REVERSE-REBIRTH and Super-Natural: Sculpture series by Han Seok Hyun

Artist Han Seok Hyun (Korean b. 1975)'s practice combines elements of installation, horticulture, and environmental activism.


In his installation series SUPER-NATURAL, an undulating lush green landscape of recyclable consumer packaging gathered in whichever locale the artist happens to be at that time, viewers discover objects that are greener in color than they are in substance. Han's work expands themes around the contemporary perception of “nature vs. natural” in any highly modernized city around the world today. The 2016 edition of this installation is featured in MEGACITIES ASIA at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, alongside works by Ai Weiwei and Choi Jeong Hwa from Apri 3 to July 17, 2016. This exhibition brings together artists whose monumental sculptures and installations represent and respond to the unprecedented scale and pace of 21st-century South and East Asian urban life in such supercities as Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Seoul, with populations of 10 million or more. 


Another major installation project Han has been carrying out is REVERSE-REBIRTH, a series of tree-shaped outdoor sculptures built from scrap wood. The artist engages local communities in the sourcing of unwanted wooden objects and sometimes even in the construction of the trees, so that the work carries their stories. Alongside his installations, he also documents the stories about the people and the wooden objects they donated for the sculpture. His process contemplates upon the typical tree-to-wood lifecycle by overturning it. Meanwhile, the concept of a man-made tree echoes the presence of man-made sceneries and urban oasis in many eco-conscious cities, posing the question as to what “nature” came to mean to us. While some of Han’s past work carried critical undertone about the artificial and commercial drive behind green campaigns, REVERSE-REBIRTH portrays his broadening view on the significance of man-made green in the context of contemporary city dwellers’ lives.


Han's work frequently employs the concept of time––not time in the scale of minutes, hours, or even days demanded by video art or performance art, but time at the scale of Mother Nature; his REVERSE-REBIRTH project is a plan for 100 years. Once built, he lets them “be” out in the elements. Local plants, flowers, and frogs find homes on his work as each sculpture runs its course of time. Han's 2015 installation titled Balance can be seen in a similar vein. The tobacco plant that is closer to the light source grows more quickly and gets heavier, tipping the scale until eventually the other tobacco plant rises above. The see-saw'ing of the two pots is imperceptible unless the viewer revisits the work in a few months' time. 


The environmental activism of Han's art is in no way heavy-handed; it's painstakingly slow, organic, somewhat out of control and yet still purposeful.


Since first collaborating with the artist in 2012 at the occasion of relocating his REVERSE-REBIRTH installation from ArtOmi to Gallery Korea of the Korean Cultural Services (460 Park Avenue, NYC), Spark Art Management serves as the artist's NYC liaison.




SUPER-NATURAL in the media