Space and place in the work of Do Ho Suh



Do Ho Suh: Karma sculpture


Do Ho Suh working on his Rubbing/Loving project

From work on paper and video to sculpture and immersive installation, the notion of karma is the title and subject of many works by Korean artist Do Ho Suh.

At the start of 2016, I was most fortunate to visit Singapore’s STPI on the last day of the exhibition, Do Ho Suh: New works.

This visit coincided with an important turning point in thinking about my own work, and in many ways came as a revelation to me, particularly with Do Ho Suh’s focus on the concept of karma and the notion of a global citizen with a mobile home: themes of space, place, home, karma, and the connection between the individual and the group across global cultures.


Do Ho Suh: home and karma based thread drawings


Do Ho Suh: Karma thread drawing

Born in Seoul in 1962, Do Ho Suh moved from his native South Korea, to study and live in New York and Paris, before moving to London, where he is now based.

Influenced by his peripatetic existence, an enduring theme of the artist’s practice is the connection between the individual and the group across global cultures.

His own feelings of loss of personal connected space, the sense of “home” and lack of centre, is obvious in his beautifully imagined and created sculptures and installations, as well as his many works on paper and video.

Suh’s Rubbing/Loving Project, as with much of his work, deals with the notion of home and homesickness; indeed, he explicitly asks what is this very notion of home and how can a person carry their home with them.


Do Ho Suh: Rubbing/Loving project


Do Ho Suh: Rubbing/Loving project

Do Ho Suh’s works explore the myriad of feelings associated with the immigrant experience: being dislocated, attempting to understand unfamiliar surrounding striving to create a new home.

The recent Victoria Miro exhibition, Do Ho Suh: Passages, showed some of the work Suh is perhaps most famous for: his one-to-one life-scale fabric representations of his homes.

Continuing the work of his Rubbing/Loving Project, these are at once beautiful and poignant reminders of how we all carry home or homes within us, and perhaps how we would like to carry all our homes were it possible to roll or fold them to carry with us to the next place.


Do Ho Suh


Do Ho Suh: Home

The multiplicity of individuality is tested through meditative processes of repetition: whether interlinked along a lattice of fishing nets, amassed into monumental tornado-like forms, absent from ranks of empty uniforms, or present in every yearbook photo taken at the artist’s high school over 60 years, the artist uses the reproduced human figure to explore sensitively, and with spectacular formal effect, the ways in which personal space inherently extends into the collective sphere.


Do Ho Suh


Do Ho Suh: Running man

The human figure often dominates in Suh’s work: his drawings are filled with abundant references to himself and others; some are kinds of self-portraits – what he calls, “a contemplation of myself” – but he is not only looking inward at himself, but also outward: his sense of inter-connectedness with others of familial relationships in the present but also the past and future.


Do Ho Suh: Floor


Do Ho Suh: Floor detail


Do Ho Suh: Karma

Though much of Do Ho Suh’s work is autobiographical: his pieces are highly informed by his personal experiences of home and migration, and the search for anchor points; this longing for home is the core of any person’s identity.

The work of Do Hu Suh raises questions that pertain to each of us in the universal human experience.

I await the Whitechapel’s July 2017 Art Night, which features Do Ho Suh, with great anticipation.



Do Ho Suh: Karma juggler

Further reading




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