Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Indoor sculpture garden

Seung Yul Oh: Bogle Bogle
The New Dowse
13 February - 30 May 2010

Seung Yul Oh first attracted attention at Elam in the early 2000s as an amazingly drawer of whimsical fairytale cartoons that combined the saccharine with the intestinal and excretory - as well as being a maker of flowing resin sculpture with bizarre bubbly, pockmarked warty textures. Since then his work has become less organic and less process-oriented and much more industrial, with an impeccable finish and delicate pastel colouration.

The current sculptural installation at The New Dowse features capsule-like forms that are akin to ‘kinder eggs’ that have taken on appetising confectionary hues. These are a variation of the work he recently exhibited in Te Papa’s sculpture terrace and Starkwhite, that were ‘egg-birds’. Bogle Bogle is more theatrical and staged in three connected rooms, with three small inquisitive rats made of resin that sometimes balance on the ‘egg’ tops.

There are also some large vertical matchsticks, an abstract headless elephant made of curved arch forms, to one side a 3D sculpture of a cube covered with a white sheet, and several brightly coloured cubes, these being drawn orthographic forms that have had their sides intensely coloured and then their shapes cut out of flat metal sheets, on stands so they remain vertically positioned on the floor.

I tend to prefer this artist’s nastier and messier earlier work for here he seems to be chasing Michael Parekowhai. Yet this show is not bland or too cute. It has a pattern that intrigues too.

First of all the doubled-over title. Is it a portmanteau word that blends bugle with ogle? Is it like the display, something that has an oblique logic? To do with binaries perhaps?

I say that because looking at the sculptural elements, there are match heads (symbols perhaps for revelatory epiphanies?) that look like the giant capsules, two sorts of cube (flat and with body) and two sorts of colour (pastel and saturated). Plus two varieties of spectator: rats and living humans.

What can one make of it? The show seems to be about passivity and action and the agency of the gallery visitor. Something about thinking as an activity? The rats and people seem to indicate curiosity, the capsules props to be ingested, the matches lit (ideas maybe?), while the elephant is memory and the sheet covered cube the hidden past. The cut-out Platonic forms can be interpreted as hypothetical actions, while the 3D ones are actions of profound consequence.

Bogle Bogle is a buoyant, entertaining show, an indoor, walk-through ‘sculpture garden’ that holds up well against the fiddly architectural trimmings of the New Dowse arches, fake walls and doorways. It is worth investigating on your way down the corridor to Bill Viola.

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