▲ Curator Jeun Eun Ja discussing a tiger painting. Photo by Darryl Coote
To celebrate Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 14 this year, the Lee Jung Seop Gallery in Seogwipo City is currently displaying 20 pieces of art depicting the tiger in several mediums.
The Tiger Art exhibition is a juxtaposition of paintings from the Joseon Dynasty with recently commissioned contemporary works from artists in the Lee Jung Seop residency program.
“In recognition of the year of the tiger, I designed it [the exhibition] with two different concepts of tiger art,” said Jeun Eun Ja, curator for the museum. “There are the traditional images of the tiger which are satirical and sometimes silly and I wanted to see how contemporary young artists see the tiger now.”
The gallery is divided into two rooms - one that contains the Joseon Dynasty paintings and the other with the contemporary works. The older works are all similar to each other, but are interesting in that they distort the image of the tiger by depicting a less intimidating and a more playful representation. In one image, for instance, crows dance about the head of a diminutive beast. The significance of this, Hyun said, is that “in Korea, the tiger is considered the king of the animals and here the image of the tiger has been changed from the brave to the satirical.”
The contemporary room offers representations of the tiger that are more self-referential and in which the animal is used as a metaphor for either the individual or for society as a whole. The pieces in this room differ greatly from each other and their themes also vary.
One of the more striking works is a triptych of a crowned tiger wearing a cape while sitting on a small island with a dejected look upon his face. These paintings, Hyung said, have many levels in that the tiger, who is king of Jeju, is sad and lonely because there are no other animals for him to rule over. In one of the paintings the tiger is playing in the water with a paper boat, in another, he lazily sleeps. “This is about the loneliness and isolation that people feel in everyday society, that we have become alone due to technology,” Hyun said.
There is also an abstract piece by Hong Bo Ram where she disassembled the tiger piece by piece and put it back together again in a jumble of orange and black cut outs.
The exhibition is quite small and may not require a visit itself, but being located within the Lee Jung Seop gallery, there is much to see once you have had your fill of tigers. Lee Jung Seop is one of Korea’s most famous artists with work that will soon hang from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The gallery sits right beside the late artist’s former home which is open to the public.
Tiger Art exhibition Until Feb. 17 Lee Jung Seop Gallery 532-1 Seogwi-dong Tel. 064-733-3555
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