FORGOTTEN BY US

All his artworks are now sold out and shows are secured in the USA and abroad. This is very rare for a young artist right at his debut. Hyangmok Baik, a South Korean artist, has his first solo international exhibition at the Beers art gallery in London from 9 July until 7 August 2021. On Instagram, Hyangmok Baik is already a social media favourite.

Hyangmok Baik Artist Portrait © 2021

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

People’s deep inner living, their ubiquitous gravitation in a physically restrictive pandemic find a unison tone in Hyangmok Baik‘s painting style. Just as the echoes of the 5,000-year Korean dance, Ganggangsullae, that inspired one of the artist’s works. In those times, the Sun, the Moon and the Earth ruled the world. Young and old women danced in circle under moonlight, sometimes until dawn calling for abundant harvests, and at the same time singing about their personal hardships, relationships and wants.

Hyangmok Baik‘s paintings are bestrewn with Korean traditions that make perfect stories in expressing the fine levels of human emotions. Pulsatilla Koreana is a plant that not only loves light, wilts in the darkness, needs a lot of care, but it grows freely outdoors in almost all areas of South Korea. This plant was chosen, too, by the artist to name his artwork. Alluding to our “Forgotten by Us” family, Pulsatilla Koreana is also known as the “grandmother flower“. A fairy tale transformed the plant into the symbol of a mother who travelled many mountains to see her younger daughter, but unfortunately, the long way exhausted her and she died. The daughter had nothing else left but to believe that her mother returned as a bowed flower reminding of a mother’s bent-like back.

The artist has a “naive, but honest” skill of putting on canvas the unmasked emotional realm of human experience during the pandemic. The atmosphere of the world in which Hyangmok Baik‘s characters live was compared by the Beers art gallery to that in Haruki Murakami’s novels: “Sometimes we can remember the characters in our dreams, but mostly we can’t. I try to express the stories that no one can remember but me, as dreams I’ve never experienced…” – Hyangmok Baik

Beyond all its symbolic inspiration, Hyangmok Baik’s vibrant colours and exotic landscape are an invitation to love, to engaging in dialogues with the dear ones, reconnecting and living the present moment: And let’s remember Before, regretting that time passed and now was a precious moment.” – Hyangmok Baik

Roxana Florina Popa: In describing your work, you refer to remembering characters in our dreams at the same time with remembering dreams you have never experienced. It seems to me that a new reality may be emerging under the pandemic from the overlapping of dreams, true memories and unlived life events that may become memories in themselves. 

Why do you think that your painting style qualified as “naive, but honest” is more appropriate to better convey the inner living of our current experience?

“Forgotten by Us” Exhibition of Hyangmok Baik’s paintings at the Beers Gallery London ©2021

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Hyangmok Baik: In the beginning, it started by transferring what I drew in my sketchbook to the canvas as if I was writing a picture diary. However, as I refined the shape and colour during the transfer process, the part I wanted to express was not clearly revealed. So I started drawing on the canvas in a rough, unpolished way of expression, just like what I initially drew in my sketchbook. I think this way of expression is more appropriate to express the ‘dreams’ and ‘memories’ that I want to talk about. Because dreams and memories are all mixed together, not in a well-polished shape.

Roxana Florina Popa: Disembodied heads appear in your paintings as in an attempt to reignite dialogues. What is the topic of the communication between the characters of your paintings? How has communication shifted and which focus does it have now?

The characters in the work are all representatives of someone’s precious moments, and they are mediums for conveying emotions.

Hyangmok Baik, Midnight Brunch ©2021 Mixed Media on Canvas

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Hyangmok Baik: All the characters in my work hide their facial expressions. To be precise, it was the intention that the audience didn’t want their emotions to be read. The ‘Forgotton by us’ show was a work to bring back memories that have been forgotten. In the process of expressing those memories, I thought that some could feel joy and others could feel sadness from those memories. So, I wanted to hide the expressions of the characters as much as possible and let the audience project their emotions on their behalf. So, although it is the same painting, I wanted each person to feel different emotions.

Roxana Florina Popa: I noticed that your characters have a red nose. Is there a reference to Pinocchio? What is the meaning of these portraits?

The reason for expressing the nose in red was to give the meaning that these characters are people in memory or dreams rather than in reality. As in a dream, I remembered a moment when I was in a hazy state while drunk, while thinking about expressing my hazy state. And we often see and often express the red nose of a drunken person. So, the nose was symbolically expressed in red.

