Ancient Korean traditions reborn in the hands of a contemporary artist at Art Southampton.
JanKossen Contemporary, Switzerland Ξ An artist who seeks a balance trough his creative process is not such a rarity. One who achieves it with such consistency and beauty is. As Dr. Jasmin Kossenjans, Owner of JanKossen Contemporary in Basel, Switzerland tells us, this balance is something that the artist achieves through his beliefs, materials as well as process. In her words the artist, Suh Jeong Min, “collects the hopes and dreams of so many people …and as he adds each paper to the artwork he says a prayer of gratitude for letting him “borrow” their prayers.”
Suh Jeong Min creates his sculptural works with the help of a traditional Korean material called hanji (마지)- translated to mean literally the paper of Korea. This unique material is derived from the inner bark of the Mulberry tree that is found in abundance all over the country’s urban and country landscape. The tree’s pulp undergoes a lengthy treatment through which it becomes exceptionally resilient. So resilliant in fact, that over the centuries Korean craftsmen used hanji paper to create everything from minor decorative objects to large furniture pieces.
Each roll is glued and pressed to “return the paper to its original characteristics”. Suh Jeong Min then cuts these hanji rolls into necessary shapes and glues them to the frame. Many of the resulting artworks resemble cut wood compositions and it’s only a close and careful inspection that allows you to see its true material and dwell upon the duality of its existence.
From the gallery:
As a craft unique to Korea, hanji is considered integral to the culture, and so its use by artists can be considered an acknowledgment of this traditional craft, albeit in a distinctly non-craft way. Its use also shows how an aspect of culture long superseded by technological changes can continue in a transformation from the commonplace to the exceptional through an artist’s innovative methods.
In earlier works on paper Suh used graphite to build up geometric shapes in varying densities, and has retained this compositional device in the wall pieces. From afar, the overall geometry and patterns within them, made by the arrangement of lighter and darker paper units, give some of these works the appearance of an updated take on the mandala, a schematized representation of the cosmos through a configuration of geometric shapes, here without images of deities. In other pieces Suh arranges the paper units in subtle tonal shifts from light grey to grey-green or blue, or bright yellows and reds, making imagery that appears to hover just outside perception, like distant galaxies seen through a telescope, or fields of grain.
– Michael Anderson
Artwork images courtesy of the artist and JanKossen Contemporary, Switzerland.Podcast Transcript
Here we have a work from a Korean artist, Su Jung Min. He is based in Seoul. He is a Buddhist, and also a philosopher. He works with hanji paper, which is traditional paper usually found in Buddhist temples. He collects these prayers, which are normally burned in such temples, and he borrows them, so before they are actually burned, he collects the hopes and dreams of so many people. He makes his own [rice] glue. He individually glues these hanji papers and presses them with very strong stones till he has almost a wood-like structure.
When you look at the paper, you may think this is wood. But, actually its not. He is bringing the paper back to its origin – its wood-like texture and characteristics. And while he cuts and rolls them, he says a prayer of thanks, a Buddhist mantra if you like, because he is thanking all these people whose prayers were given to him for this work. He believes that once hung, these works will bless the home or bless the person once it finds its final resting place.
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