April 17, 2021 - June 25, 2021
Press Release PDF
Helen J Gallery is pleased to present Superposition, Korean artist Woo Byoung Yun’s first solo exhibition in the US. The exhibition features twelve new plaster paintings that together explore notions of nature, coexistence, and harmony through the artist’s meditative engagement with materiality.
The title of this exhibition is derived from both Woo’s artistic process and quantum physics, which continues to inform his practice. By overlaying his creations, Woo pursues the idea of superposition - that is, the quantum principle that energetic matter can exist in two different states at once. Dwelling upon this idea of fundamental uncertainty, Woo stresses through his work that the world we live in is neither fixed nor certain. What surrounds us and ourselves are much more layered than how we initially perceive them.
For Woo, plaster is an ideal material with which to translate such notions onto a surface. His philosophical inquiry into nature is marked by his focus on textural intricacy. This labor-intensive practice begins with sculpting forms from plaster. Woo then covers their surfaces with gouache before ultimately scratching into them to create patterned grooves. At times grid-like, and at other times circular, these surface engravings expose each layer of the paintings, thereby putting them in dialogue with one another. In revealing these layers, the artist allows for his works to form multiple and shifting meanings, illustrating his philosophy that "painting a picture is an act of encountering something infinite and mysterious.”
The exposed layers of plaster and gouache together create an evolving exploration of color, texture, and shape. Though in this way formerly separate formal qualities communicate and create a unified whole, they still hold their individual qualities. Woo explains the importance of medium specificity within his works: “I think color and texture convey different perspectives. I think that tactile vision can bring instinctive and real things, and visual vision can bring ideal and ideal things to our consciousness.”
The different processes involved in Woo’s artworks - painting, modeling, layering, and scratching - can be understood as actions of addition and subtraction, which the artist sees as universal foundations of life. The physical and the philosophical are thus intertwined in Woo’s artworks, which through their layered corporeality reflect life’s multiplicitous nature.
Text by Natalie Pashaie