South Korean artist Young-Deok Seo uses the unlikely material of bicycle chains as a way to craft realistic sculptures of the human body. For years, we’ve marveled over his figurative artwork, some of it life-sized and others larger than life, that features intricate details you wouldn’t expect from something as clunky as chains. Seo, however, wields it like string to create a combination that’s delicate yet substantial.
Fragmentation is an emphasis in Seo’s chain link sculptures. The very nature of chain, with its limited-mobility metal links, means that each figure will be somewhat incomplete with small holes that allow light to pass through. This is evident even in Seo’s towering, hollow masks, but it’s made even more apparent in his pieces that obscure portions of the face or entire portions of the body. The decisions are intended to question the industrialization of labor, which has become synonymous with the modern world.
“We are interlocked and running like parts of a giant machine,” Seo writes on his website. “Just as components are, we hang in there the day after day. And we are not allowed to be a protagonist of even our own life. The chains in my work mean fetters. The fetters are all about our contemporaries’ complicated, forced relationships and cravings for materials.” Although Seo sees industrialization as a way to dampen our spirits and “suppress our feelings,” he hopes that his work can console those who need comfort from it.
Seo will have his work on view at London’s Opera Gallery as part of a show called Human Connection. The exhibition runs from September 14 to September 18, 2018.