Andro Semeiko’s Nine Seoulic Moulds
Exhibition at NANJI Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea
The series of nine paintings that I saw when I first made acquaintance with Andro Semeiko were slightly different from what I saw on his website. However there were distinct similarities at a closer look. The unfamiliarity was due to the Asian nuanced black strokes that split and splatter about. The saturated strokes do not sink into the paper or have weight on the surface and instead float about as if they are ready to simply bounce off the paper. Meanwhile familiarity comes from the armour or spaceship-like imagery, and the curved silhouette, light sharply reflecting off the steely texture and the vertically erect structure that has an astral, spatial feel rather than a masculine presence.
For nomadic artists who prefer not to settle and seek comfort, it is essential to find resources and methods to focus on in a new environment. Likewise this was important to Semeiko during his three months stay in Seoul. He studied Korean Hangeul calligraphy, and explored the site-specificity of Nanji and areas around Seoul creating works that incorporated these two fields of research. It is apparent that the East Asian calligraphy heritage has been his most recent source of inspiration to reach new potential for expression. Semeiko’s work in Seoul is part of that new exploration and performance. However, the act of emanating or containing his artistic energy and thereby producing artwork is not the sole aim of itself. The processes of moving away from painterly conventions and value systems that have been embedded in the artist’s work - Asian painting theory and practices, the artist’s joy of pure expressionism, his awareness of artistic roots, the journey of extrapolating meaning between one process and another - would intersect at a point in time.
The nine paintings titled Malic Moulds - a clear nod to Duchamp, both in title and the number nine - sets a particular scene, with the collected fragments of masculine moulds met by the artist in Seoul. For instance, the waste incineration facility in Nanji with vertical wafts of warm gas is a quintessential masculine “mould”. However “mould” as the word suggests, is nothing more than an empty chimney/container that spews glowing gas made up of the breath and desires of the city. Therefore the malic mould, as it were, the seemingly steadfast monument is soon to vaporize and disintegrate. The gigantean and solid machine infrastructures that are (or appear to be) the backbone of the world we live in, are in fact the shells of uncertainty and loss.
In prelude to delving further into Semeiko’s unique perspective, and carrying on with maintaining an art historical interpretation, it would be pertinent to trace the clues left here and there in the artist’s works created in Georgia, his first projects as an artist, his new works in the Netherlands and the UK, and his recent works while travelling through Asia. The artist’s biography is subtly reflected within the artwork, and at the same time manifests out of the canvas as the process of creation. Georgia, his homeland where he trained in the classical discipline, is imagined as an ancient kingdom that stood through historical turmoil. Perhaps it is reflected as such due to the heritage of the ancient Iberian text. Therefore, the painterly quality of the signifiers, the literary narrative written with such elements, and the special values tradition holds are all essential to the artist.
Andro Semeiko is a contemporary artist based mainly in the UK. He has achieved critical attention through his continuous efforts to break away from conventional creative practices and values while maintaining a painterly approach. For example, the Western symbols of armour-clad knights of the Middle Ages; a sudden jump to futuristic perspectives with “spacey” elements; unlikely juxtapositions that often appear on his canvas; the contrasting imagery of “realistically” expressed volume and “virtual” brush strokes; a site specific installation based on historical research; a fictional narrative that continues behind and beyond the screens; creation based on collaboration with people of various fields – all multifold elements that make up the innards and outer skin of Semeiko’s practice. When all the series are looked at consecutively, there exists a visual genealogy, but with endless changes and development in execution. Therefore, Semeiko’s work requires rigorous interpretation and engagement in order for them to be fully, sensually appreciated. Oftentimes, the significance of an artwork is not confined to the space it is installed in. The cultural research and expansion of visual expression, the close links between painting, writing, and performing are all essential to both the artist and the viewer, from ground zero that makes up the backbone of the painting through to the final stages of intellectual consumption.
Andro Semeiko’s stay in Seoul may have been a quick stopover on his way to another world. I am left wondering what other forms of writing, painting, movements and encounters with strangers his travels through time and space will lead to. I hope he has enough fuel and imagination for the road.
Juri Cho is an independent curator and researcher in cultural studies based in Seoul.