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PRESS RELEASE                                       October 8, 2020

Sungmo Cho’s ‘Photo – Pencil Sculpture Exhibition’ 

The Last Pencil on Earth / The First Electronic Pen on Earth

Photos of Sarang Mountain’s Yesterday and Today

The Won Kak Sa Gallery : Oct 11, 2020 to Jan 4, 2021

Artist Sungmo Cho, who is active in New York, is holding a very special exhibition.

The ‘Nature as a Canvas & The Last Pencil on Earth’ exhibition, which will be held at the Won-Kak-Sa Gallery in Salisbury Mills, Orange County, New York from October 11, 2020 to Jan 4, 2021, is currently a hot topic.

The exhibition is drawing keen attention in that it presents photographic works and wooden sculptures, not oil painting works such as ‘Along the Road’ and ‘the Road of Love,’ which Sungmo Cho has long been making.

‘Nature as a Canvas’ is a photo exhibition featuring yesterday and today of Sungmo Cho’s ‘Sarang Mountain’(Sarang means Love in Korean – https://www.facebook.com/Sarang-Mountain-378890002279991/), while ‘The Last Pencil on Earth’ is the world’s first series of pencil sculptures.

Sungmo Cho, who left Long Island, New York to move to Orange County, New York in December 2012, nicknamed his home and workplace ‘Sarang Mountain,’ where one can find a combination of beautiful Schunemunk mountainside, a wooden house, a lovely gazebo, and a floral garden.

Cho has been working on Sarang Mountain as a canvas based on nature for the past eight years, along with his existing artwork activities. In fact, it was a desolate place when he first came here.

He cut down dozens of dead trees and planted fruit and floral trees such as persimmons, peaches, chestnuts, roses, maples, royal azaleas, etc. Stones were dug up from the ground and used to build small walls and stepping stones were placed to create a path. He also made two wooden bridges that cross the stream.

Sarang Mountain Before (pictured above, Fall 2012)

After (photo below, Summer 2020)

Bellflowers were planted on the hills that turn into a golden color at dusk to reproduce the ‘LOVE’ font of Cho’s ‘The Road of Love’ series. The site has drawn attention as it can be seen through Google’s satellite images.

Sarang Mountain caught on an a satellite

At the right of Sarang Mountain, which was captured in the satellite photo, Cho’s ‘LOVE’ font is clearly visible.

Sarang Mountain has a ‘Sarang-Jung, Love Gazebo,’ a mixture of Korean-style Jung-Ja and American gazebo. Situated in front of a clear and clean stream, Sarang-Jung is amazing in that Cho built most of it alone with help from only a few people.

For Sungmo Cho, Sarang Mountain is a natural canvas that requires a lot of devotion and is as beautiful as Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France.

The exhibition will feature all-color photographic works that capture the history of Sarang Mountain’s transformation from the artist’s unique perspective. Of the 10,000+ photos taken over the past eight years, 62 photos were carefully selected and will be displayed in custom frames made by the artist.

Along with the photo exhibition, the ‘Last Pencil on Earth’ sculpture is also drawing great attention. Four of the pencil sculptures that Sungmo Cho has been working on since last fall will be unveiled for the first time.

The Last Pencil on Earth

The First Electronic Pen on Earth 

It is unprecedented in the world for pencil sculptures to be completed in a series of different shapes, configurations and messages. Sungmo Cho has already completed the registration for international copyright. On the background of the invention of the pencil sculpture, Cho said, “One day last fall, I went to the studio because I had to work outside and needed a pencil, but I couldn’t see the HB pencil among the many different writing pen or pencil. I searched everywhere, but I couldn’t find it. I realized that I’m living in an era where I don’t need a pencil to write.”

Two works to be displayed in the museum box

Cho explained, “Due to the rapid changes and advancements in civilization, we are in a digital era where starting from the existing familiar objects all the way to our workplace are becoming electronic and AI robotized. As a symbol of such a dramatic situation, I’ve come to make the various meanings of pencils through an artistic imagination.

One thing to notice here is that bent pencils satirize the media. It is called ‘Gok-Pil,’ which means distorting facts. It refers to media and journalists who write distorted facts and mislead the audience.

If ‘Jik-Pil’ (meaning direct writing) represents the media that reports only facts and maintains fairness and objectivity, ‘Gok-Pil’ is the epitome of ‘Gok-Hak-A-Se,’ which are those who abandon important beliefs and values to chase success. In the near past, this was described as pseudo-media and nowadays, it is called ‘Giregi’ (trash journalist) in Korea.

Cho’s unconventional ‘Gok-Pil,’ which breaks down the form of pencils, is a product of the natural ingredients obtained from Sarang Mountain and the artist’s fierce intuition driven by his anger towards the injustice about distortion and fake news existing today.

