Musings on Art

Seung Yul Oh | SOOM & OnDo

Two, new, fabulous artworks by Seung Yul Oh have recently been installed in Auckland.  I think he does some of the best public art pieces around, as they are always lively, playful works that invite interaction and exchange.

The first work can be found when you go for a wander to the top floor of the Auckland Art Gallery and out onto the Edmiston North Sculpture Terrace.  Titled SOOM (2014) which is Korean for ‘breath’, it consists of mammoth, gauzy bubbles made from PVC, highlighting Oh’s characteristic interest in varying materials.

When I saw this incredible installation, I was honestly reminded of the first 7 seconds of this clip:

Oxygenated to full beach ball buoyancy, you can see the level of attention paid to the way that the surfaces of bubbles become flat when they latch to each other.  Furthermore, there are mirrors on the base of the bubbles that are anchored to the ground, allowing you to see inside and to catch the shifting light.  They wobble slightly in a gentle breeze, and it is easy to imagine these floating into the park or onto the street in stronger winds.  The combination of light and airy movement does make this installation appear as if it is ‘breathing’ with its own life.

As whimsical as Oh’s work is, there is something disconcerting about it: the bubbles seem as if you could easily pop them with sharp nails, yet they are surprisingly sturdy and large enough to ensnare a person.  There is also a fascinating tension between their size and transparency – these bubbles are both visible and invisible, they are seen and seen through.

Supported by the Chartwell Trust and Fabric Structure Systems, SOOM will be on display until Sunday 11th October 2015.

The second work newly appeared in Ballantyne Square, a park on Dominion Road not far from Countdown.  This striking installation is called OnDo (2015) and features gargantuan chopsticks and buckwheat noodles.  Noodles?!  Yes, noodles, and I love, love, love this work.

When I initially saw this, I was reminded of Japan and the plastic food replicas in restaurant windows which give you an indication of what the meals look like.  There are echoes of Pop Artist Claes Oldenburg, and his oversized food sculptures that elevated and monumentalised everyday objects.  The way that the noodles are suspended raises questions, mainly, how did he do it?  There is likely a supportive column in the middle of the noodles, and I suspect they are made from cables that are covered in styrofoam.  Yet I cannot be sure and it is not immediately discernible, thus the illusion and the sense of wonderment are maintained.  This artwork furthermore emphasises Oh’s masterful handling of a myriad of materials.

Oh’s installation is an ode to the vast array of delicious Asian restaurants on Dominion Road.  The orange barriers that encircle the work are part of it, as is the rubble that is intertwined with the noodles, which make reference to the ongoing construction on the road.  Also if you look closely you can see the artist’s name and title on the barriers in English and Korean.  Beautiful.  And if this work makes you hungry, you don’t have to walk too far to get a good feed 🙂  This is a temporary installation, so be sure to see it in person asap!

Thanks for reading 😀



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