When I ask Korean-born artist Seung Yul Oh if I can take a photo of him, I can see him retreating into his protective shell. He tells me that I can take a photo as long as he can remain ‘invisible’ in the picture. I am confused but I know what he means. I juggle my microphones in one hand and i-Phone in the other, as Seung ducks between his floating noodle installation, hiding between the long vertical strands of synthetic noodles.
I closely inspect his noodle installation; an array of exotic Korean dishes which span spicy, hot, cold and soupy varieties, but he emphasizes that it’s not about the food itself (because it isn’t real food) but the process and the outcome. He approached a professional food display manufacturer to recreate the noodle dishes, but the art is in the idea — that the noodles stretch and hang vertically in mid-air, suspended from horizontal chopsticks which stand at least 5.3ft off the ground. The idea was to create a ‘ghostly’ quality— the food is almost ‘in action’ but without the person present.
Seung has been one-to-watch ever since he graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts in 2005. He works across a number of mediums including; painting, installation, sculpture, video and performance. His creative approach is refreshing, inspiring and surprising–he’s even deep fried some of his paintings in the name of performance art!
He can’t tell me which is his favourite medium to work with because, ‘it depends on the idea.’ Whether it’s drawing, painting, or creating an object he likens the act of creativity to cooking—something he has to do on a daily basis. ‘You make food,taste it, next day [you] cook again.’
We move through the City Gallery to another room where deflated inflatables have yet to be installed. It’s a forest of yellow and white pillars and the audience are invited to walk through and explore. The room next door contains at least half a dozen Oddooki which stand around 4ft tall; a commissioned work for Te Papa Museum, they are representations of a toy that Seung had as a child. These egg-shaped birds rock and swivel and have a manufactured look to them. It took him a year to physically make them and three years for the entire project from beginning to end. ‘I wanted to learn the process,’ he says.
Seung lives and works between Seoul and Auckland and his solo exhibition MOAMOA: A DECADE is on at the City Gallery Wellington until 24 August, 2014.
Inspired by puffer fish, Seung was inspired to create balloons which explode and the reactions are part of the idea–that the knowledge of an exploding balloon will create response, surprise and anticipation.