Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Void

Photographs by Bae Bien-U, a Korean artist and professor of photography at the Seoul Institute of the Arts

Sonamu 53.1x102.4 in. (135x260 cm) C-print mounted on plexiglass in artist's frame 2007

Sonamu 53.1x102.4 in. (135x260 cm) C-print mounted on plexiglass in artist's frame 2006

Orum 53.1x102.4 in. (135x260 cm) C-print mounted on plexiglass in artist's frame 2000

Bien-U participated in the show 'Void in Korean Art'
Below are bits from an essay in the show catalogue by Lee Joon

[...] The term 'void', often used in discussions of expressive methods in East Asian traditional painting refers to the unpainted, empty space beside the objects depicted. In East Asian painting, which traditionally placed more emphasis on inherent spirit in objects than on representing them, the void was often used to express not only profound spaces of nature, such as clouds, atmosphere and the ocean, but also worlds that are abridged, suggested and invisible. From the perspective of Western art, which explicates everything based on forms, the void of Asian painting may appear to a certain extent to be a lack of forms or a space of incompletion. In fact, it is difficult to find a term corresponding to the concept in the Western artist lexicon. 'Empty space', a negative element, implies absence of physical representation or is synonymous with 'blank space'. In the theory of East Asian painting, however, the void exists as a complete, legitimate part of a work of art, and, in a more active sense, an 'unpainted painting'. 
In this sense the void does not mean renunciation of the use of space but rather encouragement of space, absence-with-presence. This tradition of East Asian painting has been inherited and continued in various ways by contemporary artists, and this is because the 'void' is not merely an artistic problematic but instead reflects the philosophical and spiritual way of thinking unique to East Asian culture. [...]
The void in East Asian painting is the space that mediates between being and nothingness and also plays the role of accentuating being by being absent. From Lao Tsu's viewpoint, form in Asian painting is visible, thus 'full', while spirit is 'nothing as it is invisible. In other words, forms that are rendered with an intention may be deemed yang, whereas the space of non-form that is unpainted may be interpreted as yin. The visible and the invisible, yin and yang, do not belong to two irreconcilable categories, however; rather there are relationships of structural correspondence between the contrasting elements, allowing them to interpenetrate. The relationship of 'full' and 'nothing' as an aesthetic category does not stop at combining form and non-form, yin and yang, presence and absence, whole and part, and supports being with nothingness and contributes creatively to growth and transformation. 'The space between the sky and the earth is like a pair of fire-bellows - it is empty inside but generates the vital energy that gives birth to all things.' New meanings are generated in such a space of resonance connecting inside and outside, and the expansive meaning of emptiness operates in a landscape of differences. [...]
The space of emptiness and control is a space of communication, which draws the participation of viewers ... [and] invites viewers to experience how much the void can enable imaginative possibilites for creators and receivers. [...]

Extract from 'Void: Mapping the Invisible in Korean Art', in Void in Korean Art (Seoul: Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, 2007

I found this excerpt contained in 'The Sublime', a volume in the the Document of Contemporary Art series published by MIT Press and Whitechapel Gallery, 2010, 102-105.

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