Weird Gourmet – Haru. K
By Hong Yunlee, Curator of the Gwangju Museum of Art
Soup runs down like a waterfall from a bowl filled with colorful, mouthwatering seafood and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables encircling the area, perhaps to add a splash of flavor or create an ornamental effect, enrich the bowl of food. At first glance, the blue-colored food looks like a decoration but on a closer look it is actually a cluster of trees in an ink-wash color landscape that have been minutely portrayed with a thin brush. This work is from the series Delicious Scape by Haru. K.
Haru. K has made his own distinctive works through a mixture of subject matters of relatively diverse sizes, touching on the themes of landscape and food. Excursionists in a landscape are obviously enjoying their delightful leisurely life even though it is unclear whether they are looking at food in a large bowl or a landscape. The way in which landscapes are expressed changes according to the times. A landscape was once seen as an object of awe or appreciation. Haru. K’s landscapes are particularly marked by feelings of mirth, excitement, and a taste of the journey taken from landscapes found in true-view landscape paintings of the late Joseon period. His landscapes are a portrayal of contemporary humans who enjoy nature whereas Joseon painters nurtured fine dispositions and lived a pleasant life as they went sightseeing in beautiful mountains and fields and did landscape paintings. His landscapes are depictions of contemporary people’s ordinary everyday scenes such as those of people taking pictures of beautiful scenery, playing in the water on tubes, and enjoying leisure time on Sunday.
While his paintings capture contemporary people’s leisure culture, his consistent depiction of mountains rests on traditional ink-wash technique. This expression of landscapes seems to be a showcase of his will to inherit traditional landscape painting which tried to contain the spirituality and eternity of mountains and waters while dreaming of a utopia. His paintings capture people’s minds in order to retain their memories of when they experienced changes in nature, feeling and going through them. That is to say, they represent the inclinations of ancient people to enjoy nature from their room through landscape paintings hung in their homes.
His works demonstrate his inheritance of aspects of traditional painting and his potent repulsion of any high-toned attitude towards traditional landscape painting. His landscapes are emphatically overflowing with delightful things. He recalls how he only wanted to capture what he liked in his pictures despite the hardships he experienced in his life. His paintings represent the things people feel sorry about after a brief excursion while the plethora of food in his pictures is a symbol or metaphor for momentary pleasure. The agony and weight of life is eliminated from the space-time of his paintings. Scenes of contemporary people’s hectic everyday lives are not found in our momentary memories. We lead transient lives, seeking temporary pleasure in life. The shards of our memories bear both poverty in invisible places and impermanence in each moment. His landscape is a simultaneous showcase of playful images symbolic of the nature that contemporary humans try to understand and the momentary, hedonic aspects hidden behind them, encapsulating the inner spirituality that traditional landscapes emphasized. In his works, eternally invariable factors are in sync with momentarily fleeting elements, raising a lot of tension.
In terms of a form of doing painting, he seeks a new modeling experiment that breaks away from established Korean-style painting technique. He assertively used depaysement, a technique often adopted by surrealists to give a psychological shock by detaching an object from everyday order and placing it in a fallacious place. Also found in his works are elements of traditional folk painting technique in which significant parts of a work are depicted largely and minutely while insignificant parts are depicted relatively smaller in size. Delicious Scape (2017) depicts food overflowing from an oversized bowl or vessel, Holding a Landscape—Trip to Bogildo (2018) puts beautiful scenes and memories of a trip in a large lunch box, and Picture in Picture (2019) captures a mixture of living things and objects both inside and outside of the picture. Using this technique for creating works, he has put emphasis on endless variations in imagination. It is in unique, marvelous harmony with other factors, bringing to mind two contrasting elements such as tradition and the present, the inside and the outside, surrealist depaysement and folk painting technique, and impressionist paintings featuring leisure activities and genre paintings during the Joseon period. His landscapes represent kaleidoscopic present emotions in a convoluted fashion, revealing the hidden side of contemporary society and culture that have endlessly extended their territories.
He recently created Edited Scape (2019), a three-dimensional work for which landscape images were gleaned and converted with a computer. Made up of approximately 100 different white mountains, this three-dimensional landscape is both a collection of beautiful landscapes and a practice of objectifying humans amid massification thanks to the progression of technology. Our experiences are easily remembered and stored by mechanization but digitized data cannot contain human emotions. Haru. K advises us to contemplate our lives while crossing the boundaries between momentary pleasure and perpetual memory, despondency and abundance, artwork and commodity, and man and machine.
The artist has also executed Rainbow Moodeung Mountain (2019), a huge landscape painting featuring a close-up landscape that is unlike others that stress a bird’s-eye view. As in other pieces that brought variety, this work is a portrayal of a landscape that moves beyond the border between abstraction and figuration. It features the image of Moodeung Mountain that gives off potent energy and diversity, deviating from various fixed values. Born in Gwangju, Haru. K studied art in Seoul but has worked primarily in Gwangju. He has regularly illustrated Moodeung Mountain, an icon of Gwangju which has frequently been favored by a multitude of painters and writers. Rainbow Moodeung Mountain seems to be a personification of this mountain as well as a symbolic representation of the artist who has always pursued change, signifying the climate or something spiritual that has enabled him to grow as an artist.
The Gwangju Museum of Art annually presents the Young Artist Invitation Exhibition in which it selects one up-and-coming young artist from Gwangju Jeonnam. Haru. K has been selected as the invited artist for this year’s art show based on recommendations made by curators as well as various reviews and discussions held at a seminar to grasp the activities and art worlds of different recommended artists. Haru. K has been active as a participant in 12 solo shows and numerous group exhibitions both at home and abroad. He has been a recipient of the 2013 Shinsegae Art Prize and was a resident artist for the artist-in-residence programs provided by the Uijae Cultural Foundation and the Gwangju Museum of Art. This exhibition featuring Haru. K titled Pungent-Tasting Jjamppong, Weird Gourmet brings together the seminal works he did as a young artist. It includes the series Delicious Scape he began in 2012 and the three-dimensional work Edited Scape. Inspired by his creative will and artistic enthusiasm, he has tirelessly sought changes. We are looking forward to the future development of his art pushing for changes without a break.