Lot 613
  • 613

Park Seobo

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD
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  • Ecriture No. 222-85
  • pencil and oil on canvas
signed and titled in Hanja and English and dated 1985 on the reverse


Private Asian Collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Korea, Seoul, Seoul Press Center Gallery; France, Paris, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Expositon SEOUL-PARIS, 1986


This work is generally in very good condition. There is a very minor stain near the lower left corner. There is also a pinpoint intrusion to the reverse of the mid-bottom edge which can be removed. Fine patches of hairline craquelures, only visible upon close inspection, are noted around the top right corner of the work and along the lower edge. When examined 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

White: The Breath of Life

Ecriture No. 222-85 (Lot 613) is paradigmatic of Park Seobo’s 1980s works—a period in which the pioneering leader of Dansaekhwa achieved an apex of transcendental sublimity in his iconic Ecriture series. Rustic yet celestial, the painting exhibits masterful calligraphic spirals that leap and curl with a looser density than his 70s works, exhibiting heightened dexterity and freedom in both mind and brush. Park first applies white paint on the canvas and incises spiral helixes on its still wet surface; afterwards he re-paints the surface and repeats the process of scoring and effacing. The recurrent action is executed with a deeply meditative, hyper-disciplined and relentlessly ruthless rhythm, evidencing a rigorous engagement with paint and canvas on both a spiritual and physical level. The result is an exalted spectacle of elegance and labour: one that establishes a consummate balance between writing and painting, the abstract and calligraphic, and the conceptual and aesthetic.

Further epitomising Dansaekhwa’s spiritual grounding is Park’s choice of humble off-white pigment—a colour (or non-colour) central to Dansaekhwa as well as Korean identity and Korean culture. In the catalogue preface for the seminal Dansaekhwa exhibition “Five Korean Artists, Five Kinds of White” in Tokyo in 1975, the critic Lee Yil explains: "Before it is the color white (baeksaek), it is a universe that we call baek".1 Dansaekhwa artists forged a unique approach to painting that transcended the concept of color, striving instead to evoke and embody a spirit of the cosmos; Park’s works accordingly reflect decades of exploring the role of artist as a channel through which energy (qi) can manifest. Park himself writes: “I feel and reciprocate the resistance of the bouncy canvas […]. It is similar to cultivating the religious spirit […]. I started from where there was no form, or no image; where it was impossible to express”.2

Hailed as the vanguard of Dansaekhwa in the 1970s, Park was Vice Chairman (1970-1977) and Chairman (1977-1980) of the International Division of the Korea Fine Art Association and oversaw the presentation of Korean artists in overseas exhibitions. Park was instrumental in launching Dansaekhwa into the global limelight, instituting numerous large-scale experimental exhibitions that set the stage for Dansaekhwa artists to participate in prominent international art festivals. The current lot was created near a critical milestone in Park’s career: he became the revered Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Hongik University, Seoul in 1986. Park went on to represent Korea at the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988, marking the artist’s indisputable ascension into international prominence.

[1] Oh Kwang-Su, “Dansaekhwa and Korean Contemporary Art”, in Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome Painting, conference proceedings, 2012, p. 21

[2] Kate Lim, Park Seo-Bo: from Avant-Garde to Ecriture, Books Actually, Singapore, 2014, p. 159

Artist Biography

Park Seobo (b. 1931, South Korea) studied at the Hongik University in Seoul and graduated in 1954. The artist went to Paris in 1961 and stayed for over a year; during this time his artistic approach changed significantly and ultimately resulted in him exiting the Art Informel scene to formulate and develop his Primordialis series. In 1963 Park exhibited at the 3rd Biennale de Paris and in 1965 as well as 1975 at the 8th and 13th Biennale de Sao Paulo, Brazil; and in 1988 secured his global prominence by participating at the 43rd Venice Biennale. Most famous for his sensational Ecriture series which the artist began in the early 1970s, Park is also hailed as one of the most influential leaders and promoters of Korean Dansaekhwa. Numerous solo exhibitions have been across the world, including notable museum retrospectives such as “Park, Seo-Bo, a Forerunner of Korean Avant-garde: Record his 60 Years” at Busan Metropolitan Art Museum, Busan, 2010-2011 and “PARK, SEO-BO’S PAINTING: ITS FORTY YEARS” at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul. The artist founded the Seo-Bo Art and Cultural Foundation, Seoul in 1994 and remains its president.