Our experience of home deepens and changes with time. Does moving away from our roots help us understand them better?
Do-ho Suh grew up fascinated by the sea. His dream was to become a marine biologist and study the movements and migrations of fish. Unfortunately, his math scores were not up to par to enter that field of study, so he followed in the footsteps of his father, the famous Se-ok Suh, gaining Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Oriental Painting from Seoul University. Although he did reasonably well, he didn’t really find his voice, perhaps because his father’s success made it difficult for him to establish his own identity. He did, however, fall for a fellow art student. When she moved to the United States for further study, so did he. The Rhode Island School of Design accepted Do-ho Suh, but only as a sophomore. He found it difficult to get into the classes he wanted to take, but decided to take a course in sculpture instead. There he found his medium. After graduating, he would continue sculpting as a Master’s student at Yale, building a preference for styrofoam, resin and fabric as opposed to more traditional materials.
Living in New York City was a different experience from living in Seoul, although both are crowded cities. Suh found it extremely difficult to sleep in New York due to the noise and often desired the serenity of his parent’s home. He wished he could bring that sense of peace with him and had the idea of constructing a portable model of his parent’s house out of fabric. This was the inspiration for a whole array of installations, beginning with Seoul Home. His mother helped him find fabric, which was then dyed to the color of jade, and put him in touch with traditional seamstresses that could help him realize his vision and teach him how to sew. He is constantly building on and transforming the concepts of home, homeland and the past. This video is a wonderful capsule of his work.
Video via Chloe Boleyn Palmer on YouTube.
Do-ho Suh is frequently on the move. It is interesting to note that he has, in a sense, become like a fish, migrating from one place to another for opportunity and growth. The colors and textures of his pieces are akin to those of the coral reef.
His interest in home does not only manifest in the creation of ethereal models of his former and current residences, but takes in other forms that contrast his modern, global identity with his traditional, Korean one. What a fascinating and thoughtful artist, capable of poetic recreation of space and memory!
You can read the full interview from which the video was made here.
Today Suh lives in London, but he is still haunted by his former homes. Recently he has taken to making rubbings of his former New York studio, adding a deeply sensual element to his work. You can read about that here.
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