Seong Cho: Trails, Works on Paper – Review, Rose Niland

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Seong Cho, Trail XII, 2014-2015, woodblock, 42 x 81 cm, Trails Exhibition, Incinerator Art Space courtesy Artist

Seong Cho‘s powerful and definitive printmaking exhibition, which was hung at the Incinerator Art Space at Willoughby in Sydney recently, proudly connected her traditional Korean cultural heritage with abstract expressionism.

Although she has contentedly lived in Australia for twenty seven years a wistful yearning for her motherland imbues the artworks with a misty poignancy. However her work is first and foremost a tender exploration of memories observations and reflections.

According to Seong “the works present no physical time or space but is a transcendental image that portrays the intricate and complex ‘trails’ we leave behind, and before those to come, as we form relationships and try to find our sense of place in the world.”

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She stamps her printmaking with a very painterly quality that emanates from her confident placement of broad brush strokes.

The vibrancy of hot pink and sizzling marmalade orange contours sing in a chorus of lines that converges, somersaults and playfully attests to the dreams of youth in Trial XII.

The salmon stained background and warm coloured palette is touched with softness and delight in the joy of being feminine.

Dribbled paint forms the tears of struggles, while ovals roll, swerve and bounce pulsing with kinetic energy and the stirring memories of youth.

This woodblock print is an optimistic homage to the wonder of life and the jewels of the journey.

Her visual images are layered with meaning and express both physical and spiritual landscapes.

The topography and geographical features are abstract symbols embedded in a mediative tone that constructs a deep resonance in her print making media.

The sweeping strokes in Trail XXI have been painted with a thicker pigment to create textural gesturing that appears effortless and spontaneous.

The complex and ethereal qualities of whispers of wisdom and truth, and the murmurs of mystic enlightenment are explored in a sonata of black line, grey smudges and empty spaces.

The spirituality of her large four linked prints was palpable.

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Seong Cho, Trail XII (120 x 82 cm), courtesy Artist

The nonrepresentational style, woodblock print technique and Korean calligraphy inspired brush strokes of Seong Cho’s body of work gives her the freedom to convey her long and varied journeys.

She stains or colours the paper with dry pigments extracted from plants and flowers which is a meaningful part of her Korean ancestral practice.

The traditional oriental short hair brush technique with diluted wet pigment is used on imported high quality background papers, often handmade. Sometimes the background paper is dampened.

Seong repeatedly makes her own brushes for her printmaking, often collecting materials on her nature walks.

She scrapes out and separates fibres and then attaches a stick, already split to form a handle, with string. She uses scissors to cut and shape the brush end. This innovative and experimental method of brush construction adds to the originality and unique variation of her printmaking.

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Seong Cho: Trail III (detail) 72 x 156 cm, Incinerator Art Space, courtesy Artist

Underpinning her inventive preparation is a commitment to environmentally friendly practices. Natural grounded resources including water based inks and rice glue are materials she employs.

She manipulates very large hand-cut woodblocks and draws her images with broad expressive brush strokes. The lines follow her personal journey with a reverence for natural landscape and the power of contemplation.

Print making is a very important visual art genre and a new book Printed in Australia celebrates its place in the art world of 2016.

In the forward by Akky van Ogtrop (Art Historian/Curator, President of the Print Council of Australia) she writes.

“As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Print Council of Australia, 2016 is designated the ‘Year of Print,’ a special year, commemorating the history of printmaking in Australia since the 1960s. It is therefore a very opportune moment to celebrate the publication on innovative printmaking and printmakers.”

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Seong Cho, Trail XVII, 71 x 156 cm, Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, courtesy Artist

It is not surprising to find examples of Seong Cho’s fine print making techniques from the Trail series in this beautifully published book Printed in Australia.

Trail XI, a triptych wood block artwork, hand printed on Korean mulberry paper is featured in both the book and the current exhibition.

The fluidity of the curved routes that meander confidently across the three prints creates swirling rhythms. The threads of meditation are delicately etched across the landscapes releasing the exploration of memories and experiences.

The compositional integrity is complimented by colours and their shades. Blue, grey, charcoal, silver, salmon and black move in a tumultuous pattern and pensively linger on the mind’s eye.

Her sculptural background is reflected in much of her work and Trail I, where thirty wood block prints on mulberry paper are positioned as one artwork is structural, dramatic and curvaceous.

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Plate and Printing process, Seong Cho, Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, courtesy Artist

The lines are predominately strong black confident paths where the curves swim in a rhythm cascading waves forming arcs from exhilarating sections of Seong’s journey.

The balance of black on the pale background is assured and measured, perceptively balanced and rigorously executed.

Seong demonstrated the process of her print making in an animated and illuminating Artist Talk. Her warmth and lively sense of humour added sparkle and panache to a remarkable example of abstract print expressionism.

Seong’s philosophical and artistic practice exploded in an exhibition of printmaking that challenged the senses and rewarded contemplation.

Rose Niland, Special Features NSW, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

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