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Versatile artist Bek Hyun-jin’s latest paintings shown at PKM Gallery

Painter Bek Hyun-jin is holding a solo exhibition at PKM Gallery, titled “Work Song: Soil, Mattress and Waves.” The exhibition, which kicked off Friday at the gallery in Samcheong-dong, Seoul, comprises 65 recent paintings by Bek.

Born in 1972, Bek is a multitalented artist who held his first solo exhibition in 1996. As the Uhuboo Project’s vocalist, he is also one of the first generation of local indie musicians, having worked on film soundtracks for internationally acclaimed directors Park Chan-wook and Hong Sang-soo. 

Artist Bek Hyun-jin poses for pictures in front of his paintings exhibited at PKM Gallery in Samcheong-dong, Seoul. (PKM Gallery)
Artist Bek Hyun-jin poses for pictures in front of his paintings exhibited at PKM Gallery in Samcheong-dong, Seoul. (PKM Gallery)

Uhuhboo Project has also been featured in Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong’s film “Night Fishing,” or “Paranmanjang,” which won the Golden Bear for best short film at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.

As an actor, Bek has also starred in a number of Korean films, such as “The Exclusive: Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” (2015) and “Love Lies” (2015). He has played major roles in several films by Zhang Lu as well.

“Endless Joke,” a 40-minute film released in 2011, represents Bek’s efforts as both a director and screenwriter. 

“Erroneous Title” (2018) by Bek Hyun-jin (PKM Gallery)
“Erroneous Title” (2018) by Bek Hyun-jin (PKM Gallery)
“A Yawn” (2018 ) by Bek Hyun-jin
“A Yawn” (2018 ) by Bek Hyun-jin

The artist said he had tried different platforms in his attempts to find better means to express the images he has in his head.

What he wants to express cannot be fully explained in written or spoken language, he said. Pinning down his works in a few words or well-fashioned sentences doesn’t seem to do justice to them, according to the artist.

Intuition, instead, appears to play a significant part in his artistic process.

Coming up with the exhibition title “Work Song: Soil, Mattress and Waves,” for an instance, was part of a totally irrational and nonsystematic process, the artist said during a press conference held Thursday at PKM Gallery.

“The title of this exhibition came from an image of discarded mattress on barren dirt. The image began lingering behind my eyes in November last year. It drew me to think of the words ‘Soil’ and ‘Mattress.’ Later, I added ‘Waves.’ The word ‘Work Song’ has been used to bind those three words together,” Bek said.

Bek describes himself as an artist who falls outside of the institutional space for art.

“Artists often train themselves to make portfolios and presentations, starting when they are college students. But since the area in which I produced my works had often been outside the institutions, I did not have to make presentations,” Bek said.

“It was when I was shortlisted for the Korea Artists Prize in 2017 that PKM Gallery made a portfolio for me. It was my first portfolio ever in my career,” Bek added.

“Zegonski” (2018) by Bek Hyun-jin
“Zegonski” (2018) by Bek Hyun-jin

Bek talked about his life since he was shortlisted for the Korea Artists Prize, one of the most prominent fine arts awards in Korea.

“The difference is not huge. I feel like I have more room to maneuver in the art scene, but that’s pretty much it,” Bek said. “Being shortlisted for the Korea Artists Prize could be a big deal for some people. Some may think that it is a measure to gauge an artist’s position in the art scene, for instance. But I don’t agree,” Bek said.

“As a person who believes human civilization does not progress but continuously changes, I do not see a piece of work of mine as being better than another,” Bek said. “So just come visit and see my works as you like,” he said.

The exhibition runs through March 31.

By Shim Woo-hyun (