Visiting the Suh Do-ho solo show at Victoria Miro gallery is a very British experience. You queue to get in the front door, queue in the back yard to get to the second exhibition space and, once admitted to this gallery you queue again to get up close to the main exhibit.
In the dozen or so years that I’ve been following the subject, I can’t ever remember having to queue to get into any other Korean art exhibition in London. But then this one has had some favourable reviews from the start (see the links at the bottom of this post), and the main installation does benefit from having a certain amount of crowd control.
As you approach it, you are instructed not to touch, and to place on the floor any bag you might be carrying, before entering into the colourful passageway created from translucent polyester.
The corridor is composed of full scale reconstructions of various places where the artist has lived, from a traditional house in Seongbukdong, Seoul, and a brownstone in New York’s West 22nd Street, via a place in Berlin to a converted wharf building the other side of the canal basin from the London gallery hosting the show.
“I see life as a passageway, with no fixed beginning or destination,” says the artist in the write-up provided by the gallery. “We tend to focus on the destination all the time and forget about the in-between spaces.”
In this work these in-between spaces have attention lavished on them, with the overhead door closers, fire extinguishers and other functional detail lovingly recreated along with all the main architectural features. We move from his London home’s entrance, in bright pink, through a pale green corridor from his Berlin home and then through a yellow breeze block corridor complete with stark replica flouresent strips gradually passing though spaces which feel more homely. What might be a dark, oppressive and claustrophobic experience as you walk through this enclosed space is made somehow uplifting because of the shifting light and textures offered by the materials.
Returning through the back yard to the first gallery space through which you passed to get to the main event are two dimensional works created by compressing the large-scale architectural structures.
The resulting works remind you of wild flowers that have been pressed and preserved between the pages of a book. In a third gallery upstairs, more architectural details are presented, some in grey-white polyester fabric and others in cyan-blue photographic print.
These latter works leave a slightly unsettling impression on you, the prints in particular looking like ghostly X-rays.
Suh Do-ho’s Passage/s was at Victoria Miro Gallery 1 February – 18 March 2017.