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Story of Park Seo-Bo, the First Informel Artist in Korea

18 Dec 2022

■ Art Director Park Soo-kyung

[News Anchor] Have you heard of artist Park Seo-Bo, the master of Korean abstract art? He is also known as an artist who pursued Ecriture paintings, also known as ‘travels of the hands.’ In today’s Science in Art, we will learn about the first Informel artist in Korea, Park Seo-Bo. I’m with the art director, Park Soo-kyung. Welcome.

[Park] Hello.

[News Anchor] Hello. It’s been a while since we discussed a Korean artist. Tell us more about Park Seo-Bo.

[Park] All right. Park Seo-Bo, considered a representative artist of Korean art, is also called the ‘untiring endeavorer.’ He played a significant role in development of Korean Contemporary art and in the popularity of monochrome painting. And he is the first Korean Informel artist. Park Seo-Bo is also an educator who served as a professor and dean of the College of Fine Arts at Hongik University, after graduating from the school’s Department of Painting. In addition, he served as vice president and chairman of the Korea Art Association. He worked actively at the forefront of Korean art.

Taking part in the Contemporary Art Association since 1958, Park Seo-Bo led the Informel Movement. In 1960, Park Seo-Bo participated in a competition in Paris, France, while working on the Primordialis series that confronted the existing Western culture. From mid-'60s, the artist made Void of Space series and from the '70s, he developed the Ecriture series, which is well known to the public. He gained recognition by participating in international art events such as the Paris Biennale and the Venice Biennale. In Korea, he received President’s Commendation and the Silver and Jade Certificate of Merit and spread his reputation.

[News Anchor] You told us that Park Seo-Bo is the first Informel artist in Korea. Please tell us more about Informel art.

[Park] ‘Informel’ is a French word for the English ‘informal’ and is a form of abstract art. This abstract art differs from previous abstract arts of geometric form and is characterized by its non-formal and subjective aspect.

In terms of time-period, this movement took place mainly in France after World War II. Before that, in the European art world after World War I, the mainstream art was so-called ‘cool abstraction,’ which were geometric and formalized. If you think of this geometric form, you will get a sense of calculation and condensation, as if much are left out.

Hence, the aim of Informel art could be seen as focusing not on the geometric and formalized figures but on the space and texture of materials. A major artist from this movement is Jean Dubuffet and our artist Park Seo-Bo is considered to be the first Informel artist in Korea.

[News Anchor] I hear that artist Park Seo-Bo published ‘Anti-National-Art-Exhibition Manifesto’ in his twenties. What is 'Anti-National-Art-Exhibition Manifesto'?

[Park] Yes, I think I need to explain what ‘National Art Exhibition’ is, first. At that time, in the art world, there was an important channel for new artists to make a debut or to for established artists to show their works. This event was called ‘National Art Exhibition,’ or as its shortened form, ‘Kukjeon.’ As most artists make their names known through this exhibition, it held great power in the art world. Park Seo-Bo, at the age of 26 in 1956, published ‘Anti-National-Art-Exhibition Manifesto’ to resist ‘National Art Exhibition.’

Reflecting the ‘Anti-National-Art-Exhibition Manifesto’, the artist spoke in an interview: “In a word, [works selected in National Art Exhibition] all seemed like one person’s art, except for the name. Diversity was necessary.” [Park Seo-Bo argued that] as time passes, previous ideologies should be diversified and opposing opinions should be presented. The artist tells us that he suffered from poverty and many wrongdoings because of this action but it is Park Seo-Bo’s creed that “those who don’t change will perish.” So, he published ‘Anti-National-Art-Exhibition Manifesto’ with a firm conviction that he will lead the Korean art world in a better direction.

[News Anchor] It seems that he was an artist that pursued to guide the Korean art world to a better direction. Then, what are the representative works of the artist?

[Park] Surely this Ecriture series is the representative of the artist Park Seo-Bo's style. In this work, the canvas is filled by the artist’s continuous and repetitive actions. It is also a result of self-reflection in pursuit of Minbenzhuyi. The Ecriture series can be divided into early and later periods. The early-Ecritures from the 1970’s is characterized by the act of steadily drawing lines with pencil and other various tools on the canvas, that is, sketching and drawing and embodies the idea of Minbenzhuyi in this repetitive actions.

