Trails: Seong Cho’s Works on Paper

Roslyn Kean, artist and Director of The Stables Print Studio, Sydney, writes about Seong Cho‘s work in the lead up to her exhibition Trails at Incinerator Art Space.

Seong Cho, Trail  XII, 2014–15, woodblock, 42 x 81 cm.

It has been a decade since Seong Cho completed studies at Meadowbank TAFE Art School here in Australia, prior to which she graduated as a Graphic Designer in her country of birth, South Korea, in 1978.

Since her arrival in Australia in 1990 the unifying base for this series of works has been established, with focus on memory and journey becoming one.

Her recent works employ very large hand-cut woodblocks where the image is drawn directly on the block with broad expressive brush strokes. These lines capture the childhood memories of the mountainous winding roads of her mother country, and embrace emotions associated with the artist’s visits to sacred temples or family members. The act of drawing becomes the writing of a diary.

Creating a dynamic contrast of light and dark, movement and shadow, the lines take you on a journey of memory. It is not essential for the viewer to know the story but the topographical rendering also creates a link to the written language of Korean characters suggesting a personal story is being told in each work.

Cho wants to establish her vision of the world in a deeper realm: my bold thick lines symbolise the winding and long journey of life we all must take’, but taking time to consider the scenery and various obstacles encountered on the way are of vital importance to the content of her drawings. Now in a foreign country away from immediate family, the path has not always been easy.

Cho is one of many Australians weaving ancestral traditions into a new life for herself here in Australia. This is who we are as a community, so many different cultures and traditions melding together to share in a way forward, while retaining sight of our disparate origins.

These memories help define the person we become. To record in an ongoing series of prints, as Cho has, gives strength and conviction to the ongoing series of works. Working on handmade papers form Korea also helps embody in a tactile way something from home. Hand printing with a baren on this large scale involves a physical engagement that allows you to become very connected to the surface marks of the wood and the intimate way in which the image will be transferred.

There is a spiritual presence in Trails and the viewer is drawn into contemplation and quietness. Cho aims to depict a Zen philosophy, which is often ignored in our busy lifestyle, ‘…we often forget to contemplate our journeys, both where we have been and where we are going’.

Seong Cho’s exhibition Trails will be on display at the Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, from 27 July to 14 August.