Choi Byung-So — Œuvres sur papier
Œuvres sur papier
Past: September 24 → November 5, 2016
Thin sheets of metal or shreds of an unknown shining fabric? These graceful rectangles and volumes engage through their texture and lightness, and their capacity to capture light and reflect it. Add to it the elements that rhythm the works: regular folds, narrow slits in the surface or irregular “flakes” of the torn material. The printed letters in certain artworks reveal the true nature of the matter: simple paper-sheets from newspapers and magazines … One of the most everyday materials.
Starting from the concrete
Since the mid-seventies, as a reaction to press news distorted by the authoritarian regime at the time, South-Korean artist Choi Byung-So started crossing out contents of the press which conveyed untruths. He covered pages and their texts entirely or partially with a layer of ball pen followed by thousands of pencil strokes to the point of rupturing the paper’s fibers and tearing it partially in random places. Thus the paper and its content, as a kind of readymade, were transformed through this apparently simple yet immense work. The artist had found his own expression while leaving behind him, once and for all, his attempts with more traditional Fine Arts techniques (canvas, paint, drawing paper, ink) and abandoning forms and colors. Since then, Choi Byung-So traces and erases in a relentless repetitive process where each stroke becomes a visible trace of the being, of an existence where the modest and repetitive gesture of the individual joins an infinite, an eternity. This process can be explained by a double motivation: on the one hand the development of an artistic oeuvre in a totalitarian societal context where the simple fact of creating is an act of resistance; and on the other hand, the Buddhist philosophy in which the artist is rooted. Choi Byung-So evolves between materiality and immateriality: he metamorphoses, and transfigures everything while remaining attached to a substance that situates itself between two and three dimensionality. An installation during a previous exhibition is a good illustration of this issue: the artist had displayed a vase filled with flowers, and during the entire duration of the show he stayed in the space in order to, as soon as a faded flower fell on the ground, trace its contour on the floor. Thus, the life of the flower found a new form.
Dimensions and rhythm
Animated with the desire to bring rhythm and volume to his works, Choi Byung-So developed a folding practice inspired by a childhood experience: because of a lack of material during the Korean post-war years, certain school books were printed on newspapers and handed to the pupils on large unbound pages. In order to be able to read them like a book young Choi Byung-So meticulously folded the pages. The surfaces of the artist’s new works are rhythmed by diagonal incisions on the surface that open on a sheet of newspaper placed underneath. A subtle way to introduce a notion of strata and an opening to another signification.
Newspaper is, for Choi Byung-So, both a raw material and a medium to “cover-up” words and characters that refer to their ability to carry meaning. His work with the Anglo-Saxon magazines and newspapers TIME and THE TIMES, which leaves the titles visible, falls into this logic. Here, the artist plays with the visual aspect of the letters as well as with their signification: TIME rings like a reminder, or even a memento mori; THE TIMES suggest a temporality more spread out, or even a plurality of times and space times. In a series of lithographs with white letters on a black background, a work shows the word now, another the word where, to ultimately blend together in a nowhere or in a simple white vertical stroke suggesting a void. While aspiring to universality by using English, Cho Byung-So subtlety suggests the fluctuant dimension of time and space notions.
If the pencil stroke in Choi Byung-So’s pieces is indeed a simple stroke, this monotonous repetitive gesture has been used to compose a multifaceted and semantically rich body of work. Born in a specifically Korean philosophical and historical context, shared by a group of artists known today under the name “Dansaekwha”, it presents similarities, not least formal, with the Occidental movements of Minimalism and Support-Surface. But before anything else, one has to see the work of someone who is trying to show the true nature of existence with its contradictions through a relentless repetitive process with variations. Choi Byung-So’s works offer a universal statement, firstly about a certain monotony — concrete because of this repetition of gesture and color, and secondly about the fluctuant, even abstract dimension of our reality. The reality of each and every one, as reflected in the mirror-like vibrant surfaces of paper sheets and volumes filled with “covered-up” stories and signs.
Choi Byung-So (born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1943) is considered one of the pivotal figures of the Korean avant-garde whose works are now internationally celebrated, in particular since the presentation of the landmark exhibition Dansaekwa of Korea at the National contemporary art museum in Seoul in 2012. The Dansaekwa (Monochrome Painting) movement, also referred to by some people as Monotonous Painting — counts a small dozen of artists — to which the Domaine de Kerguéhennec dedicated a show for the first time in France this spring: Dansaekhwa, l’aventure du monochrome en Corée, des années 70 à nos jours (Dansaekhwa, the adventure of the Monochrome in Korea, from the seventies to the present day). The Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Etienne is currently presenting a solo show of the artist. Choi Byung-So’s work drew attention as early as in the seventies where it was presented in seminal exhibitions in Japan: 5 White Colors of 5 Korean artists (Tokyo Gallery, 1975) and Korea: A Facet of contemporary Art (Central Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1977).
The exhibition is organized with the kind collaboration of Phophorus & Carbon, P & C gallery, Daegu, Republic of Korea.
Opening Saturday, September 24 5 PM → 8 PM
48, rue de Turenne
T. 01 42 76 00 33 — F. 01 42 76 00 10
Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 7 PM
Other times by appointment