Kwang-Young Chun @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Korean artist Kwang-Young Chun began work on his series of Aggregations in the 1990s. Today, he is recognized internationally for these sculptural forms. The basis of his work is small, individual, triangular, Styrofoam shapes, coverered in korean mulberry paper, which binded together create a striking visual impact.

After starting his artistic career studying western painting, in particular Abstract Expressionism, Chun turned to the mulberry paper as a way to express his unique, Korean artistic voice. The papers, taken from books that are often as old as one hundred years, have been touched by people from all walks of life over the years.    Chun captures the spirit of these people and their varied voices in his series of Aggregations.

In Korea, mulberry paper is a mainstay and has many utilitarian uses from floor and window coverings to candy and medicinal wrappers. It also resonates with personal meaning for the artist, who recalls trips to an herbalist as a small child. Medicines wrapped in mulberry paper hung from the ceiling of the shop, the paper protecting the contents from dampness and insects.

Chun uses pages recycled from old books to cover the geometric forms. These pages are covered in Korean and Chinese characters, adding another layer of cultural and personal meaning. He hand ties the paper over each shape, twisting pages into string to complete the wrapping. 

Wrapping and assembling are integral parts of Korean culture. Bojagi, or square wrapping cloths, date back to the early Choson Dynasty (which started in 1392) and were used for wrapping, carrying and storing objects. Koreans sometimes pile pebbles in temples for praying.

But the quiet abstraction and modernity of Chun's work also reflects his contact with Western cultures. He spent more than 10 years in the United States, first as an art student in the late 1960s.

Some of the artists's new works are now on display at the Knoxville Museum of Art until September 4.