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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Enlarged folk art

Seung Yul Oh: Oddooki
6 July - 25 July 2009

Seung Yul Oh is currently presenting in the large downstairs Starkwhite space five interactive sculptures that he recently exhibited in Te Papa’s Sculpture Terrace. They look like huge toys based on abstracted birds and have been repainted, having suffered some brutal wear and tear from the visiting public. The chips and striations are now gone. They look impeccable.

These pristine oval forms, with their stubby beaks and delicate wings in slight relief, are a sort of synthesis between Eskimo art and Kinder Eggs (or Russian Nesting Dolls). They shine like creamy porcelain and have glossy coloured bases of different hues. Each one has a mechanism hidden inside that with different sorts of movement will make sounds. One tinkles, another clangs, a third a grinding rumble. They vary. Each is unique.

In their bases are weights of sandy ballast so that they cannot topple over. They can be swung, spun, swivelled or gently prodded, rocked and softly shaken – preferably several ‘birds’ at once.

The Starkwhite Press Release says the wind managed to rock (and ‘play’) these sculptures but even in Wellington and on the sixth floor of Te Papa, that is hard to imagine. They seem too heavy and too streamlined.

Perhaps they swayed a little. However it is a pity the paint surface isn’t much tougher so that Aucklanders could really tumble them about to create an aural and kinetic cacophony. It would be good for such folk-arty objects to belie their serene, somewhat cute, appearance, to startle their admirers; make them less like excessively sweet contemplative objects and more raucous or vulgar – less like twittering sparrows and more like cawing crows.

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