Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Park Seo-Bo
B. 1931
signed, titled, dated 1985 and variously inscribed in English, Chinese and Korean characters on the reverse
oil on cotton
150 by 75 cm. 59 by 29 1/2 in.
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Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Busan, Gallery Kongkan, Park Seo-Bo, December 1991

Busan, Gallery World, Park Seo-Bo: Ecriture 1974-1986, September 1999

Los Angeles, Blum & Poe, Dansaekhwa and Minimalism, January - March 2016

Catalogue Note

Exuding an exceptional sense of movement that is emphasised by a serene, monochrome colour palette, Ecriture No. 201-85 is a masterful example from Park Seo-Bo’s eponymous series. Spanning more than four decades, the highly influential Ecriture series stands at the very forefront of Korea’s leading post-war avant-garde movement Dansaekhwa, which translates into English as ‘monochrome painting’. By fusing writing with drawing, calligraphy with painting, and abstraction with figuration, Park Seo-Bo not only created a highly poetic aesthetic but intuitively merged the traditions of East and West. Nowhere is this more visible than in his distinctively purist works from the 1970s and 1980s, which form the core of the artist’s oeuvre and are today included in leading museum collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Art Institute, Chicago; and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.

The early works from the Ecriture series, which translates from French as ‘Writing’, comprise a series of line drawings in which pencil or wooden sticks are dragged through wet oil paint in a lyrical manner. In the present work, a regular grid of lines promotes a meditative sense of calm that is accentuated by its endless and rhythmic repetition. The dynamic and expressive brushstrokes pencilled into the wet paint create a vivid texture and through the mixture of pigment delicate colour nuances are revealed. While the long, elongated lines are reminiscent of Eastern calligraphy, the ‘writing’ ultimately becomes illegible and merges into an abstract idiom dominated by the flowing line of the energetic brushstroke. Aesthetically, Park Seo-Bo’s paintings from this period announce a subjective and emotive expressivity that reveals the artist’s self-discipline and psychological leanings; conceptually, the artist’s engagement with writing and the endless reverberation of the line embraces a cerebral and minimalistic rationality that is reminiscent of the graphic scribbles of artists such as Cy Twombly. Similar to Twombly’s famous series of Blackboard paintings, the free-floating movement of the artist’s hand achieves a dreamily abstract form that transposes the spheres of language and writing into metaphysical space. Reflecting on Park Seo-Bo’s paintings from this defining period, writer Soon Chun Cho ascertains, “by moving beyond image and expression, and focusing on the gesture, he learned to control himself and his surroundings. More importantly, he learned how to extend himself onto his canvas and become one with his work" (Soon Chun Co, ‘L'Art Informel and Park Seo-Bo's Early Career’, in: Soon Chun Cho and Barbara Bloemink, Empty the Mind: The Art of Park Seo-Bo, New York 2009, p. 20).

Situated at a turning point in Korea’s post-war, post-colonial landscape, the Dansaekhwa artists around Park Seo-Bo sought to redefine the country’s cultural identity. Whilst the West experienced the ascension of gestural abstraction in the form of Abstract Expressionism in the US and its counterpart movement of Art Informel in Europe, Dansaekhwa artists independently developed a painterly language that would emphasise the physical nature of material and artwork. In particular the early works from the 1970s onwards, which were primarily conceived in neutral hues of white and earthy tones, aesthetically relate to Western Minimalists such as Robert Ryman and Robert Rauschenberg’s early White Paintings. However, by merging traditional painterly media with a poetic abstract style that is characteristically Korean, the Dansaekhwa artists and in particular Park Seo-Bo’s Ecriture series created meditative works of transcendental power that relate to traditional eastern sensibilities and the idea of the void and emptiness. In a conflation of conceptual rigour and meditative mark-making, Ecriture No. 201-85 is a vanguard example of Park Seo-Bo’s radical oeuvre and Dansaekhwa’s quest to redefine abstraction within modern-day painting.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction