Whitehot Magazine

Sobin Park: Pictograph to Sign at Tenri Cultural Institute

Heaven in Love, 2021, pencils on paper and bronze powder, 230x600cm.

By ROBERT C. MORGAN November 13, 2023

Works on paper are not so much a medium as they are a way of working.  Often they are made accessible by artists who are within reach of other media, such as painting, sculpture, and print-making. Much of this depends on paper that does not always require a complicated preparation. It has been said that the more the artist paints or draws, the more gratified they become in moving their work into the realm of art. 

This way of thinking is largely dependent on the complexity of the artist’s concept. Not all art on paper functions spontaneously. There are times when the artist’s work goes directly from start to finish, thereby suggesting an ongoing presence in which the artist reveals a deeply felt command of her work.

I see you, UmMA, 2022, pencil on paper, transparent film, 30x22cm

When I look at the work of Korean artist Sobin Park, there are many new and exciting aspects emanating from her work that result in a mindful heroic solitude. Working steadily in black with applications of hard and soft graphite pencils, the artist offers her viewers evidence of intensely abstract complex images. For the most part, these densely circulating signs have replaced her earlier pictographic affectations, given that her current work a remarkable quality that she has finally been able to obtain.  

In the repeated use of graphite pencils in a clearly desired formula. The exhibition currently on view at the Tenri Cultural Institute has largely been challenged, if not replaced, by her previous pictographic imagery of devilish dragons and sweet-hearted maidens. Now the replacement includes more densely circular abstract signs. These signs encompass infinite sensations borrowed from linguistics in a manner that attempts to reveal the evidence of high-grade expressionism. 

The New Myth of Life: The Dragon Flower, 2022, pencils on paper and bronze powder, 230x600cm

Rather than continue with a story-board vocabulary, these large-scale images are virtually taken over by the space of the gallery. This includes an intense vibrant sensibility, also noted in the drawings of the artist in the process of penciling herself around a series closed forms that occur at the same time her placement is revealed by way of the drawings. 

From the point of view of the artist, the drawn elements cannot be underrated. These are the moments in which the signs of the artist's work stand still in relation to the dictation of the pictographs where aspects of Sobin’s work remain. We see this in Sobin’s recent large-scale paintings, such as Heaven in Love (2021) and in The New Myth of Life: The Dragon Flower (2022), both of which carry an overall indulgence of darkness while at the same time providing an intensity that frames the artist’s presence who reigns carefully within it. On view October 19 through November 22, 2023. WM

Robert C. Morgan

Robert C. Morgan is an educator, art historian, critic, poet, and artist. Knowledgeable in the history and aesthetics of both Western and Asian art, Morgan has lectured widely, written hundreds of critical essays (translated into twenty languages), published monographs and books, and curated numerous exhibitions. He has written reviews for Art in AmericaArtsArt NewsArt Press(Paris), Sculpture MagazineThe Brooklyn Rail, and Hyperallergic. His catalog essays have been published by Gagosian, Pace, Sperone Westwater, Van Doren Waxter, White Cube (London), Kukje (Seoul), Malingue (Hong Kong), and Ink Studio (Beijing). Since 2010, he has been New York Editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News, both published in Hong Kong. He teaches in the Graduate Fine Arts Program  at Pratt Institute as an Adjunct Professor and at the School of Visual Arts.


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