As a result of South Korea’s rising prosperity and cultural status, the country is gaining more and more influence on a global scale.
This can be seen in the rising profile of visual arts such as painting and sculpture, as well as the widespread appeal of K-pop. In fact, the unique approach to creativity used by Korean artists has earned them widespread acclaim in the global art world.
Here is a list of eight of the most well-known living Korean artists, including painters and sculptors who have significantly influenced the development of contemporary Korean art in Korea and abroad.
1. The Hague Yang, sculpture
The work of artist Haegue Yang (1971-), who is known for using everyday materials such as blinds, has received a lot of attention. The combination of Yang’s poetic, political and emotional sensibilities allows him to use these and other everyday objects in new ways.
By integrating these two elements, Yang creates simple kinetic works of art out of blinds that take the form of horizontal or vertical mazes. Including the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, China and Japan, Yang’s artwork has been shown in exhibitions around the world.
In addition, she has exhibited at prestigious venues such as the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and the Brisbane Institute of Modern Art.
2. Soyoung Chung, sculpture
Stainless steel, copper, fabric, glass, etc. are just some of the materials that Soyoung Chung (1979-) uses in her installation art. Chung creates unique pieces using a method that juxtaposes the physical space items occupy and the physical space the Earth provides.
Conflicts in different parts of the world have served as a major source of motivation for Chung’s artwork. For a group exhibition at the Delfina Foundation in London in 2019, she used historical buoys to represent sea territory claimed by both Korea and China in a sculptural installation.
Chung has shown her work in a number of prestigious venues, mainly in the United Kingdom and South Korea.
3. Kim Tschoon-Su, painting
South Korea has produced a number of remarkable contemporary artists, but Kim Tschoon-Su (1957-) stands out. Kim creates works in the tradition of gestural abstraction, and the predominant and almost exclusive hue in his work is blue. Ultramarine, Blanco y Azul and Weiss und Blau are just a few examples of the artist’s dedication to the color blue since 1990.
His paintings often resemble a simple blue square, but as you get closer you begin to see something that resembles water, the sky or even trees. The Ultramarine series is his most notable body of work, as it explores the artist’s fascination with the spectrum of blue. Kim is currently a professor at Seoul National University and has already received a number of awards for his work at home.
4. Kim Yong Won, sculpture
Sculptor Kim Yong Won (1968-) investigates the relationship between physical absence and the representation of emotion. Several of Won’s sculptures are on display at prominent locations in Seoul, such as the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.
His most famous piece, « Shadow of a Shadow », is a sculpture of a partially naked lady intended to convey the idea that truth is the absence of emptiness.
Located in Seoul’s iconic Gwanghwamun Square, the huge statue of King Sejong « the Great » (1397-1450) is another symbol of Won. Kim has served as president of the Korean Sculptors Association since 2008, after retiring in 2012 as a professor and dean of fine arts at Hongik University.
5. Kim Kyung-Min, sculpture
Artist Kim Kyong Min (1972-) has exhibited sculptures in a number of Seoul landmarks. Her sculptures, on the other hand, are unlike any other; they depict scenarios that end happily no matter what.
The artist shows her lively people going about their days encouraging the audience to enjoy life as it is. As a result, the artist’s works can be found in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Japan.
One of her most famous works is a sculpture called « Wonderful Day » in which she explores the small pleasures in life that make the big ones worth living. Many East Asian countries have hosted international exhibitions of KIM.
6. Ha Chong-Hyun, painting
In the late 1950s, after graduating from Hongik University, Ha Chong-Hyun (1935-) started painting. Thanks to his contributions to the Dansaekhwa school of monochrome painting, he is now widely regarded as one of Korea’s foremost artists.
The Korean art style known as Dansaehkwa emerged in the 1970s and its practitioners are known for creating minimalist or monochromatic artworks that are informed by the way the artist holds or uses their brush or body. Viewed from a distance, Chong-Hyun’s works appear to be nothing more than conventional paintings, but when viewed closely, the textures on the canvas give the impression that the pieces are alive.
His longest-running project, Conjunction, began in 1974 and remains one of his most-read pieces to this day. Numerous museum collections featuring the artist’s work can currently be found in various countries, most notably in South Korea, Japan and the United States.
7. Suh Do-Ho, sculpture
One of the most well-known Korean artists working today is Suh Do-Ho (1962-), whose work is notable for exploring themes of geographic location, personal history, and the concept of home.
Using a wide variety of materials, including silk, polyester and metal, Suh creates elaborate sculptures that challenge traditional ideas of scale and space.
The aim of Suh’s plan is to realize spatial flexibility, so that the dynamics between isolation, community and anonymity can be explored. The artist has exhibited his works all over London, in the United States and in Korea, and at various European and American biennales. And his works can be found in the collections of some of the world’s best museums.
8. Lee Ufan, painting
A South Korean artist named Lee Ufan (1936–) gained fame for his paintings featuring a disappearing brush stroke. Despite his primary interest in painting, the artist also creates sculptures and installations.
To appreciate the intellectual underpinnings of Lee Ufan’s artwork, it helps to know that the artist spent time studying Zen Buddhism in Japan in the 1950s.
The basis of Lee Ufan’s painting is the artist’s keen eye for capturing the complex, often beautiful interplay between the organic and the man-made. His art has been displayed in museums around the world, including his native South Korea, Japan and France, where Lee has received numerous awards and honours.
The Korean art scene is rich in a wide variety of styles and themes. Korean artists have a bright future ahead of them thanks to the country’s burgeoning economy and cultural scene. Have patience!