There is something current in the fact that for Korean artist, Park Seo-Bo, now exhibiting at White Cube Mason’s Yard, ‘art is no longer an act of fulfilment but an act of emptying’. This is the second exhibition the artist has in this gallery and seems more relaxed that his signature ‘Ecriture’ paintings that have remained his focus for the past fifty years. This series is called ‘zigzag’ and were produced between the mid-1980s and early 1990s.
Park is undoubtedly an abstract expressionist who dialogues with his NY school counterparts. Having said this, there is something oriental in the, how to call it…?, ‘Mindful’ way the materials are worked. I am saying this because two aspects are paramount to appreciate his work: time and frame.
Their approach to time is, definitely, Buddhist. As John Cage was fond of repeating ‘if something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sisteen. Then thirty two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all’. This belief is imbued in a generation of Korean artists who emerged in the 1960s. Seeing the country torn apart in a toxic war between the US, China and the USSR, they sought a style that broke free from national identity. They wanted to create something both universal and sheltering. So they coined the Korean Monochrone Movement (or Dansaekhwa) focussed on repetitive gestures.
I must say that upon arrival the show is boring but when the viewer starts differentiating degrees of texturing and zigzagging (all in monochromatic black), the paintings start breathing. The pieces work wonderfully together and after five minutes I just wanted to stay longer. There is something meditative in this works as if these Koreans were the inventors of Mindfullness. J A T