I first encountered Seung Yul Oh’s work at Te Papa six years ago. Four Oddooki 2008 pieces were installed in the sculpture court on the rooftop. Seung describes these large egg birds as performance sculptures — they rock backwards and forwards when pushed, like some toy from childhood writ large. Their wit and joyfulness are contagious. And you can touch them.
Touching and interacting are a big part of Seung’s work. MOAMOA, A Decade is currently on in the downstairs galleries at City Gallery Wellington. It brings together several works from the last decade. And there’s lots to touch — although signs everywhere remind you that only ‘good touching’ is allowed…
When you type Seung Yul Oh’s name into Google, Seussville, the official site of Dr Seuss, comes up. This feels like a good match. The sense of play, the sheer ridiculousness of a whole room full of giant yellow blow-up capsules could be straight out of a Dr Seuss interior — maybe the place where Sam-I-Am eats his green eggs and ham. The giant bubble falling out of the ceiling, Huggong 2013, in the gallery foyer, and the room-sized inflatable bean bag, Sphere Square 2013, sit somewhere in the same camp. Such fun.
The same is true of The Ability to Blow Themselves Up 2004–14, an ongoing video work in which a series of balloon-blowers are blowing up balloons that burst in their faces. The video goes “Bang, bang, bang, bang…” as the balloons pop, and the looks of shock and surprise, and the jumps and screams, jolt and bump the viewer along.
The work hints at something else — the universality of shock. Everyone has pretty much the same reaction. Seung has isolated this moment of surprise into a series of visual pops. It’s an image for disasters, large and small. Even if you know it’s coming, there’s still the surprise.
My favourite gallery is the room full of noodle towers — resin sculptures that replicate the moment when you pause to cool the waterfall of hot noodles that cascades from your chopsticks before you suck them into your mouth. All the best-known noodle dishes of Asia are represented — Ramen, Udon, Jabchae, BiBim Naeng Myun, to name a few.
This room has eight of these person-sized noodle towers. But when you enter it you’re greeted by what looks like a series of figures — long-necked birds with chopsticks for beaks and table legs, flanking a tower of stainless-steel bowls and trays. They’re serious and hilarious — Dr Seuss would have approved. MOAMOA, A Decade is on at City Gallery until 24 August.[info]
Séraphine Pick’s exhibition at Pataka Art + Museum, Looking like someone else (until 20 September), brings together a series of portraits that span her 20-year career. There are portraits of friends and self-portraits. Most interestingly, they show the development of her approach to painting — from tightly worked to opaque. The exhibition is disappointingly cramped into a small gallery but presents a less known aspect of Pick’s practice.[/info]
About Mary-Jane Duffy
Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essayist, and FishHead’s art columnist. She teaches poetry and academic writing on the Whiyireia Creative Writing programme, torturing students with half-rythmes and pantoums, zombie haiku, and line breaks, referencing and structure. Duffy has a background in museum and gallery work, making a lucky escape from the basement of the City Gallery Wellington in 2002 and opening the Mary Newtown Gallery with Paula Newtown in 2004. Art (across all the disciplines) feels like the closest thing she has to religious experiences — seeing, reading or hearing things that make her brain fizz.
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