2022 Exhibition in support of Young Directors

Why did a Tiger Become a Cat

13 January - 10 February, 2022

(Closed on Sundays, Mondays, Holidays)

At HORI Artspace, as we have focused on artists in the age of 50s since the opening, in relation to that we plan to look for young exhibition directors of the rising generation and support their projects annually. Our first selected director is an independent curator Min-Young Bae, who has been attracting attention by planning exhibitions that reinterpret the tradition and the modernity, including <STAY> at Baeryum traditional Korean-style House, <My Art History Today>, and so forth. The title of this exhibition is <Why did a Tiger Become a Cat>. Although both are felines, the two animals are perceived with completely differing impressions. There is a high hope that the reinterpretations by 8 young invited artists on “what had been taken for granted in everyday life” will move the viewers to give those prejudices a thought once again. 

Nari Kim (CEO of the HORI Artspace)

Celebrating “The Year of the Black Tiger”, the animal was chosen as the main subject for Why did a Tiger become a Cat> exhibition, but the 8 invited artists deliver metaphorical messages based on the interesting fact that tigers belong to the feline category. Intentionally even quite childish, the simple title brings us to ponder over our daily life once again. To be truthful, a tiger can never become a cat. However, according to the biological classification, it was 'feline' from the beginning. Also, among the twelve zodiac signs, there is tiger and dog, but no cat. What would it mean for us to classify a language to be specific and allow its domain? The attitude toward nature and animal becomes enriched according to in what language do we scope out the world – dissect it and flip it to get various angles. The “Cat Calendar” gifted to the visitors is none other than the lunar calendar. Although it may be uncomfortable to use it in real life, the souvenir offers the experience of perception change between yin and yang. We consider tigers as a familiar animal, but in reality, they cannot be cohabited with human beings – they are just magical beings like some legendary figures. But tigers are felines, and cats are now deeply entrenched in our lives. With many artists expected to present paintings of a tiger or two in the beginning of the year to wish good luck, the participating artists of our exhibition took a step further to show the friendly and adorable tiger in variety of genres from modern folk art to pop art, and even in the image of a cat or imaginary animals believed to live in mountains and the sea. Compared to a decade ago, the view on cats has improved in recent years, and while there are even unrealistic photos on social media of people reclining with pet tigers, ultimately the change in our lifestyle and perceptions seems to carry more weight than if “a tiger had turned into a cat”. The art market is taken differently than a decade ago as well, and due to restrictions on traveling from COVID-19 pandemic, viewing art has become the new hot entertainment, resulting boom of the market in 20 years. This exhibition’s curation embraced the fact that people do not put up “the realistic painting of a grand tiger descending a mountain” on the walls of home anymore, but the paintings of more stylish tigers, cats, other animals and plants, winter mountain with the energy of a tiger are more welcomed in the trend.

Su-yeon Kwak’s paintings started from the imagination of a pet animal in personification. Looking more human than the humans, the viewers can identify the satire on human desire.” The artist was introduced as “Another cat next to a dog” in the recently published Cats, <Walk in our Paintings> (written by Gyeong-won Ko; Yaongbooks). Her folk-style paintings of tigers have been introduced in school textbooks, and the cats in “Dok-seo-sang-woo” and “Moo-reung-do-won” are depicted as playful and intimate with human beings.  Sun-mi Shin has been painting the daily life scenes of women dressed in Hanbok (Korean traditional wardrobe), and this time she included a cat at leisure – almost hidden like a picture puzzle - in a sophisticated quality that maintains both the traditional beauty and the modern touch. Though not in the wilderness, the relaxed cat’s image reminds the beauty of placidity as a cat does in our lives. As the title “Hohoho (虎虎虎)” suggests (the Chinese character meaning `tiger’ is repeated three times), Eun-sun Seo’s interpretations of a tiger’s energy are delightful, created in pop-art. Her new work titled “I wish” along with other ones in Seo’s unique style – graphic yet handcrafted-like - are expected to cheer on the New-Year mood.  Hyun-ji Park, who has been creating large-scale acrylic works describing forests, took the role of bringing the wilderness into the room with a youthful sense by decorating the installed wall – the visitors’ first encounter upon entering the 3rd floor - with the tufting work; a skill that many are eager to learn from the artist. Park’s small-scale cloth works and the tufted mirrors bring liveliness to the exhibition hall.

If the atmosphere of the 3rd floor is delightful and energetic, the 4th floor is minimalistic and even earnest. In the main area of the 4th floor locates Kap-kyu Ryu’s “Riding on a Glacier Fall (BlueIV)”, which describes the energy of a winter mountain with supposedly a tiger hiding within, done in colored ink and gouache.  Kyung-won Kim, who presents paintings with repeated image of an animal put together in an extraordinary composition, commented that this exhibition matched the theme she’d recently been contemplating; Last year, prior to being invited to this exhibition, she was painting a tiger one day and realized that when the stripes are not put in, the animal looks no different from a cat. Amused by the discovery, she wanted to raise a question to the viewers, so, “Could this be a tiger?” was painted in the shape of a question mark with tiger’s brown body and black spots.  Yeo-ok Kim’s cats give off the impression to be “independent” beings, created in the forms of semi-3 dimensional and installation. Also, her “black cats” bring the attention as 2022 is the “Year of the Black Tiger”. The artist commented on how heartbreaking it is that stray cats are still innocently attacked by those with negative beliefs that they are “thief cats”, and she continues to work with compassion. Lastly, Chang-eun Son’s works in the motif of the mountains and seascape are placed throughout the exhibition hall, creating an uncommon atmosphere of transcending time and space. For example, “Mabok 馬腹” has a human’s face, a tiger’s body, makes sounds like that from a child and preys on people. “Tawi 𧕛圍” has a human’s face, a sheep’s horns and tiger’s claws. They are always about deep places of low and long water, and they glow as they go in and out of the water. Such animals from myth either possess spirits or are described to be monstrous. One cannot but always raise a doubt that perhaps some innocent animals had been described in the form of evil from human’s fear-based perspective. The artist raised the awareness with her comment; “Humans are the worst and the most evil. That is why the humans are the strongest.”

Min-young Bae (39), an independent curator

* Hosted by Nari Kim (CEO of HORI Art Space) 

* Consulted by Yoon-sub Kim (CEO of AIf Art Management)  


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