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JH

Seung Yul Oh’s Inflatable Bubbles

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Seung Yul Oh, SOOM, 2014, commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2014, supported by the Chartwell Trust. Photo: Jennifer French   Seung Yul Oh, SOOM, 2014, commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2014, supported by the Chartwell Trust. Photo: Jennifer French   Seung Yul Oh, SOOM, 2014, commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2014, supported by the Chartwell Trust. Photo: Jennifer French   Seung Yul Oh, SOOM, 2014, commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2014, supported by the Chartwell Trust. Photo: Jennifer French

Because of their seams and smaller circles where the joins would normally converge, these whopper bubbles look like a saggy version of cut crystal or glass ornaments, or perhaps frog spawn. Of course they are bouncy and soft and highly reflective, capturing large curved sections of sky and trees around their edges, and - just as significantly - the complex diamond configurations of the very large fluorescent Jonathan Jones wall work in the inside atrium below.

Auckland

 

Seung Yul Oh
SOOM

 

29 November 2014 - 11 October 2015

Seung Yul Oh here explores one aspect of his art practice that is quite well known (via installation, video and performance) - that of exhaled or pumped air and inflatable components (such as balloons or sculptures). The show’s title is the Korean word for ‘breath’ and this presentation offers five configurations of large, often linked, bubbles made out of transparent PVC; it is as if they have suddenly floated down from the sky and settled on the Level Two terrace.

Coloured with a barely detectable purple tinge the fifteen large soft plastic spheres are kept inflated through two pumps and compressors, and held firmly in place with guy wires and discreet struts. Aligned to fit in the long axis of the rectangular terrace, one cluster leans out towards Kitchener Street, while another strains upwards to reach nearby oak trees that overhang from Albert Park. You can look through from each end, study the joined together eight-segmented globes that rest on mirrored circles attached to the terrace floor.

Because of their seams and smaller circles where the joins would normally converge, these whopper bubbles look like a saggy version of cut crystal or glass ornaments, or perhaps frog spawn or even Lancaster bomber gun-turrets. Of course they are bouncy and soft and highly reflective, capturing large curved sections of sky and trees around their edges, and - just as significantly - the complex diamond configurations of the very large fluorescent Jonathan Jones wall work (a Chartwell acquisition) in the inside atrium below.

The fact that this sculpture is almost colourless adds to its appeal as well. With its pale sky reflections and wobbly organic distortions it is certainly not invisible. Part of its success comes from Seung Yul Oh‘s shrewd exploitation of so much glass around this unroofed balcony. The site is copious in light and dramatic reflection, all piling in and bouncing off the enclosing architecture, while SOOM‘s curves echo the trees and provide a foil to the dominant Modernist, grid-based setting.

Standing on the terrace and looking through the foreshortened, overlapping spheres, one can detect a milky delicacy in the internal vortex of arabesque shapes and intricate but straining, bulbous perimeters. It is a very different work from the more claustrophobic Huggong shown at Starkwhite last year. This time the experience embraces the visual sensations provided outdoors - magnifies them instead of blocking them out, and ignores the staple features of any conventionally enclosed art-functional room. It is an airy celebration of natural light and reflection, a lovely meditative diurnal contrast to the electrical Light Show presented downstairs.

John Hurrell

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