"Do Ho Suh (b.1962, Seoul, Korea) received a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and a MFA in sculpture from Yale University. Interested in the malleability of space in both its physical and metaphorical manifestations, Do Ho Suh constructs site-specific installations that question the boundaries of identity. His work explores the relation between individuality, collectivity, and anonymity."
Do Ho Suh talks in the video Art21 "Exclusion" | Do Ho Suh, Rubbing / Loving Courtesy the artist, Art21, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong to the interviewer, whilst colouring the walls/surfaces of his home in New York:
"The whole process is to remember the space and also somehow memorialise the space".
The video shows the process... I thought initially he was rubbing the actual surfaces of the house, but it is revealed that he and his assistants have carefully lined all the surfaces with white paper, and so its really a very large sculptural drawing on paper. He explains...
"From the distance it looks like a drawing. As you get closer it becomes very sculptural and three dimensional."
He explains the title "If I write "rubbing" in Korean, people could read it as "loving" coz there's no distinction between "r" and "l" in Korean alphabet... I think the gesture of rubbing is a very loving gesture. So I made a connection between rubbing and loving and that's how the title came about."
Watching the video reveals an important factor behind the work - that it is his home - and the word "loving" is not just a loving act for a randomly chosen space... he explains...
"I never lived anywhere else in New York City. This is the first and the last place.... It was my living space and studio for 18 years. My artistic career started from here... It is quite a meaningful place for... me."
He goes on to discuss the way he experiences life in relation to place and the spaces he inhabits and how transience affects him...
"I've been moving around since I left Korea. I'm living in London now. It's a constant recollaboration.. I try to understand my life as a movement through different spaces."
He actually had made a fabric version of this home and so in a way this is a second study of this space...
"I was constantly seeking some other means to capture the information of this space that was lacking from my fabric version... when I discovered it by rubbing it just brought the memories associated with those details."
He goes in to the subject in more detail about how he is trying to capture in this work, the time and memories imbued in the space...
"My energy has been accumulated and in a way I think my rubbing shows that. The ... doorknobs and locks, that's the objects that you touch every time and just imagine how many times that I actually flicked that light switch when I was living in here for 18 years... I'm trying to show...that layers of time."
His relationship with the landlord comes up a few times - and I get the feeling he is full of appreciation for the landlord for his trust - offering him the space even though he was concerned if he could pay the rent (being an artist) and in his constant affirmation to the artist that he could do whatever he wanted with it...
"When I did (a) fabric version of this space, Arthur, the landlord, was supporting my project emotionally, you know, I don't know how much he understood what I was doing, back then, but he always let me do crazy things in this space".
Personally I feel totally engrossed and moved by the work of this artist. I have a similar attention to space. Its always preoccupied me and has been surfacing in my work through a variety of forms. The process of traveling, migration, transient living - and how we inhabit types of spaces, from natural through to urban... these are topics which fascinate me. I'm also interested in the energy of spaces, which have been imbued by previous inhabitants and emotions/actions that have occurred in places over time.
In my cataloguing of photos of my artwork on my laptop, I make folders of the work with the names of the houses I lived in when I made the work. For me, that's the easiest way to find an artwork, as I will remember the location I made it in... or the house I was living in at the time of its production.
I love the simplicity of his work and I'm in awe at the scale and precision. None of this is present in my work! Although perhaps simplicity isn't the right word - or even minimalistic - because its so detailed actually, but I guess what I'm trying to refer to is that he has one element going on - he doesn't combine the fabric and the rubbings in the same work!
Images above: Screenshots from Video: Art21 "Exclusion" | Do Ho Suh, Rubbing / Loving
Courtesy the artist, Art21, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.
I love his thread drawings - the content, the line and the process.
I am in awe of the way he's conveyed energy in the drawings, in relation to the body and again, architecture and movement through time.
They link in with the fabric installations via the thread.It was a way for him to use his drawings, which he'd done tons of.
What isn't evident from looking at them, is they were made in a collaborative process as part of a residency.
Quite a lot of the video mentions the input in to the artwork that the team had.
It shows the magic of creative minds uniting in a process - it appears to have been a very enjoyable experience for all.
Do Ho Suh, New Works 2015
STPI Gallery, Singapore
Do Ho Suh talks about this work in a "Tateshots" video from The Tate website.
I enjoyed listening to his musings again, about space and displacement, always very personal and reflective:
"I think the reason that I been interested in those spaces has got to do with my personal experience... living... (in) Korea and move to US.. the cultural displacement allowed me to see things differently."
He links his personal life to his work - the work is incredibly literal and personal - its not an impression or based on a starting point of an actual staircase he knew, but a direct copy and yet it's truly universal and one can see this through the way he makes philosophical statements about it...