2015. 11 희미한 날들(상해 개인전) 평론(Eng) - 정수경
작성일 : 15-11-25 04:23
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Blessed are those who have become nobody
Seo Sangik’s desire, boredom and free painting as play
Sukyung Chung (Aesthetics/Art critic)
Midas who was famous for his hands of gold
asked for wisdom from the wise man Silenus who was Dionysos’s mentor.
“Please let me know what the biggest happiness in life is.”
Silenus answered with ridicule,
“The most blessed are those who are not born,
the next blessed are those who died young, and
the blessed living are those who have become nobody.“
Danto whose wife is an artist compared the development of art history to an initiation story in his book, After the End of Art. He put that art of history is a quest in search of an answer to the question, ‘What is art?’ just as a protagonist in a Hermann Hesse’s novel, Demian, grows up through long wandering in search of his ego and the eventual realization completes an initiation story. Growth and realization are the inevitable fate of a majority of artists who have entered the almanac of art history. Seo Sangik is also under the wheel of the same fate.
However, he didn’t take it as his fate from the beginning. Painting was a more natural medium of communication than speaking to him as Seo Sangik learned to draw earlier than to speak. In his earlier works, the sensory impressions from numerous objects appeal with their presence strong enough to make viewers’ eyes smart, which shows that his visions are very delicate and sensitive. It must have been impossible to convey those sensory impressions in surplus in words. They, therefore, have been bounced back and become paintings in Seo Sangik, without going through the process of conceptualization. Likewise, painting was just a given fate by the ‘law of nature’ to Seo Sangik in whom painting has become a more comfortable part than speaking. It was not something for consideration and reflection.
The moment he entered the world of art, however, the question that plays the pivotal role in art history was given to him as well. Just as a person follows the Roman law in Rome, one who wants to thrive in the world of art should take the question as his lifelong discourse.
Seo Sangik’s paintings were lifting the barriers between reality and fantasy, which were pivoting around the space and things near him and around the dreams from psychological reality. Now they have begun to introduce the specific space of galleries and portraits of masters into his paintings. It means that he eventually integrated the question into his world. However, his attitude toward the institutions and space of galleries and his perspectives of the masters are cynical as he creates the ruined Guggenheim Museum and worshipped Rothkos like a religious icon. He began to take steps on the track of art history in 2012 with his works, “A Familiar Landscape” and “The Temple of Artists.” In the latter work, Seo Saningik placed the portraits of the masters in the foreground while their representative works in the background. Through this work, he follows the footsteps of the artist’ quest for the answer to the question, ‘What is art?’ as well as encompasses styles of paintings that are considered ciritical in art. This is how he has become a new protagonist in an initiation story called art history.
The process of this new protagonist’s quest for his new identity is interesting enough. While it is typical that the identity of a protagonist is already established and the protagonist is supposed to find it, Seo Sangik’s identity is ‘being established’ in the course of encompassing many masters’ styles and going through the styles conflicting and integrating with one another in multiple layers. That is to say, he shows compromising attitude of pastishe in this sense. We can feel Edward Hopper’s atmosphere from his series of works like “Nice Dream,” “The Lost Landscape,” and “A familiar Landscape,” while his expressions of flesh reminds us of those of Lucian Freud. In the meantime, his place as the subject of his paintings looks empty and complete at the same time in a strange fashion.
Seo Sangik himself may have felt stuck at such a point. Since his work, “A Familiar Landscape,’ he has dreamed of escaping from the existing track of art while casting a critical eye toward the world of art. “Another Day” displays Seo Sangik’s mental landscape as he tries to escape the choking reality. In fact, “Another Day – Lost Highway” is like a black and white photograph expressed in hyper-realistic style. A closer look, however, reveals a white square which seems cut by scissors at the left bottom. And then the second look captures the traces of car accidents on the road and a white smoke coming up into the sky. What kind of situation is this? The riddle leads to another work, “Another Day – No Fear.” It has an unexpected orange plane in the all gray background of a city, from which a racing car seems to be popping out as if it was transporting from the road of the previous work. It looks as if the car had gotten out of the state of being lost, come to senses and moved over the rainbow of a vague smoke. In this sense, is the title, ‘no fear,’ because there is nothing to be afraid of? Still in another work, “Another Day – He Wasn’t There,” the world recovers its colors at last just as the screen changes from black and white to colors when the life becomes real out of the world of the script in the movie, Pleasantville. Still, the world of colors is not an easy one, either. It is vast wilderness in the painting, in which the eyes of a man talking on the phone and looking into the air stay on a cube sticking out one of its corners, and another white square from the previous work lies next to the gas station. The artist can run away from the world of choking practices and almanacs, but there is no escaping from the issue of plane and space. Where can he go? Can someone on the phone let him know?
One specific side of a while plane recurs in his works in 2013. A white plane reveals as the painting melts down in front of three youths who are tired and collapse to sit in “A Familiar Landscape – A Melting Door.” It seems as if something dominant were melting down while opening a new exit, a gate for new changes. What possibility is this? A man in “A Familiar Landscape 11” is browsing through an exhibition brochure, scratching his head. It is written “C What You C” on the wall behind him. Is a painting to see or to read? If you answer is the latter one, it indicates that you are not interested in the complicated situations inside the modern art.
After a long pilgrimage of art with all the concerns, Seo Sangik, lost in thoughts like a woman at the café in Argotea, tries to recover the senses themselves of dots, lines and planes and of colors and textures, which he was once engaged in but forgot while occupied with the narratives of modern art. The touch of his brush has become noticeably pictorial, and space establishment in planes rules the canvas once again. The aching colors unique to him have returned. That paintings should be pictorial is not a matter of choice.
He started working on “The Temple of Artists” again in 2015. This time he does not follow the narratives. Through a course of works, it seems that Seo Sangik has reached a conclusion that there is no truth in art. “An Untrustworthy World” is an expression of impossible fixability rather than incredibility. The nature of art SeoSangik finds in the world is a religious mechanism that relies on ‘belief.’ He proves belief by admitting that the masters of all different styles make art history, but it is just others’ rule, not his: that is why he looks unwilling even when he stresses ‘belief.’ This sense of weariness does not match his edge sense unique to him. Yet, given that extraordinary senses bring about an obsession with small differences, which again make it impossible to accept easy generalization and beliefs, ‘weariness of beliefs’ rather than ‘beliefs’ matches Seo Sangik more.
In fact, though he pays homage to the masters, he does not hesitate to change and deny their styles. The portraits in “The Temple of Artists” reveal how good an artist he is. And this artist, copying the master’s masterpieces, betrays their styles. A good look also reveals that Jean Dubuffet’s works do not look like Jean Dubuffet’s, which is true of other artists’ works, too. This inconsistence impliedly reveals Seo Sangik. Dismissal rather than reference plays a greater role, molding Seo Sangik’s identity. At the same time the subject of painting, established through more of dismissal, shows division and passivity of the subject n full, which Lacan mentioned. It can be said that Seo Sangik’s subject is a tragic one that is held up by a desire which is not his, and trapped in a chain of desires whose satisfaction is eternally delayed like throwing water on thirsty soil.
Seo Sangik with his indifferent and weary eyes, however, defies the tragic fate. The tragedy is reduced into a humor in an odd fashion when it is gazed on through weary eyes as the tragedy of the subject loses its tragic elements. It is not because the content or the form of his works is hilarious like a slapstick comedy, but because the unusual distancing or leave-it-as-it-is attitude found in his works make us grin. The anxiety between his obstinate conceptual reference and his contrasting inborn over-sensitivity, his obsessive caring for details and his contrasting casual touches to free from it, and his desire to make the Hall of Fame and his contrasting melancholic pessimism is eased when his attitude of leaving-it-as-it-is rather than being intentionally ‘chosen’ or ‘resolved in a dialectical fashion’ is felt, leaving a grin at the corner of our mouth. We may be even attracted to the artist when we feel his detached attitude because we are the same moderners like him who face troubles with a lot of weariness. Thus, it can be said that his humor is similar to Thomas Mann’s in that his paintings see the reality as it is and embrace it.
Silenus’ wisdom lies on the extreme. “Blessed are those who have become nobody” is the wisdom that can be synchronized with Danto’s conclusion: Danto creates the ultimate freedom in art history as an initiation story. In the story, one becomes anything, which means there is need to become nobody. How can we not smile at Seo Sanik’s timid audacity that insists on just painting, not defining his paintings and not painting self in the era everyone longs to be someone, crying out “I want to do anything with all my heart as I am doing nothing already.” The truth is that his audacity comes from his confidence. His wish to paint, to live while just painting without putting on any aura is the state of ‘presence’ many intellectuals dreams of including Jean-François Lyotard. The maxim by Silenus that those who have become nobody are happy is very liberal and indicates the level we can reach.
It is impossible to say Seo Sangik has reached the level: he is still haunted by “Science of Insomnia,” wondering if he is “Too Late” and chanting the phrase, “Pray for Me.’ Nevertheless, his attitude not allowing being hypocritical and packaged with difficult concepts clearly shows what road he is taking. Tackling with the issue of space and organizing a frame-story like monodrama in which he faces himself, Seo Sangik is learning to leave himself in the hand of playful painting. Epiphany may come down or may not. “Happy Right Now” of a person who has become nobody is better news than “Happy Ever After” of the one who have become somebody.