4th Interim Exhibition: Who do you think we are?
As much as the phrase ‘gallery near Goodge Street’ implies a sterile whitespace, the addition of ’South Korean’, ‘Indian’ or ‘Iranian-born’ to an artist’s surname insinuates a visual language native to tradition and birthplace. Whilst neither of these imputations is entirely inaccurate, pejorative or prejudiced, the Hanmi Gallery’s forthcoming show, Who Do You Think We Are?, investigates such superficial first-impressions and precarious misconceptions, uncovering future cultures and imaginary pasts.
South Korean-born artist Luna J. Lee, Indian-born artist Radhika Agarwala and Iranian-born artist Soheila Sokhanvari use address as a means of address, Diaspora as their native-language and culture as a way to confound custom. Each artist appropriates heavily from the weight of their heritage as a means to reconcile history with the future. In doing so, their work exists both as a multicultural collaboration and as a singular showing of spirited invention.
A detailed inspection of their own identities, the work of each artist compels their audience to question their relationships to the gallery, to images rendered and to the world at large. Cosmopolitan in aesthetics and warmly elegant in expression, Who Do You Think We Are? challenges notions of packaging and presentation. This silent juxtaposition, of traditional beauty and contemporary culture, leaves a resounding chill in an otherwise pleasured eye.
Each artist’s individual response to the site results in a collaboration between setting and concept. By writing the building into their narrative, not only as a habitat on which to hang, but as a character with which to actively interact, the artists transform a former advertising agency into a mystical environment. Mixing the tangible with the transcendental, the exhibition both accentuates reality and accents the metaphysical.
Folkloric in form and contemporary in commentary, the pieces are a hybrid of fantasy and fact, symbolising globalisation’s fabrication of existence. Although each work is unique, it is a common mythology that Who Do You Think We Are? translates into a language inherent to humanity: stories and the timeless immediacy of their telling.
Luna J. Lee is a South Korean artist who questions notions of possession and cultural [mis]appropriations. Her works are a survey of history contextualised into a hyper-realistic, futuristic setting. Although directed by gender and nationality, Lee creates works that prefer to embody their sex and citizenship through elemental abstraction and spirited representation. What results is an elaborately comical impression of the very serious issues facing Korea as it juggles its rich past with modernised uncertainties. Born in Seoul, Korea, Lee recently finished an MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives and works in London.
A constant clashing of medium (paintings, drawings and sculpture) is a representative gesture of the confrontations within Radhika Agarwala’s work: popular culture and iconography; the sacred and the mundane; fantasy and the factual. Playing with notions of hybridism, Agarwala employs a cast of cross-cultural characters (animals, nature, geometric patterns and shapes) to confuse reality with consciousness in a disarming statement of tradition. Born in Calcutta in 1985, Agarwala received a BFA at the Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta in 2007 and further received her Post Baccalaureate in Painting from School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. She recently finished an MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London and is now working in London.
A multimedia artist, Iranian-born Soheila Sokhanvari incorporates found objects into rich and bizarre narratives that question the magic of realism and the converse. As political-minded as they are aesthetically arresting, her works meld the uncanny with the natural beauty of narrative. Sokhanvari completed a postgraduate diploma in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art & Design, London before attending Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she was awarded an MFA in Fine Art.