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  • Provenance

    Sigong Gallery, Daegu
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Conflating the ethos of traditional Korean culture with the formal language of Minimalism, Écriture No. 96-75 represents a primary example from the mid-1970s underlining a crucial turning point in the esteemed career of pioneering Korean avant-garde artist, Park Seo-Bo. Thickly-drawn horizontal bands of dense oscillating lines rendered in pencil on an ivory background reduce the element of subjectivity within the present lot to the most miniscule point. Park repeats this process of painting and inscribing with pencil only until he is satisfied. Epitomized by the purely physical act of drawing, Écriture No. 96-75 references the disciplined practice of calligraphy yet showcases the ceaseless movement not as a means to represent a certain object or image, but rather as a strict record of the work’s conception. As a principal example of Park’s lifelong commitment to the impossible aim of deconstructing the “ego” and proclaiming non-purposefulness to attain complete liberation of the self, Écriture No. 96-75 offers a space for spiritual consolation and exultation. (Kim Bok-Young, “Korean monotone flat painting in 1970s-80s,” Age of Philosophy and Aesthetics, National Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002, pp. 42-44, reprinted in Pak So-bo and Taegu Misulgwan, Park Seo Bo, Daegu Art Museum, 2012.) Emitting a serene collected power with its subtle indefinable depth, the present lot showcases Park Seo-Bo’s distinctive practice within the greater context of the high-profile Dansaekhwa movement.

    Park Seo-Bo along with his fellow contemporaries including Lee Ufan (b. 1936) and Ha Chong Hyun (b. 1935) spearheaded the articulation of a uniquely Korean contemporary aesthetic defined as Dansaekhwa that emerged in the mid 1970s and has continued into the present day. Powerfully informed by the trauma and cultural erasure attendant on the brutal war years, Dansaekhwa developed out of a need to reconcile traditional Korean art of the past with the spiritual demands of the present. Écriture No. 96-75 embodies the essence of Dansaekhwa through the work’s exemplification of the movement’s tendency towards large-scale monochrome-style painting portraying the artist’s untiring search for neutrality and spiritual transcendence. Despite comparisons to the work of Minimalist heavyweights including Richard Serra, Robert Mangold, and Agnes Martin, Dansaekhwa “is devoted to the process of repetition and specificity of material based on meditative nature, which is the opposite of Western Minimalism and monochrome’s rationality and logic.” (Yoon Jin-sup quoted by Kwon Mee-Yoo, “Dansaekhwa on the Rise, The Korea Times, August 10, 2015.) Écriture No. 96-75 does not merely portray Park’s innovative forays into monochromatic forms on canvas, but this key work also showcases the artist’s refined meditations coinciding with the tenets of Daoism.

    In the late 1960s, Park engaged deeply with the writings of Laozi and Zhuang Zhou, a spiritual awakening that not only completely altered Park’s outlook on life but also became the philosophical backbone for his seminal Écriture series. “When I am aimlessly and endlessly repeat drawing these lines, I realize that I am emptying myself in a similar way as a monk who chants and beats on his moktak (a wooden percussion instrument). I believe this is the right way for me to approach art, as a Korean who believes the Eastern philosophy that human and nature is one.” (Park Seo-Bo in conversation with Suh Sang-Sook, “Destruction is Always the Premise for New Order,” Chungcheong Daily News, May 31, 1986, reprinted in Soon Chun Cho, Oh Kwang-Soo, Joseph, ed., Park Seo-Bo, Paris, 2016.) While individuality was the underlying premise of his earliest work created in the wake of the war, Park began to doubt this so-called “individuality” and its meaning within creative work, and thus fully re-directed his efforts towards shedding the baggage of self-expression through non-image and non-expressive art-making as illustrated in the present lot. Soukyoun Lee writes, “for Park, ‘painting’ is ‘erasing’; on the contrary, ‘erasing’ is again ‘painting’. The acts of painting the painting, or erasing the painting, filling and emptying came to be Park’s life.” (Soukyoun Lee, “Opening the Park Seo Bo Exhibition,” Pak So-bo and Taegu Misulgwan, Park Seo Bo, Daegu Art Museum, 2012.)

    Park is one of the key Korean artists who has achieved critical acclaim and has been a focal point of the conversation about Korean art since the 1950s. Now more than ever, there has been significant interest in the work of Park Seo-Bo and that of the Dansaekhwa movement as a whole propelled by several recent international exhibitions centred on both the artist and group.

Property of an Asian Collector

Ο21

Écriture No.96-75

1975
signed, titled and dated 'PARK SEO-BO "ÉCRITURE No. 96-75" 1975 [in Hanja and French]' on the reverse
pencil and oil on canvas
129.3 x 161.2 cm. (50 7/8 x 63 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1975.

Estimate
HK$6,500,000 - 8,500,000 
€729,000-954,000
$833,000-1,090,000

Sold for HK$7,060,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018