Roots of my art, Embracing May 18 Gwangju Spirit in Art



Artists are people who cannot and must not disregard contemporary reality and the land in which they are living. Especially Gwangju, is a special place. Any artist living here, including me, can not be exempted from the feeling of indebtedness to our epoch. We can not avoid the issues such as "artist consciousness," or "social function of art." They are like "military service", we should do it even if it is late. But, there are a lot of misunderstandings about Gwangju's sprit. We do not understand it as the reminiscence of May 1980. We are now well away from the harsh reality of the 1980s, therefore we should embrace Gwangju's spirit in a more mature way. Gwangju's spirit is "Anti-spirit." It is that of critical and mindful consciousness. In fine arts, it should converse at "Critical Function of Art." In art, Gwangju's spirit is not about a pop song of old days, but it should be a dense criticism about contemporary issues. In other words, art should consider the disfigurement of civilization and melt it in art pieces or create a high art which holds cultivated mind. Those qualities are required in Gwangju's art. There might be more work to do in our age of late capitalism than the politically turbulent period, because now the power of capital and popular culture reaches its extremity. Late capitalism has exercised its relentless power, commercializing even culture and art, numbing the thoughts of viewers and citizens. We should be cautious about the paralysis of the critical spirit of citizens. This function is required for high art, which differentiates itself from popular art. I, as a Gwangju artist, have been doing this kind of work(Art as Anti). My aim as an artist has been educating viewers to read and think. That work is currently, calling on or summoning important artists in the history of art.


Seo Kee-Moon



About Art and societ



In Reflecting on the Social Role of Art Once Again....

Earthquakes and tsunami have occurred worldwide and the explosion at the nuclear station takes away our remaining hope. Our beautiful mountains and rivers have been demolished and destroyed. The society is overflowing with irrationality and corruption. As a result, the pressure we get from the mechanism of unacceptable reality is considerable. Considering that a certain response is required even to me, an unknown artist, it seems that deformity and problems in our society and civilization and crossed the dangerous line. So the question "What is an artworker, artist?" has been lingering to me. What can art do for solving uncontrollable problems since it has no capability to give a piece of bread to the hungry? Sartre once deplored about art's helplessness saying "My can not weigh a piece of bread to hungry children in Africa". Ricardo reputed against him saying: "Bread can not be put on the same scale as literary works. Literature is not about providing bread to hungry children, but about making the fact that hungry children exist in this world a scandal. " And I also believe that art has a necessary role in our society although it can not make bread directly. " Indeed, art was just a technē’ in ancient Greece. As the history of civilization has progressed, it has been recognized that the technique of art is different from "a functional technique in everyday life" and it was not classified as art until the Renaissance comes. ‘Art’ was raised to the work of mind through aesthetics discussion in the 18th century and the pursuit and progress of modern aesthetics. That is, art has been confirmed its position as a mental activity and artistic works have been acknowledged as a structure of an action of mind. As our society moved from modern period to contemporary, we, as a social being, were preoccupied with treatment of human pain and sufferings by focusing on social roles and functions of art, criticizing the corruption of society, and giving consideration to its autonomy as a work of mind. The problem is what art is. The lofty concept and values of art which has been acquired through the long and difficult process in art history were lost among products of market. The original mission of art has been forgotten. Art has trusted everything to market principles although they reduce art into the object of an entertainment and a commodity. I think that ‘the idea that art has its own social role though it can not make bread itself’ and ‘the necessity of recovering its own standards and functions’ are correlated together. Maybe, everything has gone too far in the world to recover the spirit of art. However, because of the fact, recovering social role of art is more urgent than before. Though it is like beating your head against a brick wall, I would like to make my best effort to recover the social role and original function of art. Again, what is an artist? An artist is the one who looks and asks, the one who helps us to seek the truth, the one who criticizes problems, and reflects the nature of the problem. S/he awakens us from the paralysis and despair, and plants something in our dry heart. An artist should create and express the new imaginary world through mimesis, metaphor, allegory or parody rather than through clear assertion and words. That is the direction of the art I have pursued for. The canvas I have been pursuing for and dreaming of should contain "humanistic metaphor and criticism, but it should communicate with the audience through readable contents and lead them into deeper thoughts and reflections." This exhibition shows lots of characters involving art history or humanities. There are pieces of works which hold characters theme such as「Duchamp's Trial」or「Warhol's Arrest」, but there are also lots of characters who replace me. They are Spinoza, Marx Baudrillard and Dali in「Time Travel」. Not I but they were selected for enhancing the effect more in accordance with contents of the works. They play the role as the general point of view of an artist in my work as in a novel of an omniscient point of view.


Seo Kee-Moon



Seeks creative integration and harmony



Yesterday's art give way to today's and today's art give way to tomorrow's, deconstructed by each of their replacements. Contemporary art became obsessive with ‘something new.’ In painting as well, almost every possible endeavor has been made. All feasible experiments of two dimensions were brought up with including reversing, distorting, replacing objects and furthermore shredding, cutting and gluing. For some time I have been thinking about the ‘original’ objects, before they were distorted and harmed. Questioning began along. Are all those past things worthless? When art history goes back so long, those including the remarkable accomplishments of Representational art over the past 1,000 years, the beautiful experimental spirit of Modernism art over the past 100 years, and the sensual freshness of Pop art, would not these be the valuable foundation and asset of art, rather than something that should be discarded by tomorrow’s art? The new now needs to be one that can embrace the value that basis hold. In this sense my work accepts all those strengths of art history and seeks creative integration. Above all, I respect the foundation of academism. And I note the Impressionism. Impressionism is a critical watershed in the history of painting. It is the last point of representation and beginning of deformation. Moreover the achievement of the color theory (warm and cool colors) is unparalleled and definitely fascinating. If Pop art adopted these coloring principles, it would have enjoyed a greater success. I also get a lot of inspiration and ideas in the construction principle of Surrealism. Color-Field Abstract, the last stage of Modernism, is another important reference of my painting. Added to these, my paintings pursue the ‘harmony of form and content,’ and ‘balance of construction and expression,’ which are the fundamentals of classic art. If undue value is given to ‘expression,’ paintings become substance, and if it is given to ‘content,’ paintings become propaganda. I am rediscovering the essential rules in the classic art principles that allow me to avoid the risk of the collapse of art. Then, the form and expression in my paintings? Currently, I have applied and accepted in combination the foundation of academism, the color principle of impressionism, the construction techniques of surrealism, and the simplicity of the color field painting. The content? As for the content, First, I call out the figures among historic or contemporary people, who can raise a hearty issue. And if possible, I'm trying to put a warm questioning(problem posing ) and criticism, and hopeful humor on my paintings.


Seo Kee-Moon