Back in college, one of my professors mentioned that there was one piece at the Seattle Art Museum worth seeing. As you might have guessed from the title, that piece was by Mark Rothko. I don’t think I quite understood his work back then, but I decided to give it another try when I heard that there was an exhibit at the Seoul Arts Center. If you’re in Seoul for an extended stay, I highly recommend the exhibit. Reason being, is that Rothko’s work simply cannot be appreciated on a computer screen. His iconic oil paintings are known as “multiforms” that aimed to explore the relationship between order and freedom within a frame. The bold colors seem to overlap and mesh together in a way that reminded me of watercolors. I have never seen an oil painting that felt like watercolor before. Usually oil paintings have a distinctively opaque quality that cannot express the same feeling as watercolor.
So I was surprised to see the multiple layers in his oil paintings, and even further impressed by the fact that his paintings retained the bold weight of an oil painting. The blocks of color though, at first I couldn’t understand what they were supposed to mean. I couldn’t understand why he decided to paint great blocks of color and why it was to be considered great art. I don’t think I would have understood anything so long as I was standing there trying to understand. I think this is why I’ve had such great trouble with abstract art in the past. I wanted it to mean something, I wanted to understand why it was chosen out of millions and put in a gallery. This time I tried to suppress that urge to attach meaning -as that was clearly not working out for me- and just stood as close as I could in front of the painting. There was something intimate and personal about getting up close to the painting and viewing it without judgement. Soon I began to feel it welling up inside me, though I couldn’t exactly put to words what those emotions were and why I was feeling them. It was almost like meditation in a sense; turning off all the chatter and looking inwards to reflect on what was going on inside. There were even a few pieces that had cushions on the floor so you could sit and reflect in a comfortable position.
After seeing an exhibit, I like to stop by the souvenir shop to pick up the exhibition booklet and a few postcards. I have a couple mini-easels and a name card holder that I use to prop up my postcard of choice. Do you like to stop by the gift shop after an exhibition? What kind of souvenirs do you tend to gravitate towards?