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 😀



Seung Yul Oh’s memmem

I was very excited when I read that Seung Yul Oh was going to be exhibiting at Starkwhite on K’Road.  I enjoy his work and have been patiently waiting for an exhibition in Auckland, especially when I had read about his show MOAMOA which was a joint project between Dunedin Public Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington.  It was just a matter of time for his works to make their way up the country 🙂

memmem is of a smaller scale when compared to MOAMOA, which was a large survey of Oh’s oeuvre for the past decade.  You could almost liken the size of the exhibitions to the letters in the titles being of lower and upper case.  memmem continues to explore the diverse mediums that Oh employs: in this, he presents a bevy of paintings and an assortment of sculptures, all minimalistic and of muted hues that befit the stark ivoriness of the space at Starkwhite.

The six canvas paintings are all titled Periphery.  They are nearly entirely white save for their edges – each edge is painted with a different colour, and no two coloured borders are the same on the six works.  These paintings are of a size that their edges could easily become secondary or incidental when standing before them.  Yet here, Oh brings the peripheral in, enlivening them with colour and challenging how we would traditionally view works of this stature.  In a way the focal point has now become the perimetric borders, though it also could be said that the colours serves to highlight the achromatic canvas and its simplicity.  It is also interesting to note the way that the contrasting colours meet in the corners of each painting – three of the corners resemble butt joints whilst one resembles a mitre joint.

I just adore Oh’s Dottori sculptures.  Larger than life, these five gorgeous acorns are made from fibreglass and two-pot paint, and have a reflective, polished lustre.  Each have a distinct shade for the nut, cupule and stalk of the acorn, yet the five sculptures share a rotating colour scheme of pale yellow, teal, grey, white and duck egg blue.  I really wanted to pick one up and give it a hug 😛  Like almost all of Oh’s sculptures and installations, these are experiential and interactive: they invite a response from visitors and incite curiosity and playfulness.  Seemingly placed at random on the floor of the gallery, Oh’s works often create fascinating incidences to observe people’s behaviour and how they navigate his art.  Through readjusting the gallery space, new activities, meanings and conversations are generated by each interaction.

Seriously, just look how cute the Dottori are!

Another delightful work by Oh, in collaboration with Jeff Nusz, is called Rain and is available to play online.  Click on the link below and tap away on your keyboard 😀

Check out memmem before it concludes on Saturday 29th November 2014 at Starkwhite, K’Road.


Musings on Art

I Spy with My Little Eye…

…A spot of public art in Newmarket!  I was walking by the train station with my Bruce Lee Sushi, when I was struck by a stunning Reuben Paterson work 😀  I started thinking about this new addition as well as another colourful installation by Seung Yul Oh, situated on Teed and Osborne Streets.

I apologise in advance for these images, it was hard to photograph this work with all the poles and fences obstructing the view!

Paterson’s artwork is named Ándale, Ándale (2012) which roughly translates to ‘come on, let’s go!’ in Spanish.  This title is fitting considering its placement at the Newmarket station, where people hurriedly come and go.  It consists of fifteen panels constructed of aluminium and fabulously painted in glitter.  A work made from glitter?  Enough said 🙂

Set against a blackened background, this artwork is like an acid induced vortex of colourful flowers and bedazzling light.  Its optical flower power is reminiscent of William Morris of the Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as Op Art.  The creation of movement is twofold in Paterson’s work: through the impression that the artwork is warping; and the grit of the glitter that allows light to sprawl and shimmer on the surface.  It is fascinating the way that the eye attempts to remedy what it sees.

Ándale, Ándale is a departure from Paterson’s previous paintings. They drew influence from his father’s Māori heritage (Ngati Rangitihi and Ngai Tuhoe), and specifically kowhaiwhai patterns.  Instead he turns his focus to his Pakeha mother and the imagery and motifs of his upbringing during the psychedelic ‘70s.  Paterson’s interest in genealogy is ever-present, and he views pattern as human connection – his artworks are storytellers, expressing memories and symbolising ancestry.  This work is just beaming with beauty and bliss, and the patterns are exciting and engrossing.

If you wander a little way down the road, there is another lively and vibrant work that grabs your attention.  Seung Yul Oh’s Globgob (2010) consists of nine gorgeously coloured eggs scattered around the Teed-Osborne Streets juncture.

Oh was born in Korea then moved to New Zealand, where he completed a Masters at Elam School of Fine Arts.  He works in various media, devising playful artworks with a pop aesthetic that create situations to observe how people behave. These sculptures have a slick shiny texture, and like Paterson’s artwork, they capture and reflect the light which imbues them with vitality.  I must confess, I had totally taken photographs perching on these sculptures before realising they were his artworks 😛

But that I think, is part of the point of these works – they are interactive, animated, and activated by your encounters with them.  There isn’t that separation with public art that you get at galleries and museums; you can engage another of your five senses, you can touch these sculptures.  Furthermore, their design lends itself to this interplay with their smooth to touch finish, and their size which elicits participation from adults and children.  It is easy to lose yourself in the fun and curiosity they inspire.  If only they were massive chocolate Easter eggs!

There is a true sense of wonderment with both Paterson’s and Oh’s works.  I find their alluring colour and brilliance readily brings a smile to my face.

Do take the chance to enjoy these artworks!