Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art



Curated by Christopher Davidson
Contemporary textile art
Supported by grants from the Canada Council and the BC Arts Council


Control is comprised of two distinct bodies of textile work by Seong Eun Ahn and Sook He Park. While living and working on opposite coasts (Vancouver and Halifax, respectively), both artists use fibre art as their chosen medium yet the outcome is dramatically polar: Ahn uses existing textile, be it linen, silk or canvas, to construct her objects while Park further breaks down and highlights her medium by disassembling and abstracting the actual fibre and root structure of the given textile. Both have opted to use either raw or non-dyed fibre for their work which helps retains the simplicity and purity of the object. In this context, both artists allow the viewer to examine the refined objects without any peripheral intrusions, and the experience of interacting with these objects becomes a calming and almost Zen-like experience. While both artists each earned their Master of Fine Art in Craft from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, their unique treatment and sensibility to their medium is compellingly distinct.

Seong Eun Ahn uses textile in an almost “haute couture” manner to fabricate extremely delicate and detailed women’s garments. Beginning as a traditional textile artist, Ahn has pushed beyond this label and has created her own feminist interpretation on the fashion industry by recontextualizing the usual woman’s business attire. Ahn has designed a “line” of business suits for the modern working woman – those that still work in a male-dominated, professional society. Her pieces, while catering to the fashionable requirements of the garment and its ‘client’, limit and restrict the wearer in terms of her proposed function in the workplace; in one suit jacket, Ahn has stitched closed the cuffs so that the wearer can not use her hands (i.e. type), or Ahn has placed buckles or Velcro on the extended sleeves to reconfigure a modern straight jacket which implies the wearer’s function at the office. Ahn has been quoted in saying: “The more I do research on the Korean women’s issue, the more I find out about the bias on women in any culture.” Ahn’s use of textile ranges from traditional silk for a business suit to the raw canvas or linen for the straight jacket. Her use of raw material – with the immediate absence of colour – allows the viewer to focus on the subtle shifts in line and texture of the surface, which in turn gives way to the underlying emotional impact of the work: woman as a commodity.

Sook He Park’s practice is based in a more traditional Korean aesthetic: the search for spiritual perfection and fulfillment. Park takes the notion of a “thousand” as a numeric measurement of utopia, and interprets this into her objects. Previously, she has taken one thousand small pieces of linen and fold them in half; she has taken one thousand strands of starched cheesecloth and placed them out in a line on the floor; she has piled together one thousand pieces of starched fabric formed into rolls. Works to be included in this exhibition include a field of one hundred loosely placed pieces of cheese cloth, a field of one thousand hand-formed “dumplings” again using starched cheese cloth, and a series of one thousand individually placed strands of cheese cloth into spheres of perfection. These new, loose-fitting objects allows for an unrestricted experience with all of Park’s work; they play beautifully against Ahn’s confining garments. Park’s actions are not about the labour, but about the spirituality and the peace found in the process of artistic transcendence.

The works of Seong Eun Ahn and Sook He Park lend an awareness of, and an introduction to, the contemporary art practices stemming from traditional Korean culture.

Seong Eun Ahn lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. Sook He Park lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia.