[Book Reiview] Park Seo-bo’s Seven Decades of Art Practice Explored in New English-Language Book

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[Book Reiview] Park Seo-bo’s Seven Decades of Art Practice Explored in New English-Language Book

“Park Seo-bo: ‘Scripture'” published by Rizzoli New York (Rizzoli New York)

“Park Seo-bo: ‘Writing'”
By Rosa Maria Falvo, Lee Jin-joo
Rizzoli New York

Painter Park Seo-bo, one of the pioneers of Dansaekhwa, a contemporary art group that emerged in Korea in the 1960s, emphasized three crucial elements in Dansaekhwa paintings – action without goal, an exercise in repetition in meditation and the materiality resulting from meditation.

“Park Seo-bo: ‘Writing'” published last month by Rizzoli New York, explores Park’s artistic philosophy and the historical and personal context of his work. The 360-page book takes readers through Park’s seven decades of artistic exploration in five chapters – origins, architecture, colors, experiences, philosophies and life.

Written by freelance writer and curator Rosa Maria Falvo, a specialist in contemporary Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern art, and essayist Lee Jin-joo, the book does not simply focus on artistic exercise de Park, but also delves into the origins of Korean abstract art. . Among the concepts introduced here is “seohwadongwon” – which refers to “the origin of writing and painting as one” and was deeply rooted in the ink paintings of “seonbi”, or Virtuous Confucian Scholars of the Joseon Era (1392-1910).

Park began showcasing his signature painting series, ‘Scripture’ or ‘Myobop’ in Korean, which literally means ‘method of description’, which continues to this day, evolving from early pencil writings to recent writing series. inspired by the colors of nature.

“His Myobop works are cool, ascetic and intellectual forms of digression, with lines resulting from cultivated work that seeks to reach a certain realm of ’emptiness’ (mu in Korean),” the authors write.

“Park Seo-bo: ‘Scripture'” published by Rizzoli New York (Rizzoli New York)

Park always learns from nature. How Korea’s four seasons inspired him to create his “Scripture” series of paintings is well described in the book. “It is lucky that Korea has a place like Jeju. The blue in my paintings is closely related to the Jeju Sea. (…) I like the way the Jeju Sea presses against the sky,” said he stated in the book.

The book examines the colors Park used in his early “Scripture” series and other Dansaekhwa artists whose paintings featured a reserved use of color early on. The book notes that in Joseon times, colors were seen as a means of expressing human emotions that literati were reluctant to express.

“Understanding how Park went from black (early work) to Obangsaek (Hereditarius) and white (Dansaekhwa and early Myobop), to rediscovering color (middle and late Myobop) and reinventing it in his own unique style, is a historical process. and philosophical tracing how Korean art itself applied its traditions, discovered its modernity, responded to contemporary life, and reshaped its future,” the authors write.

Obangsaek is a traditional Korean color theory based on five colors – blue or green, white, red, black and yellow – which symbolize the five elements of the universe. Park’s colorful Hereditarius paintings from the 1960s that predate the Myobop series were inspired by color theory.

The artist maintained close friendships with other Korean art masters, including Lee U-fan, who popularized the Mono-ha movement in Japan, and Kim Tschang-yeul (1929-2021), known for his paintings water droplets abstract backgrounds. The intimate ways in which these prominent artistic figures inspired and supported each other make for fascinating reading.

“Kim Tschang-yeul has always confided in Park Seo-bo. At the time, these young artists were lighting up the cultural furnace that was South Korea in the 1950s and 1960s, and they were a close-knit couple. For Kim, Park was a “hotheaded, nimble activist with a strong ego.” Park considered Kim to be the most introverted and meditative who moved in ‘slow motion’,” the authors write.

“What’s really exciting about this ninety-year-old Korean master is that you feel the remarkable breadth of his intuition is only just beginning to reveal itself to a generation of newly equipped,” writes Falvo in the book’s preface.

Based in Seoul, Park was born in 1931 in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province and graduated in painting from Seoul Hongik University in 1954. He received the country’s highest cultural honor, the Order of Merit cultural Geumgwan (golden crown), in 2021.

By Park Yuna ([email protected])

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