Song Mino, Kang Seungyoon and Henry Lau Break the Mold in “Korean Eye 2020”

By: Mayra Peralta

Expanding their horizons beyond K-pop, Korean idols have gathered international attention for their multiple artistic abilities. Generally noted for their musical talent and style, these stars are breaking the idol mold and making waves in various fields. Most recently, joining a group of critically acclaimed, up-and-coming contemporary artists; Song Mino, Kang Seungyoon and Henry Lau have taken their first major steps into the art sphere through “Korean Eye 2020.” 

Korean Eye: Showcasing Promising Artists

Featured alongside South Korean artists, the two members of WINNER and Henry Lau were selected to participate in “Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream,” an art exhibition that opened on June 23. Taking place in Lotte World Tower Mall in Seoul, this exhibit was organized by the Global Eye Programme, an initiative that was launched in 2008 by David and Serenella Ciclitira. Looking to create a platform for young artists, this project has grown over the years, showing in several locations around the globe and highlighting talents from different countries.



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St. Petersburg – London – Seoul

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of their first exhibition, the Global Eye Programme has taken “Korean Eye 2020” on a tour around three cities. In March 2020, the first host was the State Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, where the event also served as a commemoration of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and South Korea. The second iteration took place in London, where the Saatchi Gallery received the work of 20 artists. For that occasion, Song Mino was named Ambassador of “Korean Eye” and his name was added to the list of showcasing artists.


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Coming full circle, on the last stop in Seoul, the exhibition has expanded with the participation of 6 additional artists, including WINNER’s Kang Seungyoon, and Henry Lau, a former member of Super Junior. In a press release, the organizers explained their selection. 

“With a long history of fine art tradition, contemporary South Korean artists are fast reaching international audiences through film, pop culture, fine art, fashion, and new media,” they said. On the importance of these K-pop idols’ participation, they added “[it] reinforces the idea that artists can successfully cross disciplines.”

Artist Ohnim and the Complexity of Emotions

Summing up Song Mino’s myriad of achievements is not an easy feat. The member of WINNER has shaken up the music industry, but calling him a rapper seems inadequate when he’s also recognized for his forays into fashion and remains a beloved variety-show star in his home country. Now, Mino is also a painter whose talent is recognized by industry professionals and an insightful artist whose work is as complex as it is to describe his career. 

Over the years, Mino has offered a peek into his artistic world through music, television, and social media. While filming, the star was often captured painting or sketching in his free time and he even went as far as designing his own album covers. However, his debut as a painter in 2019 still received massive attention. Transitioning to the art scene, Mino presented his work in the “Special Exhibition for Emerging Artists 2019,” at the Seongnam Arts Center of Seoul.


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A year later, in October 2020, his paintings made it to the Saatchi Gallery in London. On the occasion, he said “In my paintings, I use the harmony of shapes and colors as a way to capture the fleeting emotions that one can not express through words.” 


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For the homecoming exhibition in Seoul, Mino has opted to show his work under the name of Ohnim. Through his collection of oils and acrylics, the member of WINNER said he aims to show the complexity between happy and dark emotions, as well as to provide open endings that give people “a lot” to think about. “As a K-pop singer, I only have about three minutes to express myself in a song and should sometimes put limits on myself,” he told Reuters back in April, “In art, each painting has different characterizations.”


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Expressing himself through the Ohnim persona, Song Mino has chosen to explore themes like falling in love and the remnants of unexplored feelings with distorted shapes and the use of bright palettes. “Bright colors make you feel happy. With that contrast, I wanted to express complexity,” he stated.

Yoo Yeon: Art Shouldn’t Be Meaningless

On the other hand, Mino’s fellow member, Kang Seungyoon, is just debuting in the world of art. Although the 27-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer has been immersed in photography for years, “Korean Eye 2020” is his first major exhibition experience as an artist. Kang, who made himself known through the survival show Superstar K2, before his debut with WINNER, is also a seasoned actor and one of the composers behind some of his group’s greatest hits. Among fans, Seungyoon is known as the unofficial photographer of WINNER. Frequently giving updates of the group’s activities and whereabouts, he has previously displayed his photography skills on Instagram and he has also used his own work as the teaser pictures of his first full album, “IYAH”.


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The photos Kang is presenting at “Korean Eye 2020,” under the pseudonym of Yoo Yeon, have been captured on personal trips. The photographic series comprises 14 unpublished black and white pictures that depict landscapes and architectural settings. 

During the press conference ahead of the exhibit, the artist confessed that he carries a professional camera everywhere. “It has become an important companion for expressing myself,” he said. Additionally, Kang also shared “Our art or photography shouldn’t be meaningless. That’s why I want to express my feelings in my work. [A song] is usually three minutes and I have to implicitly express all these things in that timing. But I can take a photograph whenever I want, however, I want.” 

Henry’s New Facet As An Artist

Henry Lau is the last K-pop star joining the lineup of artists showcasing their work at “Korean Eye 2020.” Just like Kang Seungyoon, the Canadian multi-hyphenate is well known for his musical talent and role as an actor, but lately, he has also dipped his toes into art. Taking up pendulum painting, Henry is already gathering attention, particularly after showing this technique on national TV through MBC’s show “I Live Alone.”

“It’s really exciting to exhibit with other artists. Expressing myself through art has become a very important part of my life,” he remarked when asked about this new facet of his career. He also spoke about improvising while working on his art. “I’d wanted to make it sort of like an entire performance, but like a performance, no matter how much you practice and prepare there were some unexpected things that happened,” he said. 

Henry’s artwork consists of five acrylic canvases featuring abstract forms and droplets of paint, more than expressing a specific theme, Henry focused on the technique. He explained, “Like my musical performances, what I did was I actually thought about the location, picking my paints, what I was going to use, my canvas, just every little thing.” 


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Stars Supported Korean Eye

The opening of the exhibition counted with the attendance of other celebrities who visited Lotte World Tower Mall on June 23. Among those, the AOMG rapper, GRAY; IKON’s Jinhwan, UP10TION’s Lee Jin Hyuk, and the supermodel, Yoon Young Bae, showed up in support of the artists.


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London Awaits

The work of these K-pop artists will be on display until July 25 and a limited collection of merchandise will also be available online. However, the Global Eye Program has already confirmed that the three celebrities will take their work to “START Art Fair 2021,” an event taking place at Saatchi Gallery, in October 2021. 

As the founder of the Global Eye ProgrammeSerenella Ciclitira—expected, “Korean Eye 2020” has already introduced these talented idols to a “global platform.” Having already carved out a place for their work in South Korea, there is no doubt, Mino, Seungyoon, and Henry are the new artists to look out for in the international art scene.


Do you enjoy reading about Art? check out our interview with the artist Taeyong Posted on his Bubble account here!

Thumbnail Courtesy of Korean Eye 2020