As an artist, choosing a field of art and architecture is an enormous challenge. That challenge is even greater when it is not about using architectural motifs in art or dealing with architectural forms, but using art to create an architectural space and out of it, creating a completely new, distinct form. It is not an easy task and surely, few artists have sufficient skill to find their own, individual way of working with art and architecture. Doubtless though, Shan Hur belongs to this singular group of artists who have found their own language in working with art and architecture. In his case, although the risk of failure is high, the artist manage to meet this challenge and, more importantly, to succeed.
I came across the works of Shan Hur in 2011 while working on a proposal for an exhibition whose main subject oscillated around art and architecture. I was immediately impressed by the works of the Korean artist who was based in London. I decided to contact the artist right away and get to know his works better. Since then, each time, I have been amazed by the new projects he has made, by his creativity, originality and enormous artistic sensibility as well as the intelligent ways of dealing with architecture.
It is difficult to define Shan Hur's artistic practice and to assign it to a particular artistic movement. Shan Hur's work goes far beyond strict architectural and artistic definitions and their limitations. His artistic practice combines many interdisciplinary elements, which are rarely combined and very often don't go together.
As mentioned above, Shan Hur works with two contradictory attitudes: art and architecture. Nevertheless the originality of his installations is based not only on using those antithetical disciplines, but on creating the right oppositions, sometimes even those which might not be chosen.
It would be a huge simplification to describe Shan Hur as only a sculptor, the definition does not go far enough. Within his architectonical installations he creates not only a material form but, what is more important, another dimension, which changes meaning of the space and the surroundings.
On the other hand the artist cannot be described as a builder because the space that he calls to life loses its useful character. It becomes the opposite of utilitarian, though seductive aesthetically.
Within his experiments, Shan Hur has managed to find his own highly original approach to art and architecture. The artist has discovered artistic elements in architecture, using his imagination, creativity, critical approach and rebellion against established rules. He shows distinctly architectural qualities in making art: spacial and logical thinking or experiment with using certain forms, giving elements their aesthetic meaning. The artist furthermore has taken out of each of this discipline certain elements both have in common: confrontation and interactivity with the surroundings and people who find themselves within.
Shan Hur has decided to use all of these components to create a new, autonomous form of artistic expression. That is why in each installation, the artist balances these qualities and, depending on the situation and given possibilities, reaches for a particular one. He combines them and changes them until he creates a form that is adequate for the conditions and space.
Shan Hur's installations can be found both in public and in exhibition spaces. Each is characterized by its own conditions. Each has a different specific, different qualities, and possibilities for use. Working within exhibition space is associated with limitation and isolation and accessibility to only a limited, select public. At the same time exhibition space provides another type of reception: more intimate and individual. It also automatically gives an art work status and defines it as valuable, unique and special.
Unlike in an exhibition space, working in a public space does not mean limitation and isolation. It remains open and is involved in many various dependencies, which even the artist himself cannot predict. It also means the work is available to everybody, but such a situation may also meet with ignorance and unawareness of the art piece.
It is the artist's enormous intelligence and intuition that suggest the kind of element that should be added to the space. The method used by the artist can be described as an undisturbed disturbance and can be understood as an improvement of the space, which at the same time becomes an integral part of the surrounding. The originality and uniqueness of Shan Hur's works is based on the relation with each to the spacial situation. Every installation has a very individual character, depending on the circumstances and each affects space differently. The artist doesn't rely on the generality of his pieces, so they cannot be simply taken out from the context they were made for and placed in new surroundings.
The artist plays with the viewer's common sense and rational way of thinking about space and its rules. He seduces the audience and confronts them with many illogical contradictions, which put the recipients in a very uncomfortable situation. When looking on the works of Shan Hur, they seem at first glance to be an integral element of a space. They seem to be primary, there from the very beginning. But somehow, without knowing how, they have transformed. As though they were alive for a short glimpse and could evolve into a different shape. Maybe an unidentified force has influenced them and changed their regular appearance to a unusual form?
Shan Hur's installations surprise the viewers and play with their rational way of thinking about space and its rules. The mastery of Shan Hur lies on creating an illusion, which ensures that the changes are an integral part of the space. An illusion which runs counter to common sense. An illusion which seduces, because it remains open for many questions and interpretations and offers multiple narrations.
Shan Hur's installations are also enriched with a hidden mystery. It is not difficult to discover that almost each of the architectonical forms created by the artist contains a discovery as well. It recalls a archeological excavations, discovered in this particular place just by an accident. Inside an installation certain objects are hidden: small coins, vases or pottery. Elements that might be normally found on an archeological site.
Under any other circumstances they represent traces from cultures and societies which are now extinct. Only with their help we are able to reconstruct or at least imagine how our ancestors might have lived. But once again, the artist doesn't go for a straight interpretation, but confuses the viewers and put them in irrelevant situation. The side looks like exactly as a fresh discovery, dug out just recently, with rubble and dust lying around. But then how come a basketball or musical instruments, objects used nowadays, can be found amidst traces of old times and symbols of culture which don't exist any more? How did they get there? Who hid them? What message about the culture they represented have they brought with them? These and many other questions bring inconsistency and become an occasion for a deeper critical reflection about the condition of our contemporary culture.
Again the artist uses the tool of illusion, which seduces and questions our common sense of the received reality we live in. What he creates could be defined as archeology of the contemporary, a form which, according to logical ways of thinking, has no right to exist.
As Shan Hur admits himself, working with a hidden treasure has also a second meaning and relates to the artist's personal experience. Since childhood the artist has worn a scarf over one of his eyes. Each time he looks with this particular eye at a white surface a small black crack appears. As a child he thought of it as a hidden treasure only he could see. When he started to work as an artist, his personal condition changed to become a limitless source of artistic inspiration. Perhaps in this disturbance of world view, an interpretation of Shan Hur's installation could be found? Maybe because of that, the artist is able to create such disturbing architectural installations, which easily blend into the surrounding, as if they were part of our perception.
Maybe, but not necessarily. The artist himself doesn't insist on one interpretation and doesn't imply a correct one. For him it is more important if his works are open for imagination and trigger curiosity rather than that they can be allocated one particular interpretation.The artist lets recipients find their own way to explain the situation they are confronted with.
After dealing with the works of Shan Hur, you gain another perspective on world. You start to be more careful and focused while looking at your surroundings. Without a doubt installations by Shan Hur arouse childish curiosity and push us to observe our surroundings more carefully.
It is difficult to juxtapose Shan Hur's artistic practice with that of other artists and find direct analogies or the same approach toward art and architecture. But what can be found in Shan Hur's works is dedication and progress. The artist continually develops and improves his work within the field he has had selected. With each new project he reaches for new ideas or totally modifies an old one. But he doesn't copy the same pattern. Rather, each of his projects is a new discovery. It has another character and is totally different. This makes us look forward to new works by Shan Hur. What new surprises and treasures will they bring this time?