Chosun University Universitat der Kunste Berlin
Seo Soo-Kyoung (Hangul: 서수경; born 1977), known by the artist name SEO (세오), is a South Korean female contemporary artist who lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Her artist name comes from her family name Seo written in capital letters. According to the artfacts.net's artist ranking, she belongs to the top one percent of the important artists of the world (2015 ranking: 1627+).
Seo Soo-Kyoung was born in Gwangju, South Korea in 1977. She attended Gwangju Art High School (광주예술고등학교) from 1992 to 1996. From 1996 to 2000 she studied at Chosun University, also in Gwangju, receiving the award for the best student of the year upon her graduation. She left South Korea the same year to take up her studies at the Universität der Künste (University of the Arts) in Berlin, in 2001, as a member of the class of famous painter Georg Baselitz. In 2002, while she was still attending her basic course, the South Korean embassy commissioned SEO to design the United Buddy Bear on behalf of her native country. Together with the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, she unveiled this Buddy Bear at the exhibition opening to launch this international art event. She finished the basic course in 2003 supplementig this by the Master Course (2003–2004) thus becoming a "Meisterschülerin“ (Master Disciple) of Baselitz. The Master Disciple is the highest degree conferred on artist by art academies in Germany. In 1999 she started exhibiting her works in Galleries and museums both in South Korea, Germany and internationally, and continues to do so.
Although SEO counts as an artist, her works can also be seen as mixed media images. Usually a blank canvas is used to draw a preliminary design, which is then filled out by a large number of pieces of torn rice (mulberry or tetrapanax) paper pasted onto the canvas. Some of the paper used is printed especially for her in South Korea, especially the paper with patterns designed by herself. In the next step she applies thin and (semi-) transparent layers of paint to form the final image.
First she developed a linear style of painting, with whitish lines aiding the definition of the figures, circumscribing the virtual contour. The white lines, however, should be seen as narrow bands of pure painting, with changing hues and densities, creating a match between micro- and macro-structural elements. She embraced European Culture, without giving up her Asian background, also engaging in “cultural reconstruction”, like when she reconstructs the spirit of German Romanticism in her paintings. There is also a blending of the conceptual and the ideal which leads to something definitely new, a process of “Creolization”.
In the course of her development the linear element slowly became less prominent, her color scheme all the more poignant. The reaction to everyday issues both in life and politics, in art and culture lead to statements about these subjects on the basis of an aesthetic concept, which also embodies in a definition of the picture as a moment taken out of the unlimited context of the eternal stream of images in the mind, pinpointing not objects, but the essence of things.
The larger part of her work is created in groups of images around a certain idea, motif or concept, like, among others, the series "My German Dreams", "Rice Fields", the "War" and the "Water lilies" series. In all groups there are very large formats, but the "Water lilies" tend to be especially monumental. In the exhibition in the Kunsthalle Rostock, "close encounter – robert rauschenberg – seo" in 2008 she showed a very large size painting with a lake and waterlilies and mountains in the background. The landscape was composed of images of really existing landscapes from different countries, making it a symbol of the world, The water lilies referred to all 47 species of water lilies, also making the rendering a symbol, besides its alluding to Monet, who was at the height of his water lily-images exactly 100 years earlier. The image consisted of more than 1 million paper scraps.
SEO's "Meine deutschen Träume" ("My German Dreams") deals with her experiences and relation with Germany. She treats and quotes Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Caspar David Friedrich und Carl Spitzweg, and the sculptural works accompanying the paintings are cast in "German silver" (i. e. nickel silver, Argantan, alpacca) and show what for her is essentially German: beer barrels (Gemütlichkeit), garden gnomes (contemplativeness), stags’ antlers (power) and – cows. The latter stand for milk and cheese, as Europeans smell, for Asians, like milk. This is a form of cultural reconstruction, as both cultures are treated on the level of subject matter and style. Also the reconstruction of the emotional structure of a certain era embeds possibilities of new, contemporary insights.
More recently SEO has widened her range. In an exhibition, "Personal Structures" at Palazzo Bembo, within the framework of the 2011 Venice Biennale, SEO showed an installation of four of her concentric abstract "Energy" paintings in a dialogue with a box lit from the bottom with assorted rock crystals (German diamonds). She has also started to work with photography as one of her artistic media. A series of her photographs of a light bulb was published in the "art.es" magazine #47. Her main gallery contact is Michael Schultz Gallery, Berlin (D), Beijing (PRC), Seoul (RK).