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Seung Yul Oh’s Starkwhite Installation

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Seung Yul Oh's Huggong at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Seung Yul Oh's Huggong at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Seung Yul Oh's Huggong at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Seung Yul Oh's Huggong at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett Seung Yul Oh's Huggong at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett

These swollen translucent balloons transform the room, hiding most of the floor and ceiling. You don't suffer claustrophobia as there is sufficient room to stand back and study the bulging forms. Their resemblance to pellucid viscera makes an amusing connection to Seung Yul Oh's early cartoonlike paintings where fat zepplinlike intestines often featured.

Auckland


Seung Yul Oh
Huggong


23 October - 17 November 2012

This is an unusual installation at Starkwhite. Two very large balloons, one of them huge, dominate the downstairs gallery. One monstrously large, squat yellow inflatable is jammed between two columns that bifurcate the space, and a much smaller red sphere squeezed between the yellow balloon and the staircase, going underneath the latter. To get through to the staircase and back office you have to walk through a narrow gap next to the righthand wall, as it is completely blocked off on the left.

These pneumatic objects suggest human body parts, giant versions of wobbly buttocks, protruding breasts, knee caps, bulbous chins or inflamed noses. Such squishy corporeal images seem to allude to copious novels (written by say, Jonathan Swift or Philip Roth), poems (Roger McGough), and films (Woody Allen, Frederico Fellini).

These swollen translucent balloons transform the gallery, hiding most of the floor and ceiling. You don’t suffer claustrophobia as there is sufficient room to stand back and study the bulging forms. Their resemblance to pellucid viscera makes an amusing connection to Seung Yul Oh’s early cartoonlike paintings where fat zepplinlike intestines often featured.

These forms also have seams where overlapping sections have been glued. The lines look like thin curved girders that hint at a flexible skeletal structure within each balloon.

As you climb the stairs and look down from the landing, you notice reflections of the white columns on the glossy rubbery surfaces or colours bouncing off various walls the material is butted against: delicate lemon glows and faint blushes. Then there is the smell of the rubber, penetrating the single corridor left to walk through.

To judge the size of these balloons in order to fill the space, but not over or underfill it, is an achievement. It must be difficult to assess, to assess the scale needed accurately. The rubber stretches and air slowly leaks out and has to be regularly replaced.

Next to the downstairs office is also presented a video of bursting balloons and redfaced, sheepish ‘blowers’, recorded from Seung Yul Oh’s performance presented during Natasha Conland’s AAG show Made Active, where people blew up balloons until they exploded in front of them. That noisy work carried on during the opening night of this Starkwhite exhibition, the filming of participants continuing in the office, the coloured rubber scraps left discarded on the floor.

The cracking noise sounds like gunshots, and travels faster upstairs than to the front door by the big windows. It takes some getting used to. In fact it’s scary. A foil to the big bum with its crack jammed against the front column, or whopper wet nurse tits pointing in opposite directions. That absurdity by the door seems comparatively comforting. Destined to save us from the cordite cacophony.

John Hurrell

 

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