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Exhibition visit: Silent Mind, at Cromwell Place

Lloyd Choi has a regular stable of artists whose body of work you can enjoy at her gallery’s exhibitions: as the work becomes more familiar, it somehow becomes more desirable. But she does not stand still. She gradually introduces new artists into her roster – as she did with the minhwa-decorated ceramics of Lee Geum-young at Collect earlier this year.

At her exhibition in Cromwell Place designed to coincide with the run-up to London Design Week and also the opening of the Hallyu exhibition in the nearby V&A, she chose to showcase the work of a new artist, Mok-su:

…delicately crafted tableware, trays, containers and ornaments with an amazingly tactile quality.

The exhibition runs until 25 September and is well worth a visit.

The gallery introduces the artist as follows:

Known only as Mok-su – meaning ‘carpenter’ in Korean – the artist has adopted woodcarving as a meditational practice to calm his restless mind. Trained as a classical musician, the artist had to leave music behind to support his inventor father’s business in Poland. Whilst there, he taught himself to work with wood so that he could make himself a classical guitar. He continued to work with wood on his return to South Korea.

Works by Moksu
Works by Moksu. Photo courtesy Lloyd Choi Gallery

Concerned with the dehumanising nature of contemporary working practice, the artist cast aside his wood working machinery. Over the last few years, Mok-su has worked only with hand tools and is focused on the act of carving. Woodcarving is a harder and slower process, but a more liberating experience for Mok-su. The artist immerses himself in this simplified practice, carving in a ‘silent’ state of mind.

“(The) working process is a like mind…I let go of all the large machines to simplify this process, now I use only hand tools and try to keep my work small and low”

On close examination, each work of art reveals countless gouge marks that covering the entire piece. These marks organically grow into lines and planes to form a body and foot. Mok-su begins with a block of wood, without any planned sketch or design, meditating until he finds the direction of each carve or chip of wood, allowing the works to come into being. His practice extends as he develops a ‘super-natural’ palette and finishing textures for the wood surface; the artist mixes natural mineral pigments with Korean ink and painting materials, whilst he uses various methods to finish the works, from soft cloths to sharp tools.

Moksu at work
Moksu at work. Photo courtesy Lloyd Choi Gallery

Even the smallest works take days to complete. The subtle differences within the works hint at his pursuit of neither perfection nor imperfection. Like each life is unique, each of Mok-su’s works are one of a kind, its human like quality is the alchemy of meditational practice combined with timeless hand craftsmanship.

“I have no purpose nor design and my works are only the result of emptying” – Mok-su

Inspired by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi who spoke of the empty bowl as the transcendental being, Mok-su aims to create modest everyday objects, following in the footsteps of those egoless potters from ancient times. Just as he freed himself from the machine, the Mok-su meditates to liberate himself from the ego, preferring to remain anonymous under his pseudonym.

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