Hong Sungchul uses various media and modern technology to prompt interaction and performance from his viewers. Communicating the deep desire for human contact within society, his works never fully reveal themselves initially and exude a ghostly quality whereby the visual sense is questioned. The viewer must abandon reliance on their eyes alone and use their bodies and voices to prompt cooperation with the work.
The artist has developed a wide-ranging body of work in various media incorporating modern technology: interactive video projections, performances, sculptures and installations. This exhibition brings together Hong’s most recent works from an ongoing investigation of the ontological anxiety inherent in our contemporary lives.
The focal point of Hong’s oeuvre is the tension originating from the ontological incompleteness inevitable in our lives. However, as in yin yang of Asian philosophy, the destructive force derived from this tension and anxiety creates a complementary impetus in life. His most widely known String series consists of images printed on elastic strings most commonly depicting human body parts – mainly hands. Hong believes that the hands rather than the eyes forge a gateway to our relationship with the outer world, ultimately symbolising the essence of each individual human being. Evocative of Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’, his paintings portray the struggle against isolation, its ensuing pain and the constant existential search for the meaning of being. Endlessly tangled beads and threads firmly seized by the anonymous hands is perhaps the artist’s yearning, prayer or will to search for the meaning of life, in the midst of a digital culture that perpetuates the triumph of the image over substance and banishes real human engagement to the fringes of social interaction.
The individual strings are printed upon and placed in regular intervals to create an optical illusion further developing the concept touched upon by both Optical and Kinetic Art alluring the viewers to interact and perceive. Merleau-Ponty notes that:
“Experience is not arrayed before me as if I were God, it is lived by me from a certain point of view; I am not the spectator, I am involved, and it is my involvement in a point of view which makes possible both the finiteness of my perception and its opening out upon the complete world as a horizon of every perception.”
Hong seduces audiences to build sensorial and physical relationships with the artworks encouraging individual perceptual cognitive process, allowing the viewers to form their own reality from their own unique experience. Thus, the hands in the painting become your hands, my hands and Adam’s hands, as they were first touched by God.
Prints on elastic strings in a steel frame
Works by Hong Sungchul (b. 1969) and Park Seungmo (b. 1969) whose works focus on the anxiety derived from the evanescent contemporary lives.
Hong Sungchul’s practice focuses on the anxiety and tension originating from the ontological incompleteness of being. By developing wide range of works in various interactive media, he brings attention to the deformity in the communication in the current ‘society of the spectacle’ – a society where human relations are no longer ‘directly experience,’ but blurred in their ‘spectacular’ representation as G. Debord and N. Bourriaud notes – questioning the existence. Hong uses artwork as a form to generate relationship and reanimate communication by continuous interactive portrayal of the desolated individuals in the virtual world.
In Perceptual Mirror series, each solar LCD units unsystematically blinks in reaction to the movement of the light energy. Like pixelate beings in the society constructed of images, each idiosyncratic units fickers ardently and forms temporal images that perhaps represent the existential anxiety of individuals amongst the prevalent reification and alienation of capitalist society. In String series, two-dimensional images printed on the elastic string create illusionistic three-dimensional fleeting imagerys of the fragmented body parts suspended in time and space like manipulated and fabricated images disconnected from the reality.
Uniquely, Hong’s works simultaneously display his willfullness to adapt into this spectacular society, which is evidently shown from his assiduous engagement with high technology and media as pivotal instruments for his myriad styles of interactive objects. He deliberately brings us to the awareness of the illusion of an interactive democracy in truncated channels of communication, and strives to revive lost passages of communication within the context of contemporary society. To the artist, the interactivity is the highway to approach such possibility as Bourriaud mentioned that ‘art is a state of encounter,’ producing a specific sociability.
Park Seungmo’s works fundamentally derive from the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, which seeks a consciousless determination to be enlightened with the true nature of identity. A common Buddhist quote, ‘we can see the universe as it is and our true nature when delusion and defilements disappear’ finds a physical form in the hands of Park. They are a product of a search for self, contentment and existence. For years he experimented with aluminium wires to develop an artistic and religious practice to pose the question of identity to himself, the audience and the object, from where the initial stage of meditation by Zen practitioners begins.
The neutrality and impersonal nature of aluminium wires distance the familiar figure and object from the viewer. By depriving the subjects of their functionality and individuality Park question them of their existence and significance. Furthermore, his ephemeral portraits of Maya (환, 幻) – meaning illusion in Sanskrit – created by snipping layers of wire mesh comments on the transient nature of being. His labour-intensive process coincides with the religious fulfillment of the selfless state that begins with emptying out of himself.
Hong Sungchul (b. 1969) lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. He received M.F.A in Integrated Media at California Institute of the Arts and M.F.A and B.F.A in Sculpture at Hongik University, Seoul. His works has been exhibited at international galleries including Saatchi Gallery London, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Seoul Museum of Art, Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Seasons Gallery Beijing, Galerie Orem Paris, Erhard Witzel Gallery Wiesbaden among others.
Park Seungmo (b. 1969) lives and works in Seoul and New York. He received BFA at Dong-A University, Busan. He has exhibited widely including Geonggi Museum of Art, Pohang City Museum, Seoul Art Center, Insa Art Center Seoul, Lotte Gallery Busan, Museum of Arts and Design New York, Saatchi Gallery London, Fairmont Bar Al Bahr Abu Dhabi, Blank Space Gallery New York, Kips Gallery New York, Ever Harvest Art Galery Taipei among others.