6 Incredible Contemporary Korean Artists that Raised the Standard for Art
The world of art differs from country to country—what’s popular in one country most likely won’t be popular in another. However, there are plenty of genres that have flitted between countries to become more popular than others. This includes painting, sculpting, modern-style, installation, contemporary, and more. The most beautiful thing about art is its evolving nature; art is never only one static being—which is why it’s so hard to define contemporary art. By definition, contemporary art is art made today, during this time period. But in a few years, contemporary art will be something completely different than it is today.
That being said, take a look at these absolutely remarkable contemporary Korean artists that have done more than the typical create art and get famous. These artists have helped shape what the modern Korean contemporary art scene looks like today.
Contemporary Korean Artists: Painters
One of the most popular styles of contemporary art is painting. Painting, no matter the overall genre, has been in art for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest art forms out there. Painting is such a delicacy, some cultures even include it in their customs and use it as a representative of their history or culture. In other words, painting is something loved by everyone.
Even though painting is one of the most widely spread concepts—from little children who like to finger paint to face and body painting for various cultures—it doesn’t mean it’s the easiest thing to master. In fact, it’s rather hard for a painter to truly stand out among all the others. But these two contemporary Korean artists have beyond filled the shoes of great Korean painters before them. They’ve paved their own way with unique styles and eye-catching works.
To kick off this list of contemporary Korean artists, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t talk about this painter. Kim Tschoon-Su, born in 1957, is one of the most unique painters today. With a background of various degrees from universities in both South Korea and in the USA, he’s extended his skills past the national level.
But it isn’t his degrees from different universities around the world that gave him his unique flare to be recognized among the sea of great painters. No, Kim’s artwork stands out enough on its own. How does he stand out then? Well, it’s simple: he only paints in the color blue.
Seriously, Kim Tschoon-Su only paints in the color blue. Though his work is mostly associated with the sky and the sea imagery—because they’re both blue!—they’re not directly representing them. Instead, his work appears to be a singular blue square until you look closer. That’s when his work starts to exhibit the sea, the sky, and everything else blue can stand for.
His most popular work is his series Ultra-marine, a series where he’s researched and dived deep into the various colors of blue. Currently, Kim is a professor at the Seoul National University, but he’s still one of the popular contemporary Korean artists on this list.
The next painter, Ha Chong-Hyun, has been a painter far longer than some of the other contemporary Korean artists. He was born in 1935 and is still creating art today. He graduated from Hongik University in the late-1950s and has been pursuing painting since then. Uniquely, Ha also has a background in installation art. However, he turned more to painting. He uses the canvas of his paintings to help amplify the art he creates.
Another main feature of Ha’s art is the art style known as Dansaehkwa. Dansaehkwa is the Korean art movement from the 1970s where painters usually created monochrome or minimalistic art. This art style is also heavily involved with the physicality of painting—meaning the way the painter holds the paintbrush or uses their body’s movements to create the piece.
If you look closely at Ha’s artwork, you’ll notice how texturized it truly is. The paint nearly jumps off the canvas at you—literally, too! One of his most popular series is Conjunction. Over the years of his career, he has made multiple pieces within this series. Some are more famous than others, but each is just as wonderful.
Today, Ha Chong-Hyun is still creating new pieces and working diligently on his art. Currently, he’s got a few art pieces spread around various art museums. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see one!
Contemporary Korean Artists: Sculptors / Installation Artists
If you’re into mixed-media art or more physical-space art pieces, then you’ll most likely love these installation and sculpting contemporary Korean artists most. Both sculptors and installation artists deal with the physicality of art—they take a space and fill it with something more than just an abstract painting or an emotional photo (which are great works of art in and of themselves).
Sculptures, of course, are pretty obvious as to what they are. However, installation art is something unique. It’s forever changing in the world of art, expanding across all genres and styles. By definition, installation art is a construction or assembly of mixed-media for a specific space. Sometimes these spaces are only temporary—art built up only to be taken down again in a couple weeks.
If you read our Korean photographers blog, then you’ve seen some examples of installation art!
Jeeyoung Lee, whom we mentioned in the article, is a pretty popular photographer and installation artist. She would create installation pieces to enhance her photographs, creating a mythical feeling to her work.
Just like Jeeyoung Lee, there are a ton of amazing sculpting and installation artists from South Korea. Here’s a few of them that you might enjoy!
Like Kim Tschoon-Su, Suh Do-Ho has a multitude of degrees in art from around the world—a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Seoul and another bachelor’s degree from a university in Rhode Island, USA. But it’s not his degrees that make up his art. Instead, Suh has filled his art with the stories of his life.
As one of the more popular contemporary Korean artists, Suh has earned this title by exploring the meanings of physical space, identity, and home. To make his work, he combines various medias—using fabrics like silk or polyester, metal, and more. By recreating his memories and moments of identity, Suh is getting those who look at his art to explore their own thoughts with physical space and identity.
One of Suh’s most popular series is his Home within Home (this name varies depending on the piece, extra “within Home” is added to the end). He was born in 1962 in South Korea but has moved to the USA and eventually to London, where he is located now. He has plenty of work in public collections around the world.
Born in 1979, Soyoung Chung is the next artist on our contemporary Korean artists lists. She specializes in installation art, using a mixed-media of stainless steel, copper, fabric, glass, etc. She uses a lot of various materials within her art to create her own unique pieces.
Chung stands out in the sea of great artists by focusing her art on the physicality of space and the geological space around her. She explores what makes up space and how it connects to everything else.
Over her career, Chung has held multiple exhibitions in South Korea and London, where she’s based currently. As of right now, she’s scheduled to have another exhibition in Gyeongju, South Korea from the end of November 2021 until February 2022. You can check out her website to look through her various works and exhibitions!
The last installation artist on our contemporary Korean artists list is Haegue Yang. Yang, born in 1971, has dedicated her art career to pulling apart familiar, household items and reinventing them. She gives them new connotations and physical appearances. She essentially frees them from their already existing label and functionality.
Her work has caught the eye of artists around the world, calling people to use their experiences and senses to understand the meanings of her art. She is also known for using Venetian blinds in her artworks.
Currently living and working at a university in Germany, Yang has explored more art outside of installation pieces. She dabbles in videography and performance-based works. No matter the kinds of art she creates, though, Yang is combing the abstract with the familiar. And that alone will get people to look at her truly fascinating work.
Contemporary Korean Artists: Multiple Mediums
Though many artists are defined by one set medium—painting, sculpting/installation, photography, etc.—not all of them are. Like Haegue Yang, who we just mentioned, has been dabbling in art outside of installation, there are many artists who combine their artistic talents and explore other forms.
Another great example of this would be Jeeyoung Lee, who we also mentioned earlier. She combines her talents of installation art and photography in a multi-media style.
As contemporary Korean artists evolve with time, so do their art styles. Many nowadays are beginning to branch out to various mediums and taking the challenge of something different. But this also helps them stand out more. Here’s one particular Korean artist you should know that’s explored more than one style of art and challenged what it exactly means to create art.
As a visual artist born in 1972, Young-In Hong has taken it upon herself to explore how art plays a role in political, social, and gender-biased practices. She explores the concept of equality and history throughout her pieces. Most times, though, she is reinterpreting those historical moments.
Mainly, Hong has created art within the drawing, embroidery painting, installation, and performance spectrum. Her performances are increasingly popular around the world, using these to collaborate with the locals in whatever area the performance is being put on.
On her website, she explains how her performances particularly explore the notion of boundary—a place where she says equality can be shown. The main goal of her art is to get people talking, to get them to think about moments in life and revaluate them. By doing this, she’s already creating a unique name for herself.
More About Contemporary Korean Artists
If you’re interested in reading more about the Korean art scene, then you can check out our Art Category! We’ve written about Korean photographers, Hanboks in art, and other art related things. But there’s plenty left to explore within Korean art, so be sure to check back again for more. If you also want to learn about other amazing Korean artists, watch this video below!