Koh San Keum Korea, b. 1966


Koh San Keum, a conceptual artist, translated texts consumed as social symbols, such as novel, newspaper, poetry, essays and law books into material objects in her work. She responds to books and sentences she has been mesmerized by which have considerably influenced her thoughts. The selective sentences that she is particularly responsive to play a crucial role in developing the unique identity and the essence of the artist’s philosophy.


By deploying 4mm artificial beads one by one onto panels depending on numbers of the words and spacing of them, this procedure allows semantic context of the sentences to be hidden, whereas it underlines not only the artist’s imagination and energy, but also a visual formativeness and an aesthetic impression stem from the texts. Koh’s work involves a heavily labor-intensive process in which the artist herself arranges tens of thousands of artificial pearls over the panels’ ivory surface achieved by repeating painting and sanding acrylic paint, one by one.
The texts delivered by the pearl beads break away from their functional part as a symbol, at last reach the state of Post-nationalism. They eventually are reborn as a new level of language, universal and neutral, basically responding to human sense of sights. Converted into a pearl, the text emancipates itself at last from its obligation to function as a symbol, and becomes something that is postnational and post-ethnic.


Koh San Keum lives and works in Seoul, Korea. She received M.F.A in painting from Ewha Women’s University, Seoul and the Pratt Institute, New York. She has held solo exhibitions including Gallery Baton, Seoul (2016) and has participated in group exhibitions at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea (2019, 2017, 2012, 2006, 1990), Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) (2020, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2013, 2007, 2006), Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan (2020, 2017, 2013, 2011, 2007),  Daejeon Museum of Art, Daejeon (2018, 2006, 1988), Sungkok Museum of Art, Seoul (2015), C5 Art Beijing, Beijing (2007) and Museo Carlo Bilotti, Rome (2013). Her works are in the collections of MMCA, SeMA, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Gyeonggi Creation Center, Seoul National University Museum of Art, Korea and etc.


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