This is not the only pencil that is bent. The exhibition will feature only on work, but there are about 10 curved pencils with different sizes and shapes. Some of them are curved like earthworms, while others have curved bodies that suddenly shoot up straight like a cobra. If the former is a ‘Gok-Pil’ that flatters power and money, ‘Cobra Gok-Pil’ is an evil one that viciously spits out distorted facts and false reports like poisonous snakes.

From the left, a rotten pencil, a curved pencil (Gok-Pil), a direct pencil (Jik-Pil)

Even more amazing piece is the rotten pencil, ‘Bu-Pil,’ which is rotten to the core and left with nothing but a hideous appearance. There is also the fake pencil, ‘Ga-Pil,’ that appears like a normal pencil on the outside but is rotten on the inside.

The exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) at the Won-Kak-Sa Gallery. The opening ceremony will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 11.

Won Kak Sa Gallery (KOREAN BUDDHIST WONKAKSA – The oldest Korean Temple in the Northeastern United States)

www.wonkaksa.org

260 Clove Rd, Salisbury Mills, NY 12577

Contact : chosungmo@gmail.com for more information.

Artist’s Note:

Photo exhibition of ‘Nature on a Canvas’ and ‘The Last Pencil on Earth’.

I had moved from Long Island to the Town of Blooming Grove in Orange County, NY 8 years ago, and settled in Sarang Mountain(https://www.facebook.com/Sarang-Mountain-378890002279991/). “Sarang” means love in Korean and Sarang Mountain is a nickname I’ve chosen for my home and art studio. It is located in a beautiful region proximate to Schunemunk mountainside, where I’ve dedicated a considerable amount of time and energy cultivating a garden, building a workshop, planting fruit trees and a flower island where a rundown swimming pool used to be. Additionally, I built two small bridges across a creek and a wooden pavilion where one can rest and reflect. I also built a large stone wall from stones scattered around the property. All of this was built by hand over a span of eight years.

Moreover, during that span of time, I also held three solo exhibitions, where I showcased all of my new artwork. I have been thoroughly enjoying the wide open space, as it fosters a conducive environment for me to generously pour my heart, mind and soul into my work.

With the passage of time at Sarang Mountain, I’ve been blessed to experience the changes from Spring to Winter, as well as the stark contrast from morning and night. Over a span of eight years, I have captured these moments through the lens of a painter, not a professional photographer. I have selected 62 photos for display at the exhibition.

Along with the photo exhibition, I will be unveiling for the very first time, a new three-dimensional work that I call “The Last Pencil on Earth.”

One day, during fall, while I was performing some carpentry work, I needed a pencil. I immediately went to my studio to look for one, but could not manage to find a standard HB (hard black) pencil. I looked everywhere for one but still could not find one, so I kept thinking to myself, “Why is there no pencil around…” And at that moment, I found myself caught up in a deep thought. My current predicament highlighted the current state of the world. Where a pencil was the tool used to facilitate sharing of knowledge and information, as time passed with major advancements in technology and with the arrival and advancement of the digital era, the pencil became the analog and past of the present. With continuous advancements of the digital world, a pencil is very much the opposite of those advancements.

In George Orwell’s 1984, he predicted a dystopian future in which the world was full of misinformation, fabrication, distortion and conspiracy. Ironically, there are some parallels between our society today and that of George Orwell’s. The constant misinformation campaign that is pervasive in society causes undue stress for those who are unable to distinguish the truth and facts and are constantly being manipulated.

The future, which became today as a result of humankind’s endless curiosity, desire, greed, and familiar objects or those that we cherished that were always around us – regardless of whether that was an object or a person, things which have always been familiar to us, cherished, touched, seen, and kept close – I would like to remind ourselves of these things we have forgotten or lost, either consciously or unconsciously, through this pencil work.

Through ‘The Last Pencil on Earth,’ I hope that we become aware of the unstable position of being unaware, where we cannot afford to give our hearts and eyes to those around us, and live a life where we feel the greatest love for everything around us today. So for this reason, the subtitle is named ‘Do it well when it is being.’ This is in consistency with the idea that love is the balancing power in the love triangle between nature, civilization, and humankind.

Moreover, with the advancement of IT and AI, many tools, jobs, and so forth have disappeared. Without a choice or time to adapt, we have been subject to the vast changes in our civilization and it has become a part of our daily lives. As such, I wanted to symbolize this sentiment with ‘The First Electronic Pen on Earth’ artwork that I created.

<span;>August 22, 2020

Sungmo Cho (www.sungmocho.com)

Sincerely yours

Sungmo Cho