Tinkering with reality to make it her own

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Tinkering with reality to make it her own


Pillow stains, grapefruit peels and cotton pads. What do they have in common?
First of all, they are so ordinary that we usually don’t give them a second thought. But more importantly, they are the focus of Sumi Pyo’s photography exhibition, titled “Tinker.”
The Gallery Factory, a small venue near Gyeongbok Palace, is currently showing 19 medium and large-sized photographic works and 40 polaroids by the 32-year-old Los Angles based artist.
As the title “Tinker” suggests, the artist takes a unique approach to photography by repairing or fiddling with images in an experimental manner.
“I play around with objects. Through tinkering, I fix their images so that they reflect my own vision of how they should look,” Ms. Pyo said.
Like works by Carlos Garaicoa, now made famous by the “New Photography” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in the United States, Ms. Pyo augments her photographs by sewing threads into them, adding scribbles or altering the shading and colors in the development process. By doing so, she intends to bring attention to minuscule details that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Through tinkering, she injects a degree of humor and imagination into an ordinary landscape. For example, the work titled “U.F.O” is a series of black-and-white landscape photographs. A tiny spot in the sky is circled with hand-sewn stitches. Another picture, titled “Space under a leaf,” hangs low in the corner of the gallery, so that viewers must stoop down to see the picture, which is a close-up of a lotus leaf. Other photographers might have zoomed in on the lotus itself, but she chose to capture the space between the leaf and the surface of the pond, allowing viewers to see the world from a lower eye level.
Her refreshingly unconventional perspective is stripped of conceits. The individuality of Ms. Pyo’s work coincided with the ideas of the gallery’s curator.
“I try to avoid art with a political agenda or something too experimental. I prefer works that reflect artists’ personal thoughts to which the public can easily relate,” said Hong Bo-ra, the curator.
Ms. Pyo, who recently earned a master’s degree in photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, has relatively little experience with galleries. Born to a Korean father and a Japanese mother, she spent her childhood in Korea. This is her first solo exhibition.
Ms. Pyo does not feel the necessity to assign significant, symbolic meanings to each image. Instead, she is more interested in finding ―and tinkering with ― the beauty of everyday objects and chance moments.
“Looking at ordinary objects through the viewfinder somehow makes them extraordinary. When the image is magnified and taken out of its context, even the things we never notice suddenly become fascinating,” said Ms. Pyo.

by Su-jin Kim

The exhibition, “Tinker,” runs until Nov. 6 at Gallery Factory. Admission is free. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. From Gyeongbokgung station on line 3, exit 4, walk towards the Blue House along the stone wall and turn left at the first traffic light. For more information, call (02) 733-4883 or visit the Web site, www.factory483.org.
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