Choi Soowhan: Complex Emptiness, at Pontone Gallery

We got a foretaste of Choi Soowhan’s work at the Korean Eye 2020 Teaser this week. In October there’s a chance to see more of his work:

Choi Soowhan: Complex Emptiness

10 October – 3 November 2019
Pontone Gallery | 43 Cadogan Gardens | London SW3 2TB | pontonegallery.art
Monday – Saturday 10-6pm | Sunday by appointment

Choi Soowhan: Complex Emptiness
Choi Soowhan: Emptiness – Forsythia (detail) | 2016
LED Laminate, 124 x 222 x 10 cm (48.5 x 87.5 x 4 in)

In a virtuoso display of painstaking craftsmanship, Korean artist Choi Soowhan devises compelling three-dimensional images of plants, waterfalls, waves and landscape. These monochromatic pieces, with their dramatically-contrasting, ink-dark shadows and dazzling pinpoints of light, convey a brooding intensity. His evocations of the natural world express its complexity, abundance and variety. The artist invites us to consider growth, change and flux.

Choi Soowhan’s light boxes are made from sheets of black plexiglass. When backlit by LED lighting, a multitude of finely-drilled holes create the image. The spacing and diameter of the hole are variable. This simple, binary combination brings about an optical effect which we interpret as a picture. The artist refers to this process of hole-making as creating ‘emptiness’. Contradictorally, the result is content. Substance is perceived from vacancy.

His is a reductive process. In contrast to classical techniques of image-making, like painting, where information is built up in layers across a surface, Soowhan’s method is more akin to carving. He excavates the essential from his raw material. Control and rigid focus drive his mode of production, there is no room whatsoever for expressive handling or mercurial deviation from routine. The impact of his pieces rests entirely on realising the cumulative power of the obsessive application of his rigorous system.

The matter of his work, so hard-won from the ‘blank slate’ of plexiglass, celebrates the richness of nature. In contrast to its exuberant life and vital energy, his materials have to have such qualities invested in them. He does this in a somewhat paradoxical way, doggedly exercising an austere methodology, in order to achieve something transcendent.

This committed and thoughtful artist’s sophisticated ‘philosophy of making’ imbues his pieces with a profound seriousness and emotional weight.

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