Park Seo-bo was an eminent South Korean painter, best known for his “Écriture” series initiated in 1967. He played a significant role in the Korean Art Informel movement and was recognized as a pivotal figure in the Dansaekhwa art movement due to his unique approach to painting.

Early Years and Rise to Prominence

Born during the Japanese occupation in Yecheon County, North Gyeongsang, Park Seo-bo embarked on his artistic journey under Japanese colonial rule, faced interruptions due to the Korean War, and witnessed the aftermath of the conflict. This tumultuous backdrop significantly influenced his initial artworks.

After graduating from Hongik University, Park faced challenges in the form of military draft evasion, for which he adopted a new identity, transitioning from Park Jae-hong to Park Seo-bo. Despite these adversities, he became a fierce critic of the National Art Exhibition (Kukjeon) and joined the Contemporary Artists Association (Hyeondae Misul Hyeohoe) in 1957. As a part of this association, he became a key figure in the Korean Art Informel movement. Park’s abstract paintings, characterized by their experimentation with various elements, such as texture, color, and shape, sought to challenge conventional painting norms. His “Écriture” series, which spanned over half a century, emphasized the process of painting and moved away from traditional artistic intentions.

Park’s commitment to promoting Korean contemporary art, both locally and internationally, was evident in his various roles. He mentored students at Hongik University, curated exhibitions featuring avant-garde artists, and contributed significantly to the Korean Fine Arts Association (KFFA). His efforts here were instrumental in fostering the Dansaekhwa movement.

In 1994, he established the Seo-bo Art and Cultural Foundation, later passing on its leadership to his son in 2014. Park’s significant contributions to art were celebrated in a retrospective at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) in 2019. Today, two museums stand in tribute to his work.

Early Life and Education

Born to Park Jaehun and Nam Kimae in Japanese-occupied South Korea, Park’s passion for art was evident from a young age, often drawing inspirations from renowned Korean artists. Despite his father’s wishes for him to pursue law, Park remained steadfast in his commitment to art.

Park’s academic journey at Hongik University was marked by interruptions due to the Korean War. Despite the challenges, he returned to school in 1952, resorting to selling portraits and using unconventional materials for painting. After changing his major to Western Painting, he studied under Kim Whanki and graduated in 1955. His time at the Lee Bongsang Painting Institute introduced him to other budding artists and also led him to Yoon Myeong-Sook, whom he married in 1958.

Personal Life and Passing

Facing health challenges like a myocardial infarction in 1994 and cerebral infarction in 2009, Park spent his later years in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, with his wife and family. His life came to an end on 14 October 2023, due to lung cancer, at the age of 91. Through his art and contributions, Park Seo-bo leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come.