausted, surrounded by packs of cigarettes, empty plates, and a PET-bottle of beer (11 PM / 오후 열한 시).

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The funny thing: On the opening, I could spot many of those faces depicted in the paintings… (see some pictures on Facebook)

One of the few paintings that might invite a concrete political interpretation is Stand (버티기), a phalanx of neon-yellow policemen with one “civilian” bystander (a demonstrator?) reflecting in a cartoonish speech bubble-style: “The whole day I have been thinking about you while walking and in the sky I was looking at the grey clouds were flowing by, seething” (하루를 너의 생각 하면서 걷다가 바라본 하늘엔 흰 구름 말이없이 흐르고 푸르름), lyrics from the song “Just the Laughter of that Woman” (그녀의 웃음소리뿐) by veteran singer Lee Moon Sae (이문세, *1957), the “pioneer of the ballad movement”  (listen to the song on Youtube).

Kang Dong-Hyeong 강동형 Stand 버티기, oil on canvas, 117x80cm, 2015

Kang Dong-Hyeong (강동형) Stand (버티기), oil on canvas, 117x80cm, 2015

Is this another way of looking at a generation of apolitical mid-thirties with their heads in the clouds? But then, the daydreamer is rather looking down than skywards. According to the artist, the painting is also a comment on the military culture—almost all men have to serve for two years—and its influences on social and spiritual life in Korea. I couldn’t stop but think of the recent demonstrations in the wake of the one-year-memorial of the man-made Sewolho-catastrophe, too, although the painting might not be directly related.

Kang Dong-Hyeong 강동형 Shoes 신발, pen and ink on paper 종이에 펜과 먹, 2014

Kang Dong-Hyeong 강동형 Shoes 신발, pen and ink on paper 종이에 펜과 먹, 2014

Besides nine oil paintings of various formats, there are also twelve pages of ink-drawn manhwa, the short story “Shoes” (새신발) which deals with the precarious situation of a generation unable to buy the desired footwear. If you find the handlettering in the original drawings difficult to read, there is also a version with printed text in the exhibition pamphlet, available for 3,000 ₩.

Kang Dong-Hyeong 강동형 artist picture in front of Trace 따라그리기, oil on canvas, 117x80cm, 2015

Artist Kang Dong-Hyeong (강동형) in front of the painting Trace (따라그리기, oil on canvas, 117x80cm, 2015)

Among the paintings, I think I like Trace (따라그리기) best. It is shown on the street-display so you can see it even outside the opening hours (Tue-Sun, 12–7pm). Have look if you pass by!

– 24 April 2015 (금)

  • 강동형, 다재 무능, 합정지구 (마포구 서교동 444-9번지), 2015년4월24일 ~ 5월15일, 무료입장.
  • Kang Dong-Hyeong, Cultivated Mind, Hapjungjigu (Seoul Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong No. 444-9), 2015–04–24 ~ 05–15, free entrance.

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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