Perrotin is pleased to present Park Seo-Bo's second exhibition at our Paris location.
'Without Park Seo-Bo (b. 1931), there is no western painting in Korea.' As such, Park was a pioneer of the avant-garde in the 50s, a leader in the development of Abstract Expressionism in the 60s and since the 70s has been hailed as the 'Master of Dansaekwha,' a Korean art movement which is gaining global attention.
Colour(色). Park Seo-Bo held a solo-exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul) and is now expecting his second invitational exhibition at Perrotin Gallery, Paris. The exhibition will introduce 'Late Ecriture(描法)' also known as 'Colour Ecriture(色彩描法)' whose work begins with an encounter with autumn foliage. In 2000 when Park held an exhibition in Japan, the colourful maple leaves at their peak experienced by the artist in the Fukushima Mountain, covered and painted the artist's creative soul with 'colours.' Unable to ascertain the colour as yellow—even when looking at an artwork with a yellow tone—during the first exhibition at Perrotin1, when asked what colour it was, Park replied, it is 'yellowish forsythia colour'. When asked again, 'are you saying it is yellow?', he repeatedly said, 'no, it is yellowish forsythia colour.' 'Forsythia colour' may include yellow but also all other hues like the spring sunlight shining down on forsythia, shadows of birds flying over or rain drops falling pitter-patter on the petals. From reddish 'ripe persimmon colour' to blueish 'air colour' with a greyish background exuding a handful of fresh clean air... each and every work is based on the artist's hands-on experience, capturing different colours that just cannot be defined as one.
Emptiness (空). Park pastes three layers of hanji or Korean traditional paper amply soaked in water onto the canvas, and when it is moist and damp enough, creates lines or surfaces using a thick pencil, just like farmer ploughing his land. Once the form is complete and the moisture is completely gone, Park adds colours (water colours) embodying the natural landscape and tastes he experienced. In the process, Park makes an unlimited repetition of scraping out, carving colours(色) with emptiness(空). The word emptiness in the oriental world is not exactly 'nothing (無)' that is given nor 'void(虚)' that surges up unexpectedly. The state of 'pure emptying' reached by 'cultivating one's mind and body' by repeatedly scraping out thousands and tens and thousands of times is what we call emptiness. Attaining this 'emptiness' is also impossible. Park Seo-Bo says that 'just like in a modernist painting, an artist filling up the screen with his or her thoughts and presenting them to the viewers is a form of violence. Painting is not about pouring oneself out but conversely emptying oneself.' That is why he stressed that the 'future role of art is to allow visitors to go inside that empty space and make them feel comfortable.' In that emptied space, the audience can be either seized by a 42.4°C heated passion or -23.9°C uncontrollable shiver of abstract criticism depending on the inspirations delivered by art.
'Myobeob or line drawing in oriental painting(描法)'and 'Ecriture'. The relationship between 'colours' and 'emptiness' facilitates our understanding as to how the title of the myobeob(描法) series in Korean came to be translated as 'Ecriture(描法)' in western language. In 1967, Park named a technique of repeatedly drawing the lines at regular lengths with a pencil before the paint on the oil pigments of the canvass coagulate as myobeob(描法). With time, the lines drawn or written in the 'Early Ecriture' developed into 'Colours' in 'Late Ecriture' and the 'act of emptying oneself in the 'Early Ecriture' further develops into 'letting oneself go' or 'healing' in 'Late Ecriture.' When translating the word 'myobeob' with more than 2000 years of history in Korea alone2, the artist opted for 'Ecriture' of Roland Barthes, rather than going for 'graphein' with long history (which has the meaning of 'ecrire' and 'peindre' like 'myobeob' but not the meaning of 'stroking with a brush'3), or archiecriture of Jacques Derrida or other similar words. To Barthes, 'Ecriture' is a non-authoritative, individual and creative writing, and in particular 'Writing Degree Zero' means 'neutral writing' or 'white-coloured writing', meaning a pure innocent writing without any bias or judgment on the writer. Despite such differences, the most striking similarity between Roland Barthes' 'Writing Degree Zero' and Park Seo-Bo's Ecriture is that both empty out knowledge rather than filling in knowledge while writing. Visitors/viewers while freely roaming around in this space emptied out by the artist will be able to reveal and unlock their unique colours.
SIM Eunlog, Park Seo-Bo, Writing Colours(色) Over Emptiness (空)
About the author :
SIM Eunlog(Art Critic and Curator at Gwangju Design Biennale 2019). SIM obtained a PhD from École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) (2008). She has authored more than20 art critic publications including Jean-Michel Othoniel, Lee Woo-Whan, Art of Yin and Yang and curated numerous exhibitions including the Exhibition Celebrating FINA Swimming Championship 2019, Exhibition Celebrating PyeongChang Winter Paralympics 2018, Exhibition Celebrating 70th Anniversary of UNESCO Paris, 5 Continent Exhibition of UNOG, Exhibition Celebrating the 130th anniversary of French-Korean Diplomatic Relations, and many other international exhibitions.
1 'Park Seo-bo, Ecriture'(2014.11.6-12.20), excerpt from interview on November 6, 2014, Perrotin Gallery (Paris)
2 The format of 'Ecriture' was already defined long ago in oriental painting and is generally divided into 18 categories.
3 For Korean aristocrats, 'the act of writing [drawing]' was equal to an act of cultivating one's mind. In particular, 'brush stroking an orchid in oriental painting' meant cultivating one's mind and character.
Press release courtesy Perrotin.