Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present Aggregation, a solo exhibition by Korean artist Chun Kwang Young (b. 1944) that surveys works from his acclaimed long running series of the same name. The series explores underlying concerns with the whole versus the individual amidst the artist’s negotiations between the East and West. In his search for a culturally authentic mode of expression, Chun combines his early experimentations with Abstract Expressionism with his mastery of a uniquely Korean material, mulberry paper.

Korean mulberry paper is at the centre of Chun’s artistic practice, deeply imbuing his works with a Korean sensibility by lending its potency for metaphorical associations. Although long prized as a medium for writing and drawing, it was once a central feature of Korean daily life. Delicately translucent, yet strong and durable, mulberry paper was used for a variety of purposes in Korean households. From covering doors, windows, and walls, to carpeting floors and packing dried goods, mulberry paper proved to be a versatile material—a worthy symbol of Korean national pride. The paper is also evocative of herbal medicine bundles that were prominent in Korean traditional medicine prior to the advent of modern medicine in the years following the Korean War. Medicinal herbs were hung from the ceiling in clusters, wrapped in mulberry paper inscribed with invocations for good health. It is no coincidence that the wrapped triangles of Chun’s Aggregation works are visually similar to their spiritual ancestors, as the artist draws from connotations of healing in his address of the socio-cultural issues particular to his country and universal conditions of human trauma and suffering.

Small triangles are the basic structural unit of Chun’s recent works, coming together by the hundreds to form the surfaces of each work. Barely two centimetres thick, each triangular piece of polystyrene is carefully wrapped in Korean mulberry paper and tied with string of the same material. The vast landscapes and richly textured surfaces of Chun’s works are the result of the meticulous placement of each piece in tight clusters, akin to adjoining pieces of a puzzle. Protruding from the flat plane, the clustered triangles exude an organic, chaotic energy, defying any suggestion of a pattern or method to the perceived madness. In such compositions, Chun works primarily with mono- or dichromatic palettes. When set flat against one another, the effect is an even surface that is nevertheless as irregular and unique as a microscopic view of skin. Chun uses these flat surfaces to continue his forays into optical illusions by playing with tonal gradation to mimic light and shade, suggesting crevices and craters on his paper plateaus.

Titling the works with the prefix Aggregation is a self-reflexive acknowledgement of their nature as large-scale compositions assembled together from several distinct parts. Implied in the word is the act of collecting and physically uniting the individual components, relating it further to Chun’s artistic process.

The making of each work involves an exhaustingly laborious process, deliberately formulated to mimic a meditative practice, focusing the consciousness on each individual piece as it is dyed, wrapped, and arranged in its place. The act of enfolding each triangle with the mulberry paper is done mindfully, drawing from the traditional practices of bojagi, or the wrapping of objects for safe keeping and protection during travel, and Korean origami, where paper is folded into shapes of figures to serve as devotional reminders. It is with an almost religious reverence that Chun engages with his chosen material. Developing a meditative process out of the repetitive gesture affords him a consciousness of the individual while harnessing the strength and power of the mass.

“Chun Kwang Young’s Aggregation works showcase his unique ability to use traditional Korean materials in a contemporary context, and we are delighted to welcome him back to Singapore. This exhibition celebrates Pearl Lam Galleries’ commitment to presenting artists who reevaluate and challenge perceptions of cultural practice in the region.” — Pearl Lam, Founder of Pearl Lam Galleries