Young-Deok SEO

Seo Young-Deok B. 1984, South Korea Lives and works in Seoul Contemporary Korean artist Seo Young-Deok is a metal smith and sculptor. The artist has captivated audiences by producing life-size, hyper-realistic sculptures of the human body made with welded iron or stainless steel chains using the likes of bicycles and industrial machinery. Following numerous studies of the natural human form, his sculptures deliver epic narrations of humanity and modernity where stories are only inferred by the mere expressions of their bodies rather than the context of their surroundings. Seo explores the relationship between humans and the modern environment through the creative repurposing of iron chains – a material that has been critical to the development of the modern world and Korea’s manufacturing industry. Inspired by his own rural upbringing in contrast to his urban adult life, he uses chains to question the industrialization of labor that has become synonymous with today’s human condition. While being artistically repurposed, his meticulous manipulation of the iron chains expose their monotonous and repetitive nature. Seo’s sculptures of the human body exist either fragmented or as a whole. Each iron piece is welded together to become a part of the dynamic system of organic connectivity exhibited his human forms; while the material may be physically strong, its structural completeness is what exudes strength of the human spirit. In a varying series – his series of sculptures with torn limbs and viscerally burned human torsos – speak of the pain, suffering, and decay from the experience of his family’s generation working in Korea’s industrialization era. By constantly weighing the dichotomy between ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’ existence, Seo addresses the inevitable social inequalities of the industrial system. Seo Young-Deok graduated from the Environmental Sculpture department of the University of Seoul in 2008. In the same year he received the Grand Prize for the “9th National Undergraduate and Graduate Students Sculpture Competition”. Although his works have largely only been exhibited in South Korea, his international exhibitions in the last two years have been met with much critical acclaim. He lives and works in South Korea.