Artist: Stephen Pusey
The mural was commissioned by Seoul City and painted in mid to late December 2019 on the rear interior wall of the pavilion of the Oil Tank Culture Park, Mapo-Gu, Seoul, Korea.
In mid December 2019, after months of negotiations, I received news that the funding for the commission of a mural had finally been approved by Seoul City. I arrived in Seoul in the early hours of December 15th and visited the site the same day intending to start work immediately. I had directed the workers to paint the entire pavilion a lavender grey and the exterior parapet an emerald/copper green. The grey was intended to effect a relaxing environment and the green parapet to harmonize with the surrounding park and the hydroponic planting on the roof of the pavilion. Everything had been prepared as directed except for the wall on which the mural was to be painted. The start of the mural was postponed to the following day while the base coat was applied to those walls.
The pavilion is open on two sides as well as at the top of its internal walls. The mural was to be applied to the large rear wall of the pavilion which was divided into five sections, separated by rectangular columns. The entire length of the completed mural, which was painted in a high-grade acrylic masonry paint - is sixty-eight foot excluding the columns which are each around three foot wide. The height of the mural is nine foot. In the center of the pavilion deck is a seating area surrounding a vent to an underground spring which provides cool air in the Summer to those relaxing in the pavilion.
The Oil Tank Culture Park was originally a top-secret oil depot built in 1973 during the oil crisis through a directive from a former South Korean president, the dictator Park Chung-hee (in office 1963–1979). In 2017 the area, which had been closed to the public for forty years, was opened as a public park. There are six massive oil tanks in the hills above the pavilion which have been converted into wonderful performance, meeting and exhibition spaces. The entrance and exterior of each tank is a forbidding post-apocalyptic concrete structure. I had wondered about the oxide discoloration on these structures until I was informed that they had originally been buried in soil to disguise the presence of the storage tanks from possible invaders. The interiors of these converted tanks are quite awe-inspiring. The pavilion in which I created the mural was originally the pumping station into which the large oil trucks would drive. On the ceiling of the pavilion are the original industrial light fixtures, which are no longer used. The interior is currently lit by LED strips but lighting to illuminate the mural will soon be installed.
The Oil Tank Culture Park, late December, 2019
Entrance to an Oil Tank space
The Dragon Song Pavilion
Frozen Cosmos at bottom of my paint kettle.
December in Seoul, South Korea is extremely cold as well as humid, particularly in the open area of the park. The cold penetrated even the thermal garments I wore. The mural was originally intended to start in November, when the weather was milder. I had said that I would require at least a month to complete the project. I surprised myself. I do not understand how I achieved this – perhaps it was the freezing temperatures I had to work in or some special energy in that area possessed me – but I completed the mural in seven straight days of intense work. I returned to the site a number of times following the completion of the mural and was still amazed it was painted it in that short time. Each section measures around nine by fourteen