Lot 1083
  • 1083

Park Seobo

1,600,000 - 2,600,000 HKD
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  • Écriture No. 9 - 74
  • pencil and oil on canvas
signed and titled in Hanja and English, and dated May, 1974 on the reverse, framed


Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Tokyo
Private Japanese Collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Japan, Tokyo, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Five Korean Artists, Five Kinds of White 6-24, May, 1975


This work is generally in good condition. There is minor paint loss in the upper centre and along the right edge, and a scratch measuring approximately 5 cm on the bottom edge. There are minor wear in handling marks around the edges. There are strips of lighter coloured areas where paint has aged slower than the rest of the canvas, around the edges and on two vertical strips near the centre of the canvas. Having examined the work under ultraviolet light, there appears to be no evidence of restoration.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Between the Material and Tactile
Park Seobo

Ecriture, being the singular preoccupation of Park Seobo’s entire career, has not only gained him global recognition, but also showcased the significance of the Tansaekhwa movement in the wider discourse of modern monochrome painting. This international exposure has translated into Park's being chosen to represent Tansaekhwa in the prestigious Venice Biennale this year, as part of a Tansaekhwa exhibition that gathered the art movement's most pioneering names, such as Chung Sanghwa and Lee Ufan.

French for "Writing", Ecriture is a befitting name for a body of works that combine writing and painting. By naming the series as such, Park articulates his position as the modernised calligrapher-cum-abstract-artist. In this series, the artist uses pencil to repeatedly draw patterns onto the still-wet white surface of the canvas.  Positioned somewhere between art forms, the Ecriture series conflates various paradigms: of writing and drawing; of calligraphy and oil-painting. Somehow, the opposing forms and lines are reined in to become one on Park's canvases, bound by the artist's identity as both calligrapher and painter. Through this, Park uncovers the founding pillars of his art.

The most important aspect of Ecriture No. 9 – 74 (Lot 1083) is its relation to Tansaekhwa. Literally meaning "monochrome art", Tansaekhwa was born out of a post-war, post-colonial Korea that was adamant to solidify its cultural identity. Tansaekhwa artists were sensitive to their international contemporaries, including the Informel movement in Europe. Others have compared Park’s works and Franz Kline’s, where there is a stylistic parallel between the highly calligraphic pieces, in particular Chief (1950), and the Ecriture series. Though all such similarities loom large, there is great variance in their execution, where the Park’s work exudes more serenity and harmony versus Kline’s more bold and aggressive approach, thus separating the two artists. Unlike Tansaekhwa, Kline’s work reflects his spontaneous impulses, a much more “Western” approach in the post-war era, rather than exploring themes of identity building and renewal. The Korean Tansaekhwa is a stylistic endeavour that stresses the physical nature of materials and artworks, and seeks to establish itself between tradition and modernity, while at the same time espousing an aesthetic that is in its essence, Korean.

Considered by many to be a figurehead of the Tansaekhwa movement, Park Seobo is indisputably entwined with that of contemporary Korean abstract art. Park has dedicated more than fifty years to his art and the exploration of a mode that is equally ground-breaking as it is quintessentially Korean. Park's works have been exhibited globally at many prestigious museums and galleries, including the Musée d'Art Modern in France. This is but a clear indication of his vast recognition and the depth of his influence in contemporary Asian art. On offer in the present sale is an early work from Park Seobo's artistic career, Ecriture No. 9 – 74 from 1974, a piece that stems from the series of the same name. Such an early piece serves as an exemplary remnant of the prominent series, and is a rarity not to be neglected.   

Park Seobo's highly calligraphic Ecriture series is one that finds the middle-ground between many different planes, a characteristic that is immediately perceivable in Ecriture No. 9 – 74. On the one hand, it negotiates between what is considered "Eastern" and "Western" media in Korean artistic discourse: whereas the former, ink, is considered traditional and aesthetically "Eastern", the latter, more "foreign" medium is oil. In this way, Ecriture No. 9 – 74 is an unequivocal representation of the oft-used phrase "East-meets-West", as Park utilises oil whilst conveying all aspects of Tansaekhwa. The effect of the Ecriture works are reminiscent of both Hanji (traditional Korean paper), as well as canvas; further accentuating Park's ability to morph between styles. Its colour palette too is situated between tradition and modernity. Evoking porcelain from the Choson dynasty (1392 - 1910), which was an off-white colour (hi kumuri), Park's pieces mix black and white in an attempt to modernise tradition.

Park's talent was recognised early on in his artistic career. He participated in the UNESCO International Young Painters exhibition in 1961. The most paramount international exposure Park received, however, was in 1975, when he was amongst only five artists invited to exhibit their works at "Five Korean Artists: Five Kinds of White" at the Tokyo Gallery, a gallery that is notably associated with the best of contemporary Asian art. The show is considered the first official international exhibition of Tansaekhwa artists, and is regarded as an official inauguration and recognition of their stylistic achievements—to have participated in this show undoubtedly emphasises Park’s prominence. Created the year leading up to this pioneering show, Ecriture No. 9 -74 is an art-historically important work, as well as an exceptionally early example of a style and technique that would remain synonymous with the artist’s oeuvre.

As the vanguard of Tansaekhwa, Park Seobo sought to conjoin conceptuality with physicality. Placing his canvases on the floor, the artist first coated the surfaces with white pigments, repeated the same motions in pencil throughout the works. The strict lineal reproductions, erasing the distinctions between paint and pencil, mirror the amalgamation of artist and artwork, where Park and the materials fuse into one. Such a seamless union is at the heart of Tansaekhwa, where creativity and creator are one, and can be fully grasped in Ecriture No. 9 – 74. Considering its early date, the piece is an example of not only the early blueprints of an artist’s oeuvre, but of the entire development of Avant Garde Asian abstraction.