Over the past weekend, Laughing Tree Lab in Noksapyeong hosted a launch event for Aweh.tv, a Seoul-based webzine spearheaded by Dann Gaymer and Oliver Walker. Aweh is devoted to global creative culture, and aims to share with a worldwide audience the efforts of international artists working in various mediums and genres. Being an expat myself, I am intrigued by the social dynamic that is Seoul’s creative community, and thus, have been quite eager to both observe and contribute.
The Lab’s interior featured an exposition of visual works by artists hailing from various nations. Along the sidewalk outside, a group of artists created live street-art on makeshift boards and panels. Despite being fully absorbed in the event’s numerous distractions, I was able to tear myself away from the social frenzy and take a long, hard look at the works on display. I made an effort to stroll along the walls at a forgiving pace, noting the usual line and colour, checking names, nations, and anything of note.
Given the international theme of the launch event, I was treated to a smorgasbord of iconography, language, and texture, but I could not help but return to four modestly framed pieces that I had seen on an earlier occasion. A few days prior, I spent the better part of an evening at the Lab for a viewing of some Raul Pizarro paintings. After the event had faded, setup for Aweh’s launch began to take shape, and I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of a few submissions. Lucky for me, Courtney Cheatham showed up early.
In one of her works, a woman is visible at the edge of a lake, perching on a worn stone at Beijing’s Summer Palace. The framing of the shot succeeds in pulling her image against the spatially dominant reflections on the lake’s surface. The slight grain and grayscale soften the mood, while the gentle flow of the woman’s locks add a touch of joie de vivre to the ephemeral. In another work, composition succeeds again, though in an unfamiliar manner. A small crowd looks to the Shanghai skyline and its trademark Pearl Tower. The unusually high cropping of the bodies places emphasis on the position of a young girl perched atop the shoulders of another. Her image alone seems to leap forth from the frame. This succeeds in capturing not only a fascinating photograph, but perhaps more importantly, an intimate memory for both subject and viewer.
When one attends a reception or launch, they often do so for the purposes of social interaction and peer networking. Rarely, I find, is one transported away, amidst the dim lights and alluring tastes and sounds, to a place where artistic appreciation is paramount. It seems fitting that I encountered such compelling work in the corner of a small, crowded room, where personal space was a going commodity; it might reflect the greater picture of art in Seoul. In a buzzing, cosmopolitan city, fraught with both repetition and overwhelming variety, there are bound to be gems. They may not be the loudest or the largest, but they are there, waiting to be found, waiting to be freed by the gaze of an unassuming onlooker.
Visit Aweh.tv and Cheatham’s portfolio: ctessphotography.com