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Park Seungmo : A Present Moment at HADA Vyner Street

This is HADA’s second solo show since they moved to their dedicated Hackney space.

Park Seungmo : A Present Moment

7 – 28 JUNE 2012

Park Seungmo: Grand Piano

“It’s good that I don’t have idle thoughts. That kind of selfless state is what I wanted.”

Slowly, collectedly and intuitively, Park Seungmo moves with a creator’s omniscience as he immerses himself in the meticulous art of wrapping and snipping. His works are created almost in reverse: a perfect fibreglass model is cast from a real person or object and submerged under layers of coiling wire, or a photograph he has taken is projected onto layers of mesh to define the areas to be removed in constructing a three-dimensional remodelling of the image. This re-constructivism challenges the idea of the real and of function. Titles of works suggest what was and pose the question, ‘what is?’ while the perfect rows of glistening silver wire and black mesh transform familiar objects into ethereal beings.

Park’s works evoke a host of associations, the familiarity of which immediately capture the viewer’s gaze: Egyptian mummies, finger prints, cocoons and contemporary artists including Jean-Claude and Christo. However Park’s creations exist beyond life and death, individuality and identity, aesthetics and perception. Instead they derive from a fundamentally Korean institution of Son (Zen) Buddhism, which seeks a conscious-less determination not to attain anything per se but to reveal something; the true nature of identity.

This translation of Buddhist philosophy is exquisitely revealed in Park’s meticulously wrapped works. A common Buddhist quote, ‘We can see the universe as it is and our true nature when delusion and defilements disappear’ finds a physical form in the hands of Park. The goal of Son Buddhism, to see things clearly and as they are, is outworked in his sculptures. They are a product of a search for self, contentment and existence, which sparked an abrupt sojourn to India following his fine arts degree majoring in plastic art and his inability to immerse himself in his work as an average chiseller. For five years he visited Buddhist monasteries, toying with the possibility of becoming a monk as he battled with the loss of ego and greed, unable to reconcile his practice with the existence of selflessness and being. Just before he was due to fly back to Korea, as he sat at a coffee shop in a state of loss for hours in a café in India, he lifted himself from his thoughts to notice his paper blackened from the numerous circles he had unconsciously drawn. In that instant his search was fulfilled. The thoughtless and repetitive exercise awakened Park to the fact that the ego he had struggled to shake off was forgotten and that priesthood and art did not have to be separate if he connected this process to his work. For years he experimented with casts, developing and perfecting the method of wrapping to pose the question to himself the artist, the audience and the wrapped object, ‘What are you?’, a phrase uttered in the initial stages of meditation by Son practitioners.

The neutrality and impersonal nature of aluminium wires distance the familiar figure and object from the viewer while the delineated solidity of the material suggests that it is the object’s natural substance rather than being in a state of being tied up. By depriving the subjects of their functionality and individuality Park endows them with a new existence and significance. His sculptures of life-size nude human figures such as Ego appear to have frozen in time to evoke a mystique of the permanence of the moment. Yet the labour-intensive process of casting and wrapping contradicts the moment, echoing the intensity of the figure and the silence it embodies; a state of tranquillity where there is no life or death.

In recent works Park has metamorphosed the figures from ethereal forms occupying space and time into ones that appear to have been disfigured by the occupation of life. Malleable when still warm from being freshly cast, his fibreglass figures are hand-moulded to appear broken and weakened. While pitiable in pose, the glistening wires retain the sense of being removed from reality of his earlier figures. They are immediately commanding and haunting in being both recognisable yet otherworldy.

Sculptures of familiar inanimate objects further highlight the paradoxical nature and tensions between object and display. Created as though a taut sheet is covering the object, his titles confirm the viewer’s identification of the object; a grand piano is captured in Grand Piano, and a contrabass is indicated in Contrabass. However the ambiguity in what is perceived and what is hidden, what is real and what is implied again gently asks the question ‘What are you?’. These works do not demand a correct answer or an immediate response but invite an engagement into the depth and simplicity of the question in this moment.

– Jungeun Lee, Independent Writer

HADA Contemporary is at 21 Vyner Street | London | E2 9DG

[email protected] |

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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