Depth and Surface
Seo Hangyeom


Is this a portion of an old map? What’s the significance of the larger, or thinner fragments? Something scintillates. Upon closer observation, various layers of disparate colors and textures are exposed, as if scratched and peeled. The blue layer appears to be a lake, and the white layer with a green tinge could be a mountain. Is the shiny, black layer a mineral vein? This could be an aerial photograph, or perhaps a microscopic world. Curious steps lead to round shapes on the floor. The seeds covering the surface are desiccated to form edgy blades, but they will sprout upon contact with soil. The old shapes connect to the future.

The hand in the video is bustling with movement. It wipes out the egg white and pierces out the yolk. It grinds, mixes, macerates and boils. The color layers are thus applied, scraped, and scratched out. This seemingly complex and delicate process analogizes the incessant activities of all flora and fauna on this earth. The surface is the resultant compound of life and their traces left upon the layers. Tree roots opens up the ground, ants tunnel down, earthquakes occur, and waterways reclaim paths. The color layers, exposed intermittently, are like ancient sea beds risen to the surface. Gravitational sedimentation and frictional abrasion – the two surfaces, transformed in time along the veins of the two principles, resemble each other.

Colorful stones, motley pigments and delicate tools remind me of a geologist or chemist’s laboratory. Flora, fauna, and minerals from faraway undergo alchemical processes to emerge as colors, conjoined on one plane. The times of substance-turned-colors generate a single surface, covered and in turn exposed.

To the artist, substantive foundations and materials are crucial factors. The two surfaces of A Half (2018) began with the same order of sedimentation, only to split their ways along the way to eventually take on different shapes. The color layers gesture to unchangeable pasts. A thing cannot be seen when covered, and as such it defies comprehension, which in turn renders it as good as nonexistent – so the story goes. But they were there at that time, and still remain so. Undergoing different experiences, living differently, touching here and scraped there, one layer remaining hidden while another is exposed to arrive at the current form.

Placeholder refers to a sign that substitutes what which is missing. Here, a surface of a single color speaks of the time when it was being made, like a stratum. The task of stacking color planes is a humbling one that abides by the materiality of the pigments and materials, but it also captures the sense and atmosphere of the moment of application.

The artist appends white on the top to prevent the surface color from impacting the overall view. Still, the transparent tempera subtly reveals the underlying colors. Scraping and excavating color layers is an act of reconfiguring the present by exposing the past; in other words, it is a process of revealing the layers that existed to support the surficial effect, and assigning them meaning. Stacking and erasing, past and present come together to form a single surface.

A narrative about the surface becomes a tale of things past – those that are now covered but occasionally revealed, unseen yet clearly existent. It is a response to the light, gaze, vibration, and relation, of which we know the depth, volume and weight but can only reach the surface.

Is it a pity, a lamentable state? That one can only touch certain parts that are exposed, see and feel those areas and no more? But we must admit that we sigh in relief upon knowing but one out of ten thousand properties in a given object. Exposing layers that contain countless hours tells of one’s desire to see that which is hidden. It is an expectation that my depth be brought to the fore. And, what we currently instantiate is the result of those times. The moment when we catch glimpses of past feelings, people, and memories through the exposed, worn, and transparent. Never to be known, or seen in full. Nevertheless, I know that what I would fear, wish to find, hope to love, fear of harm, cherish as gems, wish to speak, desire to remain oblivious of, hope to seek as the reason for my existence, and see in its glittering glory, all exist – in, beneath, and beyond the face.

The surface is now moving wildly. Could more layers be reapplied? Could the subtly glittering layer be further exposed? Would that entail digging out other layers? What color and texture would the unexposed layers harbor, and would you rejoice at that? Would I prefer to leave everything as is? My curiosity grows ever stronger.