Oh SeungYul (born in 1981 in Seoul and living and working in Auckland, New Zealand) will present See Saw
his second solo exhibition in Korea at ONE AND J. Gallery from February 28 to March 21, 2013. The term “seesaw”is a metaphor encapsulating the conceptual explorations of the artist. The traditional seesaw found in recreation parks pivot on the middle balancing point moving up and down, becoming heavy and light with the weight of the participants. The sound of the word repeats what is seen and sawn, in that what we see becomes what we saw so introduces a temporal shift as well.
Interestingly, the term “seesaw” is the same in both English-speaking countries and in Korea though different meaning and modes are implied by the word depending on where you are. When pronounced in English, the word is a combination of the present and past tenses of the verb “to see,” suggesting the temporal and spatial differences occurring with the repetition of the plank’s movement and the shifting weight. When pronounced in Korea, the word creates a pleasing sound due to the expelled air resulting from the combination of the /ㅅ/, /이/, and /오/ phonemes while simultaneously reminding the speaker of its foreign origin. Oh has played with Korean words that have served as an interesting tuning fork for his works in the past. For example, his large balloon installation was titled Huggong
(2012), which means “the void.” Also,Pokpo
(2010), meaning “waterfall” depicts a mouse with his arms in the air as if to catch the water. This word play continues with the title of the exhibition “See Saw” and serves as a metaphor for the mechanism that transforms the heavy and the light as well as time. It is the very space where this interaction and transformation takes place, the very moment when divisions, segregations and classifications disappear that the artist occupies and fills.
The exhibition addresses the viewers with the relationship between the works and the physical conditions of the given space.Each roomexudes its own temporal and spatial qualities.Sculptural works such as Pokpo
(2010) and Gobong
( 2012) utilize mundane objects and insignificant everyday events that one may fail to notice – attaching weight to them as something worth the viewer’s appreciation. The look of the mouse that became so frightened as to turn rigid as steel may arouse compassion as one simultaneously sees their reflection in the sleek surface. The reconfiguration and contextualization of these insignificant objects and events challenge the ingrained understanding and perceptions of the world around us.The same can be said of Oh’s paintings that also depict seemingly trivial and mundane moments and events on the canvas. These moments are of almost meaningless concern but transform via the paintings (or sculpture) as a mechanism to see the world around us. The moments the painting precariously leans against the wall or the window frame tilts for example.The possibilitiescreated by the artist’s perceptions of the seemingly insignificant moments are related to the balloon-like space, that is, the manifestation of empty and open space despite the existence of walls or partitions that, while seemingly empty, is actuallytotally full of tiny matter. Exploration of space and the duality within it often appears in his works as manifested in cells, eggs, and balloons that serve to remove the distinction between small particles and the great cosmos that surrounds us. All things under the sun are composed of small particles. A rock and a boulder are all the same stone but fora different number of particles.It is within this space, the space that can overcome preconceived notions of scaleas the seesaw does in its reversal of the heavy and light and transformation of time, that the artist intends to contact and engage the viewers.
While the space is a simple place, we nevertheless expect the space to allow us the opportunity to think beyond the conflicts caused by the compartmentalization and frictions of gender, age, social class and the like. This is why Oh’s works remind me of a poem by Ham Minbok, a poet from Ganghwa Island who may seem from a different age or, in fact, the opposite of Oh. The poem Mud Flat reads in part: “Soft and tender clay holds tight to your feet / Soft and tender clay tightly holds your soft and tender way / Soft and tender strength / Soft and tender strength.” Oh’s works contain this duality, like finding and making something as common as a sheet of paper significant – to recognize that this sheet of paper can hold two sides that are completely different from the other. Perhaps, it is through his use of the mundane and simple to express ideas that are more monumental in their philosophical questions that Oh displays this “soft and tender strength.”
Kim Jinjoo (curator/artist)
Press release courtesy One And J. Gallery.