Korea Herald-2001

 Expat-artists-explore-womanhood subconscious in creative shows

By Kim Mi-hui
Korea Herald, p.10, April 13-20, 2001

The two most noticeable trends on the culture scene right now are the vitality of the movie industry and the “death” of fine arts. Art, in particular, has been a drab business sparked only with occasional big international shows, and solo exhibitions by local artists, for the most past, have been dull and familiar.

Two small art shows by foreign residents in Korea, however are about to add a bit of spice to the scene. Different from imported exhibitions in that the artists are familiar with the culture here and that their works reflect the fact in one way or another., these exhibits also offer fresh interpretations of Korea since they are explorations of what the artists have been seen or experienced living in this foreign country.

Multimedia artist Mihee-Nathalie Lemoine’s sixth solo show “Variation on womyn” at Samak Gallery Café near Insa-dong and Toomas Altnurme at Noksapyung Subway station.
Lemoine, Korean name Mihee Cho, is a Korean adoptee to Belgium who came here eight years ago to learn about her native country. She has made quite a name for herself already participating in social activities such as helping Korean adoptees to Europe fnd their biological families and helping to ease visa processes for all Korean-born adoptees.

Not surprisingly, her artworks reflect her deep interest in Korea, particularly its culture. She has previously dealt with hyperrealism, identity themes and calligraphy art.
My latest show is an experimental combination of calligraphy and questioning of language and communication. She offers 15 works that investigate the role of women by varying the typical symbols for women in the Asian society: Chinese character (yeo) and colors purple and gold, which represent woman and Asia, respectively.
“I basically put Chinese character for ‘woman’ in different situation by controlling colors and sizes, and try to make a statement about the various women issues,” Lemoine said, in an interview with Korea Herald.

“For example; the bold black Chinese character against light background represents a strong woman, two characters suggest lesbianism, the decorated character questions ‘what is a beautiful woman?’ ad the framed character show a woman confined to a role or a place, like house,” Lemoine explained.
The artist thought of the idea for the series while helping to organize the third Women’s Film Festival.

“I worked with the organizers for two months doing the subtitles for French films and such, and because many of the movies were feminist, they got me thinking about women and how they are represented in Asia. I thought it’d be an interesting experiment to put question language and communication y playing around with the Chinese characters and symbols usually associated with gender,” she said.

“ We don’t know how much about the art industry, but we do know that most of the galleries we’ve seen aren’t designed for people like us,” said Kim Kona, co-owner of the gallery. “We like art but prefer casual environments to the black-tie system prevalent today, so we just decided to start our own.”

The gallery’s first show is a solo exhibition by Belgian-Korean multimedia artist Cho Mihee, who explores feminist themes with post-modern calligraphy works. The relatively well-known artist was chosen as their guest as a publicity stunt or a sort, Kim Kona said.

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