Hyangmok Baik, CROWD ©2021 mixed media

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Hyangmok Baik: Certain animals appear in my works. The snake derived from the snake that fed Eve an apple in the Garden of Eden. I came up with Eve’s Snake while looking for various symbolic things to express the meaning of ‘to deceive’. Such as Kaa who dazzles Mowgli in “The Jungle Book”.

What the two snakes have in common is that they literally deceive someone. In my paintings, snakes mean to deceive the viewer. They are a device that dazzles the audience who imagines my paintings in real life into seeing them as memories or dreams of my work.

Hyangmok Baik, Ganggangsullae ©2020 mixed media on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Roxana Florina Popa: After being discovered on Instagram, your profile exploded and you secured shows for your artworks abroad. How did you experience this potential of social media? How eye opening can such an online experience be for an artist at his young debut?

Hyangmok Baik, Common Cuckoo ©2021 Mixed Media on Canvas

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Hyangmok Baik: We live in a really wide world. We can even travel to different countries multiple times a day in this little cell phone. One of the reasons this life is possible is the SNS. Even if we don’t go directly, we can lie in bed in our room and easily see exhibitions of world famous galleries and the works and studios of artists from all over the world. Conversely, those world-class galleries and artists can easily view my works and studios with just a few touches. It was the same way that I, in Korea, on the other side of the world, and Beers, in England, met. Now is the era when artists can create their own portfolios by uploading their works to SNS. And the portfolio can be easily checked by everyone in the world, and more opportunities can be connected.

Roxana Florina Popa: Which are some of the precious moments that we should not easily forget?

Hyangmok Baik, The Sun and the Moon ©2021 Mixed Media on Canvas

Courtesy of the artist and the Beers Gallery in London

Hyangmok Baik: A precious moment that we should not easily forget is, of course, now. Even after one second passes, the present becomes the past, not the present, and the past cannot be turned back. 10 years ago, a year ago, and even yesterday is the moment that was the present for us. So, tell the person you love right now that you love them. Tell the parents that you miss them. Say thank you to your friends for being by your side. And let’s remember Before regretting that time passed and now was a precious moment.

Special Thanks go to

the artist Hyangmok Baik, the BEERS Art Gallery in London and to Phoebe Croke, gallery assistant

ABOUT THE ARTIST

HYANGMOK BAIK (b. 1990, South Korea) lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. He graduated in 2019 with a MA in Fine Art from Hongik University. Solo exhibitions include: ‘Image Utopia’, Gallery Stan, Seoul, South Korea (2020); ‘Wanderlust’, Gallery Marron, Seoul, South Korea (2019); solo show, Gallery Meme, Seoul, South Korea (2018); solo show, Gana Art Space, Seoul, South Korea (2016). Group exhibitions include: Yeonhee Art Fair, Seoul, South Korea (2019); KIAF, South Korea (2019); Yohood, Shanghai, China (2019); Gallery Ili, Seoul, South Korea (2019); Art Busan, Busan, Korea (2019); Mercielbiss, Busan, Korea 92019); Stan Art Center, Seoul, South Korea (2019); Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan (2019).

ABOUT BEERS LONDON

BEERS London opened in the summer of 2012 and has since forged an international reputation as one of London’s leading spaces for cutting-edge contemporary art. In April 2021, the gallery opened its new location in the heart of The City and London’s regentrified Culture Mile next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Barbican, and the new Farringdon Tube Station.

The gallery maintains an active, forward-thinking programme, exhibiting artists at various career stages. While primarily focused on painting, the gallery frequently exhibits sculpture, photography, textile, and ceramics. Gallery Director Kurt Beers has written two books: 100 Painters of Tomorrow released in 2014, followed by the award-winning 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow in 2019, both published by Thames & Hudson. Together, both Beers and Thames & Hudson are preparing for a third book in the series: 100 Photographers of Tomorrow.

The gallery prides itself on its internationally diverse representation, including artists heralding from Africa, Asia, South America, the United States, UK, Europe, and Canada. The gallery frequently participates in international art fairs including Zona Maco (Mexico City), Untitled (Miami & San Francisco), Expo Chicago (Chicago), Artissima (Torino), to name only a few, as well as various online endeavours and collaborations.

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