Sunday, February 10, 2024

Where Clouds Disperse

When artist Suh Se-ok, in his 70s, introduced his exhibit to a group assembled at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston he spoke softly. Suh Se-ok also paints with a large brush. In fact the bamboo brush he wields in a video seen as part of the Where Clouds Disperse exhibit is nearly four feet long, and the bristles laced at the top are bound lamb hair.
Large mulberry or rice paper panels painted by Suh Se-ok in a calligraphy style surround the viewer both as serious art and as a kind of representation of abstract figures. The video shows him in his studio itself a work of art, a country house with many windows for sun and surrounded by trees and brush for solace of the soul.
The exhibit “continues the museum’s initiative to bring emphasis to Asian art,” remarks MFAH director Peter Marzio. In fact last December the MFAH opened a Korean gallery in the museum’s Law Building that houses artifacts from Neolithic ceramics to Buddhist art from the Three Kingdoms period. Marzio points out that Korean art is more expensive than comparable Asian pieces from the same era in Japan or China because there is less of it. Whenever Korea was invaded throughout history the conquerors would sublimate the Korean culture.
There is a “thunder when the artist puts his brush to the canvas” concurs museum curator of prints and drawings Barry Walker about the various images of Suh Se-ok. Many of the works bear the same name; no less than 23 are titled People. Then there’s Two People and the signature piece Where Clouds Disperse where the brush strokes seem to move in from the edges to the clear void of the middle. An X may be a stroke of ink but more likely it is a person as indicated by hints of irregularity in the form of the crossed stroked. Maybe it is even us looking back at our own image.


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