From 1980’s the work-process becomes more full-scale and in particular, hanji becomes the main material. Using the physical properties of hanji material, the artist presses on hanji which is wet with paint and creates from the presses on hanji’s form, a long line. In repeating this process, an Ecriture is made.

[News Anchor] I was wondering what expressed that rugged texture and that was hanji. Artist Park Seo-Bo said that this work contained the idea of Minbenzhuyi, where can we find this side?

[Park] When asked the question why he makes his art, Park Seo-Bo answered, “It is to empty oneself.” It is said that the artist draws at least 100 lines throughout the day in the process of creating a ‘line’ on the canvas. The artist’s state of mind when drawing a line is ‘indifference.’ This means that he draws lines without thoughts all day, a process which is sometimes likened to that monks achieve when chanting a Buddhist prayer to drumming of wooden gong (moktak). Hence, Park Seo-Bo’s work is not to fill it with his self but to empty the work of it. Upon repeating such ‘indifferent’ actions, one reach a certain elevation in relation to the idea of Minbenzhuyi.

[News Anchor] One can sense the artistic depth in the expression that the work is not to fill it with the artist’s self but to empty the work of it. I heard that artist Park Seo-Bo recently collaborated with others. Could you introduce to us some examples of such collaboration?

[Park] Yes, there was an exhibition I went to and was greatly inspired by. It was an exhibition called Serge Mouille Meets the Color of Park Seo-Bo, in which the artist collaborated with the major French lighting company, Serge Mouille. This exhibition was held at the Prain Villa but is is currently over. As it showed Park Seo-Bo and Serge Mouille’s collaboration for the first time, it drew much attention of the art world.

Serge Mouille is a representative metal craftsman and lighting designer of the 20th century and made some bold achievements in the field of design for about a decade. In the collaboration project, the colors of Park Seo-Bo’s works have been draped over the lighting of Serge Mouille.

[New Anchor] I have been to this exhibition as well. It was a really beautiful exhibition where the sophisticated colors of Park Seo-Bo’s colors met with the classic and unique form, typical of Serge Mouille lightings.

[Park] Yes, that’s right. Recently, the artist’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton was a hot topic. In the ArtyCapucines Presentation project that the brand collaborates with contemporary artists, Louis Vuitton chose to collaborate with Park Seo-Bo this year, along with Ugo Rondinone and Daniel Buren. It seems that the brand selected the most wanted artists of this time.

The word ‘Capucines’ of the project Capucines bag comes from the street where Louis Vuitton’s first store opened in 1854, the rue Neuve-des-Capucines. The collaboration Capucines bag design was based on Park Seo-Bo’s 2016 work from his Ecriture series, and it looks as if the product actually translated the work of Ecriture into three-dimensions.

In addition, the artist Park Seo-Bo has been collaborating with leading domestic and foreign brands. The collaboration with Booker The One’s Reserve Art Label in which Park Seo-Bo’s Ecriture No. 170903 was printed on the wine label has also been a big topic for the wine lovers. The artist is actively collaborating with various other brands.

[New Anchor] I can share the pride in the artist that he is collaborating with domestic and global brands in various fields, such as lighting, fashion, and wine. Then, how is Park Seo-Bo’s works being managed?

[Park] His works are managed by GIZI Foundation. The name GIZI stands for spirit and wisdom and it is a non-profit foundation founded by the artist in 2019. The foundation, as well as managing the artist’s works and related documents, organizes exhibitions and conducts various collaborations with other parties. It has been faithfully serving the role of presenting the work of untiring endeavorer, Park Seo-Bo, and supporting the artist. As various news are posted in the social networks of the artist and GIZI Foundation, it would be good for those who are interested to occasionally look into them.

[News Anchor] Yes, I am also following the accounts. It was nice because I was brought closer to the artist’s everyday stories and his art. We have to wrap up our discussion for today. Thank you for being with us, art director Park Soo-kyung.

YTN Science Kim Ki-bong (

Translation: GIZI Foundation