Youngseok Cha


“I wanted to find ‘Korean objects and scenes’ and recreate them. I became interested in what Koreans collect and have been uncovering the truth about their ‘elegant endeavors’ through contemporary art.”

Youngseok Cha (b.1976) earned his BFA and MFA in Fine Art at the School of Visual Arts at Korean National University of Arts, Seoul, Korea. He was selected as a Kumho Young Artist in 2009, which led to his first solo exhibition at the Kumho Museum of Art. The exhibition marked the beginning his career, and since then he has been developing his own painting techniques and presenting his works.

Cha is interested in objects that people collect for various reasons. He saw that items collected according to personal interest and taste, such as souvenirs purchased to cherish memories from travels, health-enhancing charcoal displays, objects for personal collections, and flowering plants not only expressed personal desire, but also reflected the era and society in which individuals belong.

Youngseok Cha’s sneaker paintings are the results of his constant inquiry into what to draw and how to draw from his experiments with ways of expressing objects. Among the objects that appear in the series An Elegant Endeavor, the artist developed interest in sneakers — something he was wearing at the time — and extracted the image of sneakers to create an independent series. Using images of sneakers that were chosen as a direct link to his current life, Cha sought to explore different ways of drawing and presenting subjects that divert from their set materials and arrangements. He only paints one shoe instead of painting the sneakers in pairs or groups, which focuses people’s attentions. Although brand logos, letterings, and specific trademarks appear on them, Cha’s sneakers are original, modified designs created through his own imagination. Color fields of vivid hues and textures come to the fore on the artist’s canvas, and various types of short lines are drawn with pencils to replicate the looks and textures of materials such as fabric, shoestrings, leather, and synthetic materials. The artist experiments a range of different formative methods to emphasize how sneakers exist as fragments of our daily lives as well as aesthetic objects. One of the most representative elements of such experiments is the background. The background of his sneaker paintings creates a space full of energy, illuminating the presence of the single object.

Youngseok Cha
Lives and works in Seoul, Korea
2011 MFA in Fine Art, School of Visual Arts,
Korean National University of Arts, Seoul, Korea
2007 BFA in Fine Art, School of Visual Arts,
Korean National University of Arts, Seoul, Korea
Solo Exhibitions
2021 Mashup, LEEHWAIK Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2019 Assiduous Senses, 63 Art Museum, Seoul
2018 An Elegant Endeavour, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
2017 Something, CAIS Gallery, Seoul
2015 Transforming Being Forgotten, Pyo Gallery, Seoul
Habitual World, Taipa Houses Museum, Macau
2014 Confidential Custom,Pyo Gallery LA, Los Angeles
Confidential Custom, Pyo Gallery South, Seoul
Confidential Custom,Pyo Gallery 798, Beijing
2013 Chronic Circumstance, Space Cottonseed, Singapore
2012 Chronic Circumstance, Art+Lounge Dibang, Seoul
2010 The Montages of the Fragments, New Gallery on Old Bailey, Hong Kong
Well Still Life, Gallery Hyundai Window, Seoul
2009 Well Still Life: Kumho Young Artist, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Selected Group Exhibitions
2021 LEEHWAIK Gallery 20th Anniversary, LEEHWAIK Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2020 Artist’s Pencil, Curator’s Atelier 49, Seoul, Korea
Autumn Breeze, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
Garden, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
Soaring High, Leehwaik Gallery, Seoul
2019 30th Anniversary Special Exhibition, Kumho Young Artist : The 69 Times of Sunrise, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2016 Craving Color, 63 Art Museum, Seoul
2015 Winter Prism, Shinsegae Gallery, Seoul
SOMA DRAWING_Mindful Mindless,
SOMA Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Still Life: A Frozen Moment,Space Cottonseed, Singapore
2014 Play with Drawing, Ilwoo Space, Seoul
Now and Then… The Future of Korea, Embassy of the Republic of Korea in China, Beijing
Pencil, C5ART, Beijing
Pencil, 1/2 Art Space, Shanghai
Today’s Salon, Common Center, Seoul
2012 Muse in Art, Artside Gallery, Seoul
Bob Up-Young Korean Artist Group Exhibition, O’s Gallery, Jeonju
Ha Ha Ho Ho,Lotte Gallery, Seoul
Unfinished Journey, Cais Gallery, Seoul
A Omniscient View Point, Gallery Zandari, Seoul, Korea
Gold Day, Lotte Gallery, Seoul
2011 No. 45 Kumho Young Artist, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
Korea Tomorrow, Hangaram Art Museum of Seoul Arts Center, Seoul
Propose 7(Vol. 6), Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul
Do Window Volume 3, Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space, Seoul
The Moment of Immersion,Fnart Space, Seoul
Room Project(Vol. 1), Interalia Art Company, Seoul
Hatch Out, KIC Art Center, Shanghai
2010 Tomorrow-Open Archive, Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul
Symbolon: Everything Is Never as It Seems, Hwa’s Gallery, Shanghai
Fashion, Inspired by Culture, National Museum of Korea, Seoul
40x40x40x40, Cottonseed, Seoul
Threshold,Art+Lounge Dibang, Seoul
Meet the Artists, Kumsan Gallery, Paju
2009 Ordinary Days, PKM Trinity Gallery, Seoul
Cue!, Changdong Open Studio, Changdong Art Studio National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
The Soul Travels at the Pace of a Camel, IM ART Gallery, Seoul
IYAP 2009: Against Interpretation, Interalia Art Company, Seoul
2008 Directors’ Cut, Gallery 175, Seoul
The Bridge, Gana Art Center, Seoul
Everyday Is Not the Same, BizArt, Shanghai / Gallery 175, Seoul
Privacy, Alternative Space Loop, Seoul
Privacy, Gallery Eighty at Space Two, Singapore
Privacy, Canvas International Art, Amsterdam
30th Joongang Fine Arts Prize Exhibition, Seoul center for arts Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
Award, Grant & Fellowship
2020 Selected Artist for National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
2019 Selected Artist for the 2019 Government Art Bank of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
Selected Artist for the 2019 63Art Museum MINI Exhibition, 63Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2018 Selected Artist for the 2018 Art Bank of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
Selected Artist for 2018 Visual Art Financial Support, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, Seoul, Korea
2017 Selected Artist for 2017 Collection, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2009 Selected Artist for the 2009 Art Bank of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
2008 Selected Artist for the 2008 Art Bank of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
The 30th Joongang Fine Arts Prize, Joongang Culture Media Company, Seoul, Korea
2007 Grant for Emerging Artist, Arts Council Korea, Seoul, Korea
The 6th Kumho Young Artist, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Archive Registration: Selected Artists for Into Drawing, SOMA Drawing Center, Seoul, Korea
Program & Residency
2008-2009 Changdong Art Studio, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
2007 Saturday Talk: Mentoring, Alternative Space Pool, Seoul, Korea
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Government Art Bank, Gwacheon, Korea
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Art Bank, Gwacheon, Korea
Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Abu Dhabi Royal Collection, Abu Dhabi, UAE
ECOLAND, Jeju, Korea
Eco Energy Holdings Co., Ltd, Seoul, Kore
Venta Korea, Seoul, Korea
SHINSEGAE, Seoul, Korea
LG, Seoul, Korea

Curator: Sookhyun Cho & Aritst: Youngseok Cha


Q. The objects in your work are rather unique. What significance do they hold?
Western still-life paintings portray objects that were significant at the time they were painted. So I asked, if the same were to be done for making still-life paintings in Korea, or in other words, if there is a “Korean object,” what might it be? I started out from that question and have been finding and collecting a range of different objects.


Q. Somewhat classic objects like potted plants and ceramics appeared in your early still-life paintings, but in your recent works, we see more contemporary objects like luxury sneakers. Why is that so?
I used to capture and draw objects owned and “exhibited” by their owners at places like cafes. Potted plants and ceramics are often owned and collected by people, and the collectors consider them objects “they want to show.” That is what made me come to understand them as Korean objects. Then recently, I became interested in what people are actually collecting. I thought about what is the “collection” that people today most want to buy and show off, and eventually arrived at brand name sneakers.


Q. You work with paper and pencil. There must be a reason why you use the most basic art materials. Also, your artistic technique reflects a lot of your personality.
I received formal education in schools for a long time, and I also taught students at schools and institutions the same way. Naturally, I wanted to discover what “my unique” style is, one that is uninfluenced by approaches adopted in Western painting. That is why I decided to work with the most basic materials and media of paper and pencil.

When using artistic techniques, I thought about how I can depict the subject of my work in my own, unique style rather than in the artistic language I learned from school, which led me to let my hand follow the pencil.


Q. What is really interesting about your drawings is that objects in the canvas gradually proliferate.
What started out as a single plant gradually developed into a collection as I kept drawing. If I were to say the objects I draw form a “collection”, this collection continued on and led to my work and practice.


Q. An Elegant Endeavor, which is your newest piece and also exhibited in Dialogue, is a series of works concerning brand name sneaker collections. It seems like your works have become more dynamic and glamorous in terms of their colors and techniques.
In today’s society, people own things and consider them objects that deserve their affection. They also show off those possessions and try to establish their identities through such actions. I wanted to call these actions and efforts “an elegant endeavor.”

If existing works were born from the process of exploring “truly Korean objects or collections,” my recent works were made with more detail for greater verisimilitude and were designed to even stimuluate the audience’s desire of possession. I tried out new experiments to create realistic reproductions of the kicks, from their colors to texture.