Part of me wants Wooson Gallery to be full of visitors whenever I visit. Any time I decide to go, I have hope that when I walk in I will see loads of expats and Koreans enjoying this amazing downtown art gallery. But usually the place is deserted save for the one attendant behind the front desk in the open foyer. While I wish more people would take advantage of this great space that is always exhibiting interesting work, another (larger?) part of me wants it to stay exactly the way it is -- a mostly empty and totally silent place for me to wander.
This was the perfect environment to view the current exhibited collection of work from Korean artist Ha Chong Hyun. Ha has been practicing his art for decades. After graduating from Hongik University in 1959, he began and has maintained a successful career by exhibiting his work around the world.
Ha's paintings are striking. They are large in scale and should be viewed from a distance for a few moments before coming in for a closer look. As you do move closer to each piece, the texture is tempting to touch (but don't touch it, duh). Texture is used by many painters to create dynamic and complex pieces, but I personally have never seen a technique implemented quite like Ha's.
Ha wraps burlap over each large canvas and pushes acrylic paint through the back, causing the pigment to push through the porous material. But this is just the base of each of Ha's paintings. From here, he plays. Sometimes the paint is scraped, pressed, or brushed across the canvas. Each decision he makes with a piece is precise and effective. Ha seems to use the pigment more as a material than as variation in tone or hue. Most of his pieces are monochromatic with the texture demanding the most attention.
Ha's works are large and commanding while still holding a delicacy and softness. They are quiet pieces, and fit well within their calm environment at the modern Wooson Gallery. The collection is a perfect fit for the space, and a perfect way for you to spend an afternoon.
There's much more to learn about Ha and his work than can fit in to a single post. Take the time to sit in the foyer of Wooson and flip through their collection of art books behind the counter. The receptionist will be happy to lend you one in English or Korean.
Did I mention it's FREE? It is.
Gallery hours: Monday - Saturday, 10:30AM - 7PM (6PM on national holidays)
Exhibition Dates: ends July 27th
Directions to Wooson: Take exit 9 from Banwoldang station. Take your first right (under the big awning) and walk for about a minute. Wooson Gallery is the large concrete building on your left.
- Lisa Highfill