Where Art Meets Life
Sulwhasoo reminds us that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places, says Nicolette Wong
magine this: it is a bright sunny day, a gentle breeze is rustling through the leaves, and you are walking through a lightly forested area. As you turn a corner, you spot a strange sight. A bush of vibrant gnarled wires blocks your progress, each metal thread intimately entwined with its brethren to form a sparse web, standing as high as you are tall. The earth under the wires is disturbed, as though something has been uprooted from its depths. Then, you notice that the wires are attached to a felled metal lamp post, whose elongated body rests just beyond their colourful tangle. In a space surrounded by strategically placed trees and well-trodden paths, this is a strange sight indeed. This, the guide tells you, is Mirage, the art piece created by Korean artist Kim Myeongbeom. As you might have guessed, the fallen lamp post in the park is not a coincidence; no lamp post existed there before, and Kim is no guerrilla artist. Mirage is one of 12 artistic works that had been commissioned by Korean beauty brand Sulwhasoo as part of its annual Sulwha Cultural Exhibition in Seoul. The exhibition is intended to enrich the cultural landscape of Korea—sulwhasoo’s way of giving back to the community and creating more beauty in the world. Every year, artists from different disciplines are asked to create pieces around a certain theme. For 2017, that theme was an old Korean fairy tale called A Fairy and a Woodcutter, seen through modern eyes. The tale of the fairy and woodcutter is a bittersweet one, with themes of entrapment, love, abandonment, forgiveness and filial piety. The artists involved in this year’s Sulwha Cultural Exhibition were from varying disciplines, and carefully chosen to present a diverse range of perspectives on the fairy tale. Kim’s Mirage focused on the relationship between humans and the environment. The woodcutter was surrounded by trees and nature in ancient times, but today’s interpretation features modern street lamps and wires. On the other end of the artistic spectrum was the Fairy’s Robe of Feathers, an embroidered robe created by Koo Hye-ja, a traditional needlework artisan who is designated a master of Korea’s national intangible cultural heritage. Her splendid embroidery decorated her imagination of the fairy’s robe. Lee Sungmi, on the other hand, created Memory Garden (Memory Storage), a breathtaking installation of delicate flowers created from shattered glass that had been collected from car crashes. The work was intended to provide healing and peace, acting as a form of emotional cleansing for feelings of trauma and negativity. The exhibition, which ended in October, was spread across Sulwhasoo’s flagship store in Seoul and the neighbouring Dosan Park, where viewers could enjoy both the comforts of modernity and the serenity of nature. If you ask us, the exhibition is always one to look forward to every year.
FAIRY LAND The Sulwha Cultural Exhibition featured different takes on the theme of A Fairy and a Woodcutter with artworks such as Mirage (above), Fairy’s Robe of Feathers (above left) and Memory Garden (Memory Storage) (top)