Modest Monuments: Contemporary Art from Korea
King’s Lynn Arts Centre, Norfolk, U.K.
15 November – 20 December 2008

Seungho YOO creates intricate and humorous works in pen and ink on paper and wall drawings, which blur the borders between word and image, and play with language, text and traditions of Eastern landscape painting and calligraphy.

In works such as Oh! Darling (2005-6), YOO recreates traditional landscape paintings, monumental works in ink on paper from China’s Northern Song dynasty which depict picturesque scenes of mountains, trees and water. However, on closer inspection we see that the images are made up of tiny characters of Hangul or Korean script. The original images are dismantled and rebuilt using words, and the vague hazy shapes created with Chinese ink brushstrokes on mulberry paper in traditional landscape paintings are parodied through the use of these granular clouds of text. The delicate craftsmanship and air of academic intelligence and elegance of the originals is transformed into something more playful and comic.

In Shoooo (2005) the repeated word ‘shoo’ was found in a Korean comic book, in an image of a rocket taking off, and is protected onto the image of a waterfall flowing down a mountainside. YOO is fascinated with such onomatopoeias, which he terms ‘echowords’, and with childish words and phrases. His artworks are at once poetic and quirky, expressing both sensitive nostalgia and a childish sense of humour.

The artist also plays with the variable meanings of words in different langueges. For instance in She~ (2002), the English letter, with their double meaning as a Korean word for urinating, are used to represent the image of a young nude boy. In I go (2005), the English phrase is painted in large strokes, while smaller letters fall down from the phrase, spelling out the same words in Korean in which it is a term of exclamation used to express frustration.