Work | Text | Biography | Contact
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
[7] [8] [9] [10] [11]
Of Being Inside a Drawing

It was the year 2002 when Seo crossed the intersection of Canal and Hudson Streets
in New York City . She was preoccupied with traversing a rectilinear street pitted
with potholes as she stated that most of her studio time was spent dreaming.
“Dreaming of what?”, her companion inquired. Without hesitation Seo declared, “Of
being inside a drawing” 1. The desire to enter one's own imagination is a manner of
forming reality. Subjective space can then be considered idealized form, not only
visionary and contemplative, but translatable into the architecture of real life.
In accordance with Henri Focillon's explanation of the world of forms, “Not only may
every activity be comprehended and defined to the extent that it assumes form and
inscribes its graph in space and time, but life itself, furthermore, is essentially
a creator of forms. Life is form and form is the modality of life.” 2 Seo conjured,
created and entered her first experiential drawing while in residence at The Marie
Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in a room-sized studio where she also lived and slept
for a year. Essentially she existed within a personally drawn subjectivity during
a turbulent time when lower Manhattan was ponderously clearing the rubble of the
decimated Twin Towers . She left America to return to her home in Asia and
subsequently, created a series of installations that has rendered drawing to be not
only a pictorial space, but an experiential and processionalspace as well.

Seo is an inherent designer of space whose perception of line is incessant.
To design is to delineate, to draw and to invent. “Space in Space in Space” created
for the Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art was a grandiose execution of
delineated space. It encompassed the viewer in an environment that was seemingly
architectural yet apparently implausible. Within the rectangular sanctuary of
“Space in Space in Space”, an anonymous army of vertical white lines surrounded
the viewer who realized that the only visual respites from such a predicament were
an orange wall, a blank window or a metallic ceiling grid. Seo had encased
perception and vision in a false architecture. In another gallery, murals of bold lines
created an implication of entrapment. Again, there was a perceptual predicament that
inquired if the lattice work of grey, black and white was functionally architectonic or
was a psychoanalytic study of perspective gone awry. It was neither, as the line
was merely generating forms and the creator of such forms empowered the viewer's
awareness of line as she proceeded through the museum's exhibition space.

The discursive nature of line is primarily determined by historical definitions and
usage.There is a logic to its procession through our lives. Line may be Euclidean,
cartographic or even digitized while being applied to whatever task is being
performed by individuals.Most often it is subtly directing the movement of bodies,
the reception of information and the relationship between the haptic and the optic.
Line is most importantly the lasso that tethers perspective to rationality. Without it,
consciousness would randomly undulate or freely float about in a paranoiac space of
infinity. “In Transit”, created for the Samsung Museum of Art, subjected perception
to a processional exercise while emphasizing line's allegiance to geometry.
Seo constructed an architectural illusion of a passageway When traversing the oddly
shaped site, the viewer was reminded of walking through an urban arcade which
pedestrians often use as a detour from the main thoroughfare. If Seo referenced
Walter Benjamin's love affair with the Paris Arcades, she undermined his discussion
of the flaneur, whose dwelling was the street, as her passageway was not meant to
be a theatrical abode, but was a preconceived virtual space for pedestrian self
contemplation 3. In fact, the procession through the passageway never lead the
viewer to any satiating view. At its end, was a wall drawing of a net-like form that
blocked further passage. “In Transit” was ultimately an experience of spatial navigation
through a pictorial two-dimensional plane.

Seo is being purposefully presumptive when she depicts line as form. She has been
formerly trained as a painter and her obsession with drawing reflects her pictorial
allegiance to an art historical lineage. Did not Durer, Michaelangelo and Ingres
qualify drawing to be the highest skill? And in the contemporary realm, Lewitt's
maddening simplification of form consistently dissolving into line has contributed to
Seo's pedagogical influence. Her 2007 visit to the Lewitt installations at Dia Beacon
NY was as a researcher to an archeological site. Seo explored the chambers of wall
drawings and did not speculate upon the metaphorical implications of the drawn
lines, but recognized the unique nature of each hand drawn line in comparison to its
overall awe-inspiring compositions. Those lines were indexical, conceptual
notations ofLewitt's theories, dutifully rendered by assistants and enthusiastically
read by Seo as language 4. His transference of lines to majestic wall proportions
often created the purely pictorial. Seo has also permitted her line to become
scenographic as seen in “Runway”, a permanent wall drawing project displayed at
the Youngeun Museum. For that commission, she created a visual labyrinth in a long
stairwell to interrupt the movement of space between an entrance and an exit. Seo
devised alternate routes for the mind to consider, by painting in tones of acid green,
various rooms that could never really be physically entered. Once again, a false
architecture, a processional space and an allusion to the virtual realm of dreaming
were manifested. Space ambulated through a passageway while cogitating upon
itself as form. Seo as creator of that form asked nothing of the viewer except for her
to follow, experience and contemplate.

“Perception is subjective”. This is statement No. 24 in Lewitt's revered Sentences on
Conceptual Art
5 . Being subjective is a tactical pastime for Seo. Being in reverie is
her passion. When the mind dreams, the relationship between aesthetic style and the
body's condition becomes transformative. In order to enter her drawing in 2002,
Seo made an aesthetic choice to cut into the large paper drawings that were already
covered with colored paint and geometric lines. She used a No. 24 surgical scalpel
to do so. It would seem that when the negative cutouts were removed, Seo found an
entry way into her own subjective terrain by dissecting line. And it is interesting to
note that when a line is dissected, a plane develops. By extending the plane,
dimension occurs and a picture plane appears. Seo peered through the cutouts,
stepped over the threshold created by perspective and carefully began reordering
the picture plane. She has liberated perspective from its traditional function and
servitude. And, she allows it to be seen as purely aesthetic form while celebrating
its historical attribute as the anchor of perception. Most importantly, by placing
subjectivity inside drawings, Seo reconditions others to recognize perspective as
being deeply personal thereby resurrecting a place for the self to be conscious.


Jeannette Louie

1 Conversation with artist in New York , 2002.
2 See Henri Focillon, The World of Forms in “The Life of Forms in Art”
    (New York: Zone Books, 1992)
3 See Susan Buck-Morss, “The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and
    the Arcades Project” (London: MIT Press, 1999)
4 Interview with Artist at Dia Beacon NY, 2007
5 See Art-Language ( England , 1969)