Seung Yul Oh


NameSeung Yul Oh (he/him)
Country of BirthSouth Korea
Place of Residence Seoul, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Dealer GalleryStarkwhite, ONE AND J. Gallery
ArtformVisual arts
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Seung Yul Oh is a multidisciplinary artist known for his large-scale installations and minimal yet playful work. His iconic public sculptures can be seen throughout Aotearoa. In 2014, just ten years after graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts, a major retrospective exhibition of Oh’s work, MOAMOA, was held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington.

Oh was born and grew up in Seoul, South Korea, moving to Aotearoa on his own as a 15-year-old international student. The reality of suburban Auckland differed to the untouched wilderness he had imagined but he enjoyed getting lost in a totally new place. A feeling of freedom that comes with ‘getting lost’ and similarly with play, underpins the sense of intuition informing his practice. Interactivity, scale and a consideration of site often feature in his work, as do animals, natural or abstract forms, and everyday objects. This is expressed eloquently in an interview with Sunjung Kim in Seung Yul Oh: MOAMOA: “As a poet uses words, I use forms for their qualities of sound and rhythm, and for their potential to offer a physical experience.”

His particular interest in the highly charged moment of encounter between viewer and artwork was first explored during art school in the ongoing video work The Ability To Blow Themselves Up (2004–ongoing) in which participants are filmed blowing up balloons until they burst. The work highlights themes which appear throughout his practice — a repetitious act with a known outcome nevertheless full of tension and surprise, as well as being a playful, frivolous action. Again, from Seung Yul Oh: MOAMOA: “It’s all about building the anticipation, about waiting for the profound or the inevitable to happen. This seems to be the condition of all art, and of life itself.”

Oddooki (2008), a childhood toy that Oh recreated on a grand scale, was originally commissioned as a site-specific installation for the windswept sculpture terrace at Te Papa. Five cartoon-like chicken/egg forms with high-gloss surfaces stood a metre high, and chime and re-right themselves when pushed.

His inflatable series of sculptures are huge, soft-edged structures. Huggong fills each exhibition space differently; a transparent, air-filled PVC sphere is squished between hand railings in a stairwell (ONE AND J. Gallery, 2013); huge bright yellow and orange balloon-like orbs stretch floor to ceiling or around structural beams (Starkwhite Gallery, 2012). To experience Periphery (2013), viewers must navigate a gallery space filled with larger-than-human sized yellow and white inflated oblong objects. Such simple yet monumental gestures characterise Oh’s work.

The public sculpture OnDo (2015–2021), which featured a tower of noodles emerging from the footpath on Dominion Road, was a humorous nod to the abundance of local Asian eateries in the area.

Oh was the winner of the National Contemporary Art Award in 2005, and recipient of the Arts Foundation’s 2010 Harriet Friedlander Residency. His works are in the permanent collections of major public institutions including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He currently splits his time living between Korea and Aotearoa, together with his family.


Key works / presentations

2023 — Atonal Sonority, Northart, Tāmaki Makaurau

2023 — Orbit, 101 Collins St, Melbourne, Australia

2023 — Guttation, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2022 — Moment of Movement,
 Ōtākaro, Christchurch Convention & Exhibition Centre (CCEC), Ōtautahi

2022 — Huggong-Monologue, Starkwhite, Tāmaki Makaurau

2020 —Touch, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2018 — Vary very, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2018 — Horizontal Loop, Starkwhite, Tāmaki Makaurau

2017 — Conduct Cumulus, SCAPE Public Art, Arts Centre, Ōtautahi

2016— Slit Scan, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga

2015–2021 — OnDo, Albert-Eden Local Board, Dominion Road, Tāmaki Makaurau

2015 — HaaPoom, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau

2014 — SOOM, Sculpture Court, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Tāmaki Makaurau

2014 —MOAMOA, a Decade, City Gallery Wellington, Pōneke

2013— MOAMOA, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ōtepoti

2010 — Knocknock, Commissioned by Newmarket Arts Trust, Tāmaki Makaurau

Key awards

2013 — SEMA Nanji Residency, Seoul

2011 — Arts Foundation of New Zealand: Harriet Friedlander New York Residency

2010 — ggooll Residency, Seoul

2005 — Waikato Musuem: National Contemporary Art Award

2003 — Goldwater Art Award, Waiheke Island

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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit