In Seoul, Two Artists Enter the Clouds and Interpret an Ancient Chinese Idiom

Jun 21, 2016 12:25AM

In Chinese, 雲騰致雨 translates to “clouds soar up to end in rain.” It’s an idiom from the Thousand-Character Classic, a poem that has been used to teach Chinese characters to children since the sixth century.

The poetic phrase describes a fairly commonplace meteorological event. In Seoul, it’s also the title of a new two-person exhibition currently showing at Gallery LVS, featuring the works of Korean artist Suejin Chung and Dutch artist Melvin Moti. The cloud motif runs through Chung’s paintings and Moti’s textiles, photographs, and drawings, sometimes in literal representation, other times in subtler suggestion or metaphor.

Moti, who lives and works in Rotterdam, has long experimented with different mediums to explore questions of human consciousness, visual culture, and the passage of time. The cloud appears as the central subject in his “Cluster Illusion” series (2014), with white puffs illuminated by bold rays of sunshine. The series also features dreamy illustrations of constellations in a starry night sky, the product of a collaboration between the artist and a Japanese silk-dye master.

In other work by Moti, the cloud is more difficult to discern. Its moving shapes and loose structure—the very particles it comprises—are alluded to in the hue and rhythm of Eigengrau (The inner self in outer space) (2011). Likewise, while Miamalism (2010) doesn’t contain an actual cloud, the work hints at the ephemerality—the windy drift—of fame, youth, and beauty.

In contrast, clouds appear in comparatively familiar contexts for Chung, an artist who subscribes to the contemporary visual theory of Budozi, which has deep roots in Eastern philosophy. In her Psychokinesis 1 (2016), a cloud can be glimpsed through a window, white and puffy on the horizon; in the busy cityscape of Assembled scene of three layers in the market (2011–2016), it is between buildings, faint against a cerulean sky.

But, familiar as they might seem, these meteorological phenomena aren’t always of this world. In The four layer landscape of unknown planet (2013–2016), the clouds are ominous and densely layered, resembling choppy waves in a stormy sea. And in Peeping the landscape of unknown planet 1 (2016), the wisps of vapor are rendered against deep, vibrant shades of yellow.

It would seem that, ever since the first artist looked up, there’s still no shortage artistic inspiration folded into these pillowy plumes, a constant reward for skyward eyes. 

—Bridget Gleeson

雲騰致雨 (Clouds soar up to end in rain)” is on view at Gallery LVS, Seoul, Jun. 2–Jul. 9, 2016.

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