Gunwoo Shin

Gunwoo Shin(GALLERY2)

Gunwoo Shin (b. 1979) creates works that are described as “sculptures of theatrical situations”. The character in Shin’s relief is positioned at the center of the image plane like an actor on stage, delivering a soliloquy. The background is boldly simplified or appears surreal in relation to the character, creating a captivating theatrical presentation. The counterparts to Shin’s stage-like reliefs are his carving-in-the round works that push the actor further out from the artwork. The scenes in Shin’s paintings are allusions to a stage completely cleared of actors.

Shin Gunwoo began working on, or towards flat(ter) surfaces in 2012, with aluminum plates. The attempts were more an extension of his relief works and could be described as flattened sculptures. Aluminum plates were layered, shaped, and polished with enamel paint, spray, and urethane paint, and then the process was repeated in layers to create a desired figure. At first, the aluminum plates served as backgrounds of reliefs, but then human figures were removed from them. Think of them as a stage where the actor has disappeared. What remains is merely space, made to convey a sense of situation.

A vacated stage and a background without human figure relief are both abstract and poetic. Wrinkled fabric and the faces that seem to blur away are traces of figures now unseen. Most of what catches the eye are oddly familiar yet cannot be named. To some extent, they resemble the background space behind human figures and their shadows. The lines that direct the speed and direction resemble the composition of figures on the canvas which dictate a particular point of view. Shin Gunwoo states that he wanted to convey a particular a tone, emotion, or atmosphere of a situation. To call it merely background would be careless. We must call it a “landscape”.

Gunwoo Shin
2007~2009 MFA Sculpture, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, UK
2004~2006 MFA Sculpture, College of Fine Art, Seoul National University, Korea
1997~2003 BFA Sculpture, College of Fine Art, Seoul National University, Korea
Solo exhibitions
2018 SURFACE, Gallery2, Seoul, Korea
2017 Gunwoo Shin Solo show, Hana PB Centre, Seoul, Korea
Retrograde, Noblesse Collection, Seoul, Korea
2015 All saints, Gallery Koo, Seoul, Korea
2014 Watch the butterfly falling, Shin Gallery, NYC, USA
2013 BLITZ, Gallery2, Seoul, Korea
2011 Kaleidoscope, Gallery Hyundai (window), Seoul, Korea
2006 The 1st Solo Exhibition, Kwanhoon Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2018 Salon De Gyunggi, Moran museum of Art, Namyangju, Korea
100ALBUMS 100ARTISTS 2, Avenuel Art Hall, Seoul, Korea
2017 Keyword Korean Arts 2017-Plaza Arts: From Torch to Candlelight, Jeju Mueum of Art, Jeju, Korea
City and the People, Seoul Mueum of Art (North), Seoul, Korea
2016 NeoForum 2016 Oneness, Seongbuk meseum of art, Seoul, Korea
Art around, Project space Sarubia, Seoul, Korea (organised by Naver Culture Foundation)
A Better Tomorrow, Culture staion 284, Seoul, Korea
2015 SILENT MOVIES, Q PARK – Cavendish square, London, UK (organised by ISKAI)
2014 VOYAGE: One day but the Eternal Now, lamp lab, Seoul, Korea (organised by SUUM Project)
Reality in the reality, art space Gallery Jungmiso, Seoul, Korea
Double logic, Space k, Kwangju, Korea
2013 G.P.S art navigator, gallery purple, Namyangju, Korea
Colours of Hong Kong, Insa art centre, Seoul, Korea
Pop-up: Impulsive structure, Project space Horim, Pangyo, Korea
2012 Admiration for things that disappear in vain, art space Gallery Jungmiso, Seoul, Korea
Korea Tomorrow 2012, Seoul arts center, Seoul, Korea (organised by Hzone)
2011 Clusters, gallery EM, Seoul, Korea
House of the nobleman –The return, Boswell house, London, UK
2010 Threshold to everyday-life, La cave, Geneva, Switzerland (organised by OVA)
Present from the Past, Korean cultural centre, London, UK
Down the Road of Globalisation, St. martin-in-the-fields, London, UK (organised by Anna Art Project)
Land Securities Award 2010, SW1 gallery, London, UK
The 4th 4482, Barge house, Oxo centre, London, UK Ways of seeing, I-MYU project space, London, UK
2009 Defamiliarization, Nolias Gallery, London, UK (organised by Anna Art Project
2008 The 38th parallel, G-spot show room, London, UK
The 3rd 4482, Barge house, Oxo centre, London, UK
2013 Gallery purple studio, Namyangju, Korea
2009 Land securities studio, London, UK
2008 Merzbarn residency, Lake district, UK
2009 Land securities award

Curator: Jinsang Yoo & Artist : Gunwoo Shin


Q. It looks like multiple realities overlap simultaneously in your works. They also seem to have ties to the scientific and popular narratives related to recent discussions on the metaverse. What triggered this space-time overlap in your art?
I came to the understanding that in the contemporary world, my story is no longer just my story.

There is me in the life of my mother, me in the space I occupy, and me in the way I think of myself. These identities don’t stand as separate concepts, but overlap with one another and exist in the world as a bundle. And that constantly changes the way it looks, giving shape to who I am. That then gives shape to us and the society. We then realize that time is a concept of segmented units that humans created and subdivided to perceive the world. The bundle or mass of overlaps even crosses that border of time. I make multi-layered works to convey that understanding artistically.


Q. You combine painting, sculpture, and reliefs. Could you share what the characteristics of each medium are?
As for order, I start with reliefs, then make my sculptures, and then go on to make paintings. Reliefs come first because the first work I presented immediately out of graduate school was a relief. It was the most fitting medium to convey images of certain situations or events in reality with narratives that allude to myths or religious content.  At the time, I was very interested in social issues and human relationships within them. I wanted to make them into stories like novels, and I attempted to reinterpret today’s reality that is more surreal than surrealness itself in the form of reliefs that have a sense of presentness, using mythological and religious imagery. Eventually, I started to focus on individual figures in the reliefs. I found certain figures in the relief particularly attractive and decided to bring him/her out of the relief. That’s how I arrived at my sculptures. Then there was space from which those figures have left, and I wanted to create the “aura” of the empty theater stage where actors have left after the play is over, which is how I ended up making paintings (Surface series). They resemble paintings in their forms, but I used painting materials like sculpture materials as much as I can because I thought that these works must retain their sculptural forms in the relief from where figures have been extracted.


Q. As for paintings, it looks like a very abstract background is painted first, and then two-dimensional drawings or fragments of colors are created over it. Could you elaborate on the ideas you try to emphasize in each layer?
Each layer in Surface series signifies the overlap of compressed spaces, but the layers are also used to depict different times and and the changes in the atmosphere of the work. For example, if some event occurred in a particular space, the beginning and end (whether consecutive or continuous) of the event is conveyed in one scene, and a blurring effect is created in the space by overlapping layers of transparent media. Rather than simply depict a certain event, I present it in the most vague and poetic way, using color planes or abstract forms.


Q. In the case of your sculptures, we see what we might call cross sections, because multiple materials are used simultaneously in three-dimensional figures. Recently, you have been eager to show works where parts of the sculptures have been removed and thus their cross sections are revealed. I’m interested in hearing about why a Boolean function-like effect is found in your sculptural methodology.
If you reflect on the stories I have been trying to convey in my works, you’ll see that I speak to not only what is visible, but also what is beyond the visible and possibly more important. My artistic practice is perhaps a journey to find something that exists yet is not visible. In expressing this idea, I adopted the sculptural concept of real and imaginary spaces that had already been used in sculpture. The gap between the visible and invisible, normal and divine, natural and supernatural. And their cross sections.

When I saw my wife’s pregnant belly, I was inspired to make the sculpture Avocado. Likewise, I thought the best way to visualize parts that aren’t apparent is the Boolean method.


Q. There are many images related to Greek mythology or stories in the Christian Bible in your relief works. These stories seem to give rise to very complex mutually referential relationships. How should we make sense of this method, where metaphorical quotes and reproductions of realistic events are juxtaposed?
Ancient records like Greek myths and the Scripture are stories humans made for their own sake. There are gods and angels, but they don’t look all that different from us, humans. From the perspective of cultural theory, ancient writings were probably tools to provide guidance to humans in their respective times. (This is my personal opinion.) It’s been thousands of years since those stories have been written, but their content is surprisingly similar to the stories of our times. We might call it human limitation. We still make the same mistakes, regret for them, and repeat the same mistake again. The art I make might be a form of my personal journal, where I make promises to myself in living in this world.

Sculptures in relief were made as part of buildings since ages ago for the purpose of reproducing certain events or situations from then. This is true of Egyptian tomb sculptures and reliefs in medieval cathedrals. My works are no different from these older sculptures. I started to make sculpture in relief to pursuade the audience in artistically recreating and renacting scenes. However, I have no intent to guide people in certain directions through my work. Rather, I wish to free them from their objectives and have them enjoy and be amused by my work itself.