Eurasia, Steppe, Shamanism: Kim Sangdon in Sculptor Kwon Jinkyu’s Atelier

On my way home after work, I dropped off the bus at Sungshin Women’s University. After some up and down some stairs, we finally found “Kwon Jinkyu’s Atelier” (권진규 아틀리에, site no. 5 on the English homepage), a small workshop with an even smaller sleeping chamber, supplemented by a traditional-style annex.

Kwon Jinkyu (1922–1973) was one of the pioneers of realist sculpture in Korea (see an article on the occasion of his last retrospective in Koreana). After studies in Japan, he returned to Korea and received recognition only a few years before his dead by suicide. Mostly working in sculpture, with terracotta and lacquer (he also made some beautiful drawings), he mostly depicts humans, often focusing on faces, heads, and busts, but also animals, in particular horses. Deeply influenced by Western classic aesthetics, as well as modernist sculptors during his studies, his interests later turned towards “Eurasian” relations between Korean and other shamanist cultures, connected by the vast plains also known as “steppe”.

IMG_6685His little home, located in Dongseon-dong (동선동) in Northern Seoul, had been donated by his younger sister to the National Trust Cultural Heritage Fund Korea (한국 내셔널 트러스트 문화유산기금) in 2006 and, after one year of restoration, is now recognized as “Citizen Cultural Heritage No. 3” (my translation, 시민문화유산 제 3호).

I was especially happy to meet artist Kim Sangdon (김상돈, *1973, see a short bio at the New Museum), who holds a special place in my heart. But I also like his work very much, and there were some things to see here. Kim Sangdon is currently artist-in-residence at Kwon Jinkyu’s Atelier and on the occasion of the memorial of Kwon Jin-kyu’s 42nd day of death (권진규 선생 42주기 추모 행사), he presented a small exhibition that pays homage to Kwon’s work. The aluminium sculpture that emerges from a black plastic bag and is actually made of disposed kimbap-wrappings alludes to Kwon’s busts. The “egghead” is another way of re-interpreting the sculptural depictions of human heads. The third work which resembles a stylized barbell bench press includes a reference to Joseph Beuys, another champion of Eurasian energy.

We stayed until night fell and some of Kwon’s favorite pieces were performed on the violin.

– 4 May 2015 (月)


About Jan Creutzenberg

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