People say my current work is similar to minimal art, but I don't agree. My work is more related to the oriental tradition and its spiritual concept of space. I am more interested in space from the point of view of nature. Even though my paintings may represent an idea about culture, the main focus is always based on nature. In other works, I want to reduce the idea and emotion in my work, to express my interest in space from the point of view of nature. Then I want to reduce that-to create pure emptiness. This has been an old value that still exists in oriental philosophy where nature and men are one. This tendency is evident in my work from the 1970s and 1980s-not just in recent years.
- Park Seo-Bo
Park Seo-Bo is one of the most important leading artists from the Dansaekhwa movement. His input in liberating artists from institutional conservatism led him to be one of the major figures in establishing the movement throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
As the magnificent masterpiece, Ecriture No. 10-79- 83 (Lot 19) featured in this evening sale epitomizes, the intensity of Park's attentiveness is presented in tightly repetitive markings in his Ecriture series from the 1970s. Inspired by instinctive scribbling, Park resumed his noted series of Ecriture, Myobup (??) in Korean in the late 1960s. The series has been continued so far over more than several decades of his artistic career, evolving the profound depth and maturity in different mediums, colours and styles. In Korean Myobup refers to techniques and methods of depiction associated with the line in ink painting. Park's dramatic accumulations of lines in the works from his early Ecriture 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 Ecriture 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.' Eastern calligraphy was thought to reveal the universal life force of 'Qi(?)', transmitting the essence of our being, bringing unity between the artist and his true self. Analogous to its black and white characteristics, Park too, plays with the infinite aesthetics between these two colours. Weaving his monologue within the condensed spherical loops of the pencil, Park Seo-Bo lays bares his capacity in surpassing the medium by removing himself in every pencil stroke, emptying his soul to marvel within the infinity of the given space, allowing him to enter a transcendental experience. An art critic, Joseph Love wrote in 1975 'Park's kind of painting sets up problems for the younger generation of painters, which can be very fertile or end up in mannerisms. When an artistic method concentrates largely on the problems of style, even though we may call that style 'form', then that style can be seen as existing apart from what that artist is painting or portraying. It is a truism that in art one cannot separate from meaning, but that is precisely what the academic artist attempts to do. By setting up an ideal or stylized manner to be applied to 'ideas', he subverts the spontaneity and truth that is essential to art. In this regard Park Seo-Bo's work can be seen as a recent stage of a personal journey, not a methodology to be copied.'
During the 1980s, Park expanded his artistic medium to Hanji, traditional Korean paper. For his Hanji based works, Park applies multiple layers of Hanji onto the canvas, undercoated with gesso and then a coloured ground of acrylic paint laid over the top. Then he lays sheets of paper soaked in acrylic paint and Korean inks onto the coloured ground and plays with his fingers. A Korean art critic, Kim Bok-Young states the meaning of paper to Park, 'For Park Seo-Bo, paper is more than a mere sheet of paper. It is something with much greater significance. He does not simply see a piece of paper as something to draw on, but as a solemn object he has to confront. Here what is meant by paper is not a physical substance which is in opposition to the spiritual, but a process in which he can be both physically and spiritually engaged. That is why he regards paper as something he can change by becoming one with particular substance…Matter and action are not related in aim or means but are two essential elements, working in parallel. They are the two constituent elements of Nature, and the world is perceived as a harmony and union between them.'
Park's Hanji works continue to evolve into varied styles during the 1990s and 2000s, remaining persistent with his core conception of abandoning the desire for selfexpression in order to become one with nature. Lewis Biggs comments on Park's emphasis on the experience of freedom, 'Park Seo-Bo believes his role is to help the object (paper or paint) speak by adding his gesture to it. He has nothing to say, no expression to convey himself. He refuses the title of 'artist' in the Western sense, preferring to regard his vocation as that of a 'gentleman' working because it is good to work, rather than because he must, or like a Buddhist monk.'
Park's works have been extensively exhibited in Korea and abroad since the 1960s. Selected exhibitions venues include Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the National Museum of History in Taipei, Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, and Tate Gallery Liverpool in Liverpool. He also participated in multiple international Biennales such as Paris, Sao Paulo, and Venice Biennale. His works can be found in the permanent collections of The Samsung Leeum Museum of Art, Seoul Museum of Art in Seoul, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Fukuoka Museum of Art in Fukuoka, among numerous others.