Sheffield lights up Korean city
The Intercity Arts Project linking Busan and Sheffield is one of 21 performing and visual arts projects funded by Arts Council England and Arts Council Korea aimed at introducing audiences to work from , supporting collaborations between artists from the two countries and creating opportunities for English arts in South Korea.
In a collaboration between Plan B Cooperative in Busan and the Site Gallery here two artists from Sheffield, Paul Morrison and Ben Tew, went out last summer and created work in public spaces in the Korean city.
Three Korean artists (Hun-Joo Koo, Su-bin Heo and Hyeong-Seob Cho) will be putting on work in Sheffield in the spring.
“We were part of a year-long programme funded by Arts Council Korea and Arts Council England in which major players took out work to South Korea and also connected cities in design, fashion and food,” explains Site’s artistic director, Laura Sillars.
“Sheffield became one of those cities in an exchange with Busan in South East Korea. It’s bigger than London and the ninth biggest port in the world and has a liberal tradition with a big artistic community.
“We were based in Kangkangee Art Village which has been compared with parts of Sheffield with its industrial past and present alongside a thriving arts scene.”
“The bigger picture for Sheffield is the international focus,” said Sillars . “A lot of people latched on to the City of Ideas and through that we were invited to take Sheffield artists out into the world.”
Paul Morrison is known for his large botanical landscapes painted in monochrome. He says the only thing he knew in advance was that “It was to be a site specific wall painting. Only when I got there I decided what it might be.”
Having chosen a factory wall the length of a street in the Kangkangee Art Village and made sketches he returned to the UK to draw up plans.
“I made the drawing that was the basis of the piece but there were minor tweaks once I got back out there,” he reports. “The actual environment is chaotic and there is a lot of stuff on the street.
“You had to take into account the shadows from the street furniture. There are air conditioning units and cables and so the design is organic.”
Called Equisetum the piece draws the natural world of the hills overlooking the city into the noisy busy world of the dockyard. In his characteristic black and white, plants weave over the whole building creating a fragmented pattern which he feels is reminiscent of dazzle-ship camouflage.
“The building fronts on to the water on the edge of the island and people moor their boats there. It’s an interesting area. There’s something of Blade Runner at night.”
The downside of it being a working area was it meant at one point he had to stop work for a couple of days while a giant crane lifted another crane over the building to the waterside.
There was an upside, though. “There’s a lot of energy in the place and they have a can-do mentality.” Like the way his request for a scissor lift to enable him to work high up was facilitated and the nearby market where you could get whatever small item you suddenly found you needed.
A senior lecturer in Art and Design at Sheffield Hallam University, Ben Tew set up his own company in 2015 to pursue his passion for designing and building imaginative installations and experiences for himself and others.
The artist was asked to install light works to brighten up a pathway along the coast where the ships are anchored. “I needed to explore the place to get an idea of the area. I looked for a corridor high up along a quayside between two pylons,” he explains.
He then returned home to plan what became Strands, in collaboration with Sheffield design collective Universal Everything.
Set high above the prows of the boats at the dock on two pylons, 360 animated LED lights ripple across steel frames produced by local craftsmen based in the dockyards.
“I sent the drawings and designs to people over there. In this particular instance we thought it would be nice to use facilities in the village. The specialist light things I used were brought out from the UK.”
The American is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and also holds degrees . in Mechanical Engineering Industrial Design from Virginia Tech.
“I have an engineering and design background and have always been interested in the interaction of art, design and technology,” he says.
In the UK he has worked with the internationally renowned Jason Bruges Studio and was part of the team responsible for the installation for the Coca-Cola Pavilion at the 2012 London Olympics
“I have done projects all over the world but the people in Busan were really up for this one,” he reflects.
He treasures the moment of the switch-on because up until then he couldn’t visualise exactly how it would look and fit into the night-time atmosphere. “The best part is always when you turn it on.”