SON, Bu Nam
Since the early 90s, Son Bunam has diligently built up his art world under the theme of sangseng (相生 – mutual production/living/agreement), like an man seeking enlightenment via ascetic iteration. While contemporary artists are on a journey toward ‘what consists great work’, Son is one artist who has quietly walked a narrow path despite the rapidly changing times. Research of prehistoric art and traditional calligraphy have been ongoing as part of his world-building and make up a key trait of his expression of objects, flora and fauna as in planar form. Alongside the simplified human figures, the most frequently appearing birds, horses, lotus flowers and various animals and plants fill the screen. At times, the quadrants of the screen feature a technique of overlapping and stacking colorful drawings, and evokes a tactile-rich experience reminiscent of ancient petroglyphs.
Son Bunam finds texture inextricable as a property of painting, and has emphasized the sense of embossing and matiere, using crushed stone powder, binders, and acrylic paints. Son’s exploration of texture encountered an inflection point during the 2000s when he designed and built his workshop at the Jincheon Folk Craft Village. At his 2015 solo exhibition Soothe the Ruinedness at the Woomin Art Center, the artist breaks out of the canvas walls and turns to abandoned and found objects from construction sites. Son’s self-designed and self-built workshop pillar was timber from a dismantled Buddhist temple facing demolition. His guest-living room was built right next door.
His collection of antiquated and abandoned objects was brushed and polished with the artist’s careful hands and reintroduced into his workshop and garden. In that ritual, the artist discovered that the long-surviving objects of the past often had extraordinary textures, unbinding him from the confines of the canvas and allowing him to explore and play. He found himself no longer limited to layered swaths of paint on the canvas or crushed stones to apply irregularities and matere. The layers and texture became more metaphorical; from time embodied in abandoned objects. This newfound leeway away from the petroglyph style of work which had been the keynote to his work allowed a sort of reconciliation between his work and life. Even mundane objects collect time, and that time can imbue the object with value, and the function of that value is relationship. Sangseng is a reflection of this.
Recently, Son has been seeking to emancipate his past style of work – drawing upon the objects – to realize into a more plastic, sculptural form and completely liberated. The birds and human figures most frequent on his works will then be free to fly and walk in three-dimensions, by means of matiere textures, such as that from styrofoam and metals that the artist gathers from abandoned construction materials. When icon figures bound to the plane begin occupying spaces with distinct matere, spectators will witness an extraordinary sense of aesthetic not embodied in existing paintings. This change was possible because there is a well-developed world supporting it.
With eyes set on his works, we hope that his sculptural experiments rise up free and unbound, like the birds he lovingly draws.
Repost, the article of the artist, SON, Bunam, introduced in Public Art the issue of July 2020.
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