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PARK SEO-BO (B. 1931)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
PARK SEO-BO (B. 1931)

Ecriture No.25-73

Details
PARK SEO-BO (B. 1931)
Ecriture No.25-73
signed, titled, dated and inscribed in Korean; signed twice ‘PARK SEO-BO' and signed twice ‘SB Park’; titled ‘ECRITURE NO.25-73; dated ‘1973’ and inscribed ‘SEOUL, PENCIL AND OIL ON CANVAS, 135 X 134 cm (80F)’ (on the reverse)
pencil and oil on canvas
135 x 134 cm. (53 1/8 x 52 ¾ cm.)
Painted in 1973
Provenance
An Important Private Collection, Korea
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Shanshan Wei
Shanshan Wei

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Lot Essay

Park Seo-Bo is one of the most inspiring leaders of the Dansaekhwa movement, which dominated the local art scene in Korea throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Park’s charismatic personality and profound art contributed in establishing the movement through his probe of philosophical themes in the context of abstraction. Through ceaseless experimentations of styles and technical executions, he looks to a dimension beyond visual abstraction, reinterpreting nature as a reflection of his own mind. His painting aims to become one with nature, and returning to nature through creating monochrome planes.

As Park once stated, “My work is related to the oriental tradition of space, the spiritual concept of space. I am more interested in space from the point of view of nature,” his works throughout more than six decades consistently embody his profound philosophical view of nature and art. Situated between painting, writing and drawing, it bears witness to the birth of a new language: one unburdened by stylistic categories, and infused with the universal rhythms of nature.

Featured here, a pure monochromatic field incised with a lyrical, undulating script, Écriture No. 25-73 is a major early work from Park’s seminal series of the same name. Tracing his pencil through a thick layer of still-wet paint, the artist carves a sequence of rhythmic, graphic lines, ploughing grooves and furrows into his otherwise blank surface. White paint glimmers in the interstices, punctuating the mottled surface periodically like beams of light. As this work epitomizes, the intensity of Park's attentiveness is presented in tightly repetitive markings in his Écriture series from the 1970s. Inspired by instinctive scribbling, Park resumed his noted series in the late 1960s. It has been continued so far over more than seven decades of his artistic career, evolving the profound depth and maturity in different mediums, colours and styles. Park’s dramatic accumulations of lines in the works from his early Écriture series evoke the charm of eastern calligraphy. Joan Kee, a noted scholar for the Dansaekhwa movement stated on Park Seo-Bo, “Different sense of time, past and present, played through Park’s mind as he began to produce the Écriture works, for which he is best known today. Certainly, he remembered well the lessons of ink painting. A remarkable work from 1969 shows a fluidity of line directly inherited from calligraphic traditions.”

Translating roughly to ‘monochrome painting’, Dansaekhwa found one of its purest forms of expression in Park’s series of Écritures. Seeking to transcend the cultural boundaries imposed by military dictatorship during the 1970s, these delicate, gestural visions were among the most influential works to emerge during a period of immense political and sociological change. Along with fellow artists such as Lee Ufan and Yun Hyong-Keun, Park sought a new form of abstraction that combined Eastern and Western techniques, media and philosophies. His intuitive linear technique – also known as myobop or ‘law of drawing’ in Korean – sought to eliminate all form of conscious gesture in a bid to channel the natural energies of the flesh and the psyche. In doing so, Park initiated a pioneering cross-cultural dialogue: between contemporary Western artists who viewed line as a metaphysical conduit – most notably Cy Twombly – and the meditative calligraphic traditions of his native Korea. Situated between painting, writing and drawing, it bears witness to the birth of a new language: one unburdened by stylistic categories, and infused with the universal rhythms of nature.

Executed in a single sitting, each Écriture generates a unique pattern that unfolds to the very edge of the paper. Imbued with infinite potential, Park’s line is described by the artist as a ‘journey of the hand’: a dynamic, naturally-evolving trace born of neuronal and bodily impulse. Deeply inspired by the teachings of Buddhism and Taosim, Park was fascinated by the notion of the artist as a vessel for spiritual and existential truth. ‘I am more interested in space from the point of view of nature’, he explains. ‘… I want to reduce the idea and emotion in my work to express only that. I want to reduce and reduce – to create pure emptiness. This has been an old value that still exists in oriental philosophy where nature and men are one’.

By eliminating all sense of content from his works, Park allowed himself to physically merge with his medium: artist, pencil and surface become inextricable. The canvas becomes a living, breathing presence: a temporal plane upon which the inarticulate patterns of consciousness are made visible. This effect is enhanced by Park’s use of white – a dimensionless colour that signifies the immaterial. Unfurling across the paper like a mountain range or a series of cresting waves, Park’s graphic coils transform his vacant landscape into a reservoir of energy and sensation: a projection of nature’s invisible forces. It is an image of the traces and marks left by our existence upon the void. Scarred, rippled and animated by the movements of the universe, the blank abyss of time is – momentarily – made material.

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