BUSAN, South Korea – Yuhee Kim’s whimsical pen and ink drawings are usually the product of her own daydreams. In this exhibition, her imagination runs wild over Lee Gumienny’s stark black and white photographs of life on the city streets. His images capture the hidden depth that can be found in a scene that may appear unremarkable at first glance, while Kim’s fantastical drawings strip off the facade of reality to reveal the surreality that lies in her mind.
The exhibition opened to a party of roughly 200 guests, mixed between expats and Koreans, on December 22, and will run until January 11.
Tell us about the nature of your collaboration.
Yuhee: Lee does street photography and I usually draw from my imagination, but we wanted to try something new. We combined his photography with my drawings. The title of the show is Objects of Interest, so in the same object, what he sees and what I see can be a little different. In both reality and imagination, there are a lot of things that people just pass by.
Lee: We both focus on things that are overlooked in everyday life by people involved in their own experience and thoughts. We’re interested in those little weird things.
Lee, why do you prefer to shoot on film instead of digital, and why black and white?
Lee: The street photography I do is more documentary and connected to things in the real world. When I’m using a film camera, it’s an actual physical process, and I feel like I’m very involved in the scene. I shoot black and white because I like more graphic representations of the world. I like the fact that black and white makes everything look more graphic and more symbolic, as opposed to a completely accurate representation. Yuhee’s art is also very graphic, so I connect with the things that she makes.
Yuhee, how did you turn a hobby into something more serious?
Yuhee: I always enjoyed drawing. I started when I was five, but my mom believed that the only good artists are the ones like Van Gogh who become crazy, so I shouldn’t risk it. At the school where I teach, one of my coworkers drew with pen and ink and had a little exhibition of his art. Before that, I thought to have an exhibition you had to have a proper art degree and connections to a gallery, but he changed my image of it and encouraged me to draw more. After hanging my drawings in my office I got an interesting reaction from my students. It almost became like a sort of therapy. The students all interpreted them differently based on their own lives and connected with the crazy little drawings.
Lee, are there any cities you particularly want to photograph?
Lee: Mostly I’ve shot in Busan because I’ve lived here for four years and it’s my backyard, but there’s so much interesting stuff going on here. I don’t need to go anywhere else. I photograph all the time when I’m traveling, but the places I’m drawn to are the places where I’m living.
Yuhee, many of your drawings involve monsters in people’s clothing. Do you think a lot of people are monsters inside?
Yuhee: I think people are monsters in many ways. There is a lot of desire and greed and jealousy and many people are obsessed with something. On the surface people are all dressed up nice but when you talk to them, ugliness and loneliness sometimes emerge. It can be kind of tragic. I teach adults, relatively well off people with dream jobs and families, but underneath they’re all freaking miserable. It’s healthier for people to realize the monster inside and not deny it.
Lee: That’s one of the things I’m looking for with my photography. I’m always waiting for those moments where I can freeze a moment in time and it shows me something about the people and their relationships to each other and the world. There’s always something hidden and it can be revealed in very strange ways.
What do you think of art spaces in Busan?
Lee: In Busan, it seems like if you have a will to do something, it’s very possible to get it done. Whether it’s theater or art or concerts, if you want to do it, you can make it happen. I loved that shows in Yuhee’s studio were so comfortable and didn’t need to be so meticulously presented. I like being able to experience art in a casual, comfortable environment where you can talk and listen to music and have fun.
Yuhee: My last shows were in a building that was scheduled for demolition, and it was great because we could do anything we wanted. I’ve always resented the pretentiousness of some galleries, where you have to act like you know the arts; I didn’t want to have an exhibition in some space where you go in, look around for five minutes, and then there’s nothing else to do so you walk out. I want our exhibition to be fun. Adults need to have more fun. I don’t think any of us are trying to make money; we’re not starving artists, we all have day jobs. We want our show to be more than fun for ourselves. Art can become a private party for the artist and their friends, so that’s why at all of my previous shows much of the art was for sale to raise money for charity.
How did you get involved with Art Space SSAM?
Yuhee: Every Tuesday, SSAM invites a cultural specialist from Busan and anyone who wants to chat about their art can get to know them,so I met a lot of interesting artists there. The great thing about Busan, unlike Seoul, is that people are quite reachable. People can request to have exhibitions at the SSAM for free. They’ve combined their end-of-the-year party with our opening party, so there was a fusion-traditional Korean music act performing.
Also contributing to the exhibition are historian Karl Randall and comic artist Ryan Estrada. Randall’s research focuses on ancient weapons and armor technologies, and often involves creating replicas of ancient equipment such as longbows, trebuchets and chariots, and then physically testing them to explore a hypothesis. Along with his public mead tastings and chainmail workshops, these testing sessions often turn out to be a lot of fun for those involved and have even garnered Randall a small fanbase. Those who attend the event’s opening party can experience some of Randall’s work firsthand by taking part in a chariot archery demonstration. Anyone in need of a replica Egyptian chariot, look no further: the chariot will be auctioned off at the end of the show.
Ryan Estrada will have a table full of his cool creations throughout the show. His work has been published by Random House, Hachette Book Group, Oxford University Press and the Cartoon Network, as well as his own digital publishing house, The Whole Story. He has translated his graphic novel, Aki Alliance, into Korean as well as created several Korea-exclusive mini-comics to present at the show.
Objects of Interest can be found in Art Space SSAM (inside the Suyeong subway station, near exit 4). Proceeds from art sales and the chariot auction will be donated to the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), a non-profit group designed to support and promote animal rights.
Exhibition Date: 12/22/2012 â 1/11/2013
Opening Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; weekends 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.