Bahk Seon Ghi

Endless Enumeration in Space

26.8.2011 - 22.10.2011


Korean artist Bahk Seon Ghi creates sculptures from pieces of charcoal suspended from nylon filaments, everyday objects or simple geometric shapes based on sketches made in an apparently architectural approach.


Bahk fascinates his viewers with his large, site-specific installations. He has created tables, stairs, circles and picture frames, from which some pieces of charcoal seem to escape. The focus of this exhibition is on oversized drops of water falling to the ground; they are naturalistically distorted according to the physical law of gravity. The artist re-interprets mundane objects, presenting them to us in a context disassociated from their real environment. Apparently floating in a play of light and space, his installations embody the relationship between humans and nature.

Charcoal, Bahk's favourite material, is deeply rooted in the traditions of his home country, where it is used in daily purification rituals. Moreover, echoing the traditional function of warding off evil spirits, garlands with charcoal are hung across doorways to announce the birth of a child.

Bahk has been interested in the materialness of charcoal since his early days as an artist. He endows the medium with a deep meaning to symbolise both permancence and transience, and to illustrate the cycle of life. The artist says of his favourite medium, "The tree in nature has been a closest friend and companion of human beings. Long time ago, the tree was a symbol of woods and … of rich nature. … Nature dies but is born again. It is reborn in a form of small black charcoal, another form of existence of a tree.” But Bahk goes even further, urging us to treat our environment with care: “I tried to present a form paradoxically with charcoal as an end of nature. I hope that this modest and civic attempt leads you to see the importance of rebirth or recycling.”


His sculptures illustrate the intimate connections between becoming, being and decay. Like the vanitas theme of classical art history, the burnt organic matter reminds us of death – and of life after death. It is only with this focus on transience that we can begin to consider permanence. In this regard, we are reminded of the blank spaces in Korean ink paintings of water and mountains.


Bahk's de-contextualisation and magnification of objects recalls some elements of Pop Art. The artist's medium – matt-black pieces of energy-rich material – gestures towards the Italian Arte Povera movement, e.g. Jannis Kounellis' flowers made of coal. Bahk's deliberate choice of this material and its true character also allude to rebel and action artists such as Joseph Beuys. However, Beuys' and Kounellis' works will eventually decay, while Bahk starts from a contrasting position insofar as fragile material becomes strong. In the words of Korean art critic, Tae-Man Choi, "It is this difference in position and direction that shows Bahk's originality."


Born in SunSan in South Korea, Bahk studied at Chung-Ang University in Seoul and has lived a life of international connections. Following his graduation as a Master of Arts in 1994, he spent several years in Europe, studying sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti Brera in Milan and at Barnet College in London. The 45-year-old artist has a significant number of international exhibitions to his name; he made headlines with his almost 3m (9ft) tall chandelier installation soaring above the entrance to Art Dubai 2009.


Marie-Louise Teichmann



Press Text (pdf)