HADA Contemporary is pleased to present the first UK solo exhibition by Ham Jin (b.1978). He has been best known for his dark and whimsical miniscule sculptures, which often incorporated banal objects transforming them into subjects of his wild creativity. This exhibition will bring all new works by the artist that clearly denotes his progression into abstraction that embody the boundless fragile unconsciousness and its beyond.
Since 1998, Ham created petit figurative sculptures fusing unusual objects such as hair and dust to construct eccentric Lilliput worlds often hidden in the shallow crevices of the space. Recurrently inspired by contorting the readily given context of the found objects, his new worlds of eccentric yet entertaining narratives were reminiscent of his childhood memories in the countryside. In the more recent years, he developed his practice further towards the notable direction of abstraction investigating different artistic medium as painting and drawing as well bringing his works into their full potential. As the earlier works were animated into associations within the scope of reality and the society that we occupy, his recent works cease to associate and begin to dissociate from fixed narratives and forms empowering the material and his unconscious to engage in its own creativity. The intricate sculptures of pure visual and material forms of the black polymer clay devoid of legible point of reference float in somewhat sombre and aloof. Analogous to the spontaneous action painting by Jackson Pollock, his sculptures sail and wonder freely across the void space creating a ‘spatial drawings’ unchained from the consciousness.
For current exhibition, Ham created all new works that fruit from this artistic progression encompassing both stages of his artistic career into unity. Marked by chaotic immediacy and spontaneity, his works are the collection of the artist’s impromptus stream of thoughts and imagination generously encouraged by their materiality – the instantaneous malleable flexibility. Blossoming with colours unlike his recent black monotone sculptures, his eerie sculptures upspring multitude of lives unknown to our minds. Ghost like beings metamorphosing from a forest and ghoul like creatures appearing from the underworld, his world of clay reminds of the Gothic sensibility of Tim Burton in his stop motion animation such as Corpse Bride (2005) and Spirited Away (2001) by Miyazaki Hayao. Ham’s affection and interest towards the works and the worldly views by the likes of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) and Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) and his association of his uncanny clay worlds to the dripping heaven created from the painting in an American fantasy directed by Vincent Ward in 1998 based on the novel by Richard Matheson of the same title What Dreams May Come (1978) also propose the Gothic sensibility in his works. In which the notion of life and death and real and fantasy becomes meaningless as the film narrates, ‘thought is real, physical is illusion.’ The title referencing the iconic soliloquy in Hamlet (c.1599) on his painful contemplation on death, can also be considered as a postmodern progenitor of Gothic atmosphere in that it plays with language and form with full of the supernatural and the strange like many of his writings.
'It was the function of Gothic to open horizons beyond social patterns, rational decisions, and institutionally approved emotions; in a word, to enlarge the sense of reality and its impact on the human being. It became then a great liberator of feeling. It acknowledged the non-rational – in the world of things and events, occasionally in the realm of the transcendental, ultimately and most persistently in the depths of the human being.'
The Gothic tradition grew out of the reinvigorated interest in the aspects of experience that refuse to succumb to the rule of reason as agreed by Francisco de Goya that ‘fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.’ Like Tim Burton’s firm recognition of the duality that the darkness is part of human existence and the human psyche, Ham’s works trigger myriad of emotions and stories flourishing our creativity as well as our capacity to accept and nurture different ways of looking at and exploring life. As Beville notes that the Gothic functions to blur the distinctions - in terms of oppositions and confrontations: life and death; good and evil; human and monstrous; male and female; self and other; past and present; fiction and reality and so on - becoming the true voice for that which is unspeakable and unrepresentable. Over the centuries, it has developed its own subversive language, or counter-narrative, which is the equivalent to the postmodern decentralization and the loss of grand narratives suggesting the subjective and personal quality of the truth, reality and experience. Ham’s works are fundamentally self-referential in that he carefully observes himself and beyond to disgorge his most natural and innate feelings. His sculptures are the harvest of his investigation on life and humanity in a broad sense, in effort to trespass the boundaries and structures of the current. Perhaps to reveal the crisis or loss of self in the contemporary times and that the world is never the place of paradise that we hypnotise ourselves of but the place that circuses around the edge of crisis.
Ham Jin (b. 1978) received his BFA in Sculpture in Kyungwon University, Korea. He has exhibited internationally at Busan Museum of Art, Busan, Korea (2013); 4th Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, China (2012); Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2010); Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (2008); PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2008); Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori, Japan (2007); Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany (2007); Musée de Design et d’arts Appliqués Contemporains, Lausanne, Switzerland (2006); 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka, Japan (2005); Foundation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain, Paris, France (2005); 51st Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2005); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2005); Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA (2003); Artsonje Center, Seoul, Korea (2003); de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2003); East Modern Art Centre, Beijing, China (2002); Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan (2002); 4th Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2002) among many. He currently lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.