Have you ever thought how vulnerable we are and how uncertain our world is? Tempus edax rerum. Time, devourer of all things. This Latin saying perfectly illustrates the fate of any physical object, any civilization, including the Roman Empire. Decay is one of the major forces that assist time in its pursuit of destruction. Microorganisms eat away both organic and inorganic matter, both natural and man-made textures. Uncertainty is the only certainty. Impermanence is the only permanence.
Seung-Hwan Oh, an experimental photographer and a microbiologist based in Seoul, once got fascinated by the fact that mold destroys film, badly stored in archives. This inspired him to deliver the idea of impermanence of matter in a disturbingly metaphorical way. The artist cultivated fungus and applied it to film before he put it into his camera and took portraits of his friends. After storing the rolls of film for some time to let the bacteria slowly devour the images, thee were developed and printed. The resulting prints are deformed images that present stunning mini-galaxies of human portraits, abstract lines, and vibrant spots.
While the world is saturated with flawlessly retouched images, Seung-Hwan Oh vandalizes and disfigures analogue photographs. While one can take hundreds of digital pictures within a few minutes, the artist considered successful only one out of every 500 frames of film he used, and it took him three years to complete the ‘Impermanence’ project. The artist fuses portraiture and abstract art, blends the organic and the artificial, combines art and science, and makes the meaning appear through disappearance. Undeniably beautiful, his artworks are brutal, physical representations of controlled chaos. Seung-Hwan Oh managed to find poetry in decay, and it looks more impressive than prosaic perfection.