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NOH Sangho

Installation view_ARARIO GALLERY SEOUL 1F_01

ARARIO GALLERY SEOUL presents NOH Sangho’s (b. 1986) solo exhibition, entitled HOLY, from February 29 (Thu) to April 20 (Sat), 2024. The exhibition delves into the artist’s latest works, where he crafts a unique painterly realm using low-resolution images sourced from the internet. Featuring the artworks created in 2023 and 2024, the exhibition explores the artist’s interpretation of the awe or fear that arises when AI-generated images deviate from established norms, likening these moments to a form of mythical holiness. Through his art, NOH contemplates a shamanic identity that navigates the realms of digital and analog, celebrating the miraculous nature of scenes born from technical glitches. Occupying  the 1st, 3rd, and 4th floors of ARARIO GALLERY SEOUL, HOLY spans various mediums—including painting, sculpture, and video—to offer a comprehensive and varied exploration.

NOH Sangho, HOLY (2024), Acrylic on canvas, 116.8 x 91 cm

HOLY – The Age of AI-Generated Images, Ambivalent Emotions of Wonder and Fear

Working with the digital media environment as a core reference, NOH strives to respond simultaneously to the impacts of unfamiliar technologies. Beginning in 2021, he integrated 3D video production techniques into his practice and, in 2022, began to utilize results from AI image generation programs as a subject matter for his paintings. This indicates that shifts in his creative approach consistently coincide with the advent of new media technologies. Advancing beyond the conventional method of surfing the internet for images, the series HOLY (2022-) emerged from the intuitive selection of images produced by AI, drawing them onto the canvas.

NOH Sangho, HOLY (2024), Acrylic on canvas, 116.8 x 91 cm

HOLY series is the result of actively embracing the presence of AI, a newly emerged creative entity in today’s digital imagery. Since the majority of the materials AI uses for image creation are photos and movie stills floating online, the reconstructed images resemble the real world while completing more dramatic scenes. Currently commercialized AI image generation programs are trained to produce outcomes that look ‘realistic’, often resulting in robust scenes akin to photographs. However, due to the imperfections of technology, they also create bizarre images that slightly deviate from the logic of the real world, such as a deer with two heads, a person with six fingers, or a giant burning snowman. Thus, one faces images that depict unreal things in a realistic manner. NOH Sangho sees the wonder and horror presented by specific scenes created by AI through the lens of myth and religious holiness.

On the Borderline of Digital and Analog – With One Eye on the Virtual, and the Other on Reality

NOH Sangho, HOLY (2024), Acrylic on canvas, 300 x 300 cm

The HOLY series starts from a collection of images generated by artificial intelligence (AI), NOH frequently inputs his own existing artworks into an AI image generation program to prompt reinterpretation, rather than relying on textual prompts. This innovative method involves selecting particularly compelling images from the AI’s output and transposing them onto fresh canvases to create new paintings. A recurring motif in this series is the ‘burning snowman,’ an image originally conceived by the AI that has become emblematic of the collection’s overarching themes. This striking symbol, a large figure of a burning snowman, is repeatedly depicted, signifying the series’ core concepts. These enigmatic and fantastical visions, impossible to encounter in the tangible world, move from the realm of digital screens to achieve a renewed existence on the painted canvas.

NOH Sangho, HOLY (2024), 3D print, 35 x 25 x 25cm, Ed. 1/10

NOH Sangho describes his work as “analog painting with a digital screen always attached to it,” underscoring the importance of integrating digital elements while fundamentally cherishing the act of painting. For the production of the HOLY series, he employs an airbrush for the first time. This tool, known for spraying paint, is considered suitable for replicating the smooth, solid appearance of AI-generated images, offering a medium that accommodates intuition and chance unlike traditional brushes. His experimentation with oil, watercolor, and acrylic paints enriches the textures on the canvas. In certain works, plaster is used to add volume or create a rough texture, thus accentuating the tactile qualities of the materials. This method heightens the contrast between the sensation of digital images on a screen and the tangible experience of viewing actual paintings.

NOH Sangho, HOLY (2024), Acrylic on vintage wardrobe, water based paint on wood, fabric, candle, Approx. 225.5 (h) x 224 x 275 cm, Dimensions variable (Collaborated with KIM Donghee)

The HOLY series is reinterpreted in various formats, focusing on painting, and extending to sculptures produced with 3D printers, videos created using 3D animation software, and installation works. The installation piece presented on the 4th floor of ARARIO GALLERY SEOUL features a vintage wardrobe collected by the artist, which serves as the canvas for the artwork. After painting on it, the artist completes the piece by integrating various elements such as wooden structures, tapestry, and candles. The wardrobe is situated at an angle against a pillar within the exhibition space, giving the impression of elements bizarrely intertwined due to a technical error—a representation of the glitching phenomenon found in games. The overall work is intended to resemble a strange altar. It presents and visualizes within a physical space an example of the surreal events that occur in the digital virtual world.

85 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea 03058