Park Seo-Bo

Park Seo-Bo, born 1931, is a South Korean painter. His most renowned series is the Ecriture series, which he began in the 1970s.

Park began his visual language in the 1950s, during the Korean Civil War. He said of this formative period: Just imagine, I had to do all the things that Dada did, plus what the post-war abstraction artists did - there are some things you cannot do anything about in life - but I guess it was just my fate.

In this period, Park turned toward abstraction. His work was shown in an exhibition titled Four Artists' Show in May 1956, including three fellow Korean artists. The avant-garde exhibition was in opposition to the old art order in Korea that had it roots in Japanese colonial times.

Park ceases to purchase normal canvasses, instead visiting the scrap shop of an East Gate flea market where he acquires a large piece of old tent canvas. His approach at this time involves the use of extra-pictorial materials, attaching pieces of used hemp cloth onto the canvas, cementing them, pasting copper or bronze powder, burning the surface with a torch lamp, and then corroding parts of it with chemicals. The result is a complex of material in greyish black, white and on some spots, shimmering red, appearing thus an undecipherable signature of a shaman.

Korean Republic journalist and critic Cheon Seung-Bok, describes Park's artistic approach as such: In a semantic sense, I must say that it is not entirely accurate to call his work painting, for he is a conscious action painter who tackles odd metal and chemical materials and little real paint, which is too expensive for him to use. Yet… it remains painting, just as differential calculus falls into the field of mathematics.

Of his Ecriture series, Park comments:

I painted nothing, my work was without form, there was no emphasis, no ins-and-outs, except for the pure vibration born of not doing anything – an action through non-action.[…] Anyone can draw lines, but my lines are the endemic phenomenon which takes place only in me. I feel and respond to the bouncy resistance of the canvas, then I am overcome by an impulse. In this way I am continually gravitated into the canvas. It is similar to cultivating a religious spirit... I begin from where there was no form, or no image – from that which is impossible to express.

His work is considered as influenced by various currents in western contemporary art, such as Informal Art, characterized by spontaneity or rapid unintended gesture. Informel Art (or its American cousin Abstract Expressionism) corresponded to a new search of freedom within art and rejection of all classic rules of organization and composition, following the traumatic events of that period. Such gestures could also be considered as linked to the psychological automatism dear to the surrealists. Park was careful to preserve his own language within Informal Art, noting that, “within the Paris art scene many people indiscriminately picked up abstraction”.

His work is also related to the Dansae-Khwa (monochrome) movement in Korea, addressing areas of oriental philosophy such as questions of existence and non-existence.