Hur Shan’s first solo show at Gazelli Art House highlights some interesting new directions in his practice.
Hur has always been interested in what lies beneath the surface: his architectural installations hack away at concrete pillars or the plasterwork on a wall to reveal treasures embedded in the underlying fabric: an ancient ceramic or a relic from the Silla dynasty – whose capital was Hur’s home town of Gyeongju.
For some of his latest work he has been inspired by a real-life archaeological project brought on by the construction work that has taken place on the site of the devastated twin towers of World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Underneath Ground Zero, construction workers found an 18th century shipwreck buried in the soil (in a part of Manhattan that used to be the Hudson River). The wreck still contained memories of the passengers and crew – for example leather shoes were found in the rubble.
In the current show Hur’s response to that discovery is delivered by way of meticulous graphite drawings of the construction scene and one of his trademark installations in which a hole is made in the plasterwork of a wall, revealing in this instance a decaying and deformed shoe.
In the space at the rear of the ground floor is a second of Hur’s wall installations, this one inspired by a Saxon-era archaeological discovery at a church near Newbury. The tiny zelkova-wood door embedded in the wall seems to suggest the never-ending possibility of access into further, unseen, worlds no matter how hard you excavate.
The concrete pagoda also on the ground floor, reminiscent of the precarious and delicately balanced piles of stones to be found at Buddhist temples, reminded you that the progress into unseen worlds was more likely to be spiritual in nature rather than through any physical door.
Upstairs were some of Hur’s bronzes – seemingly casts of his wall installations, with various objects buried in the concrete beneath the smooth surface. Here the treasures embedded beneath were Buddhist figures and prayer bowls, even in one instance what seemed to be a little homunculus emerging from the unformed concrete.
Another surprise, in a space to the side of the main gallery area upstairs, was an installation consisting solely of a screw – albeit one cast of pure gold, leading us to question the relative value we place on things exhibited in a gallery.
Hur Shan’s exhibition at Gazelli Art House lasts until 22 March 2015. All the above photos are courtesy of the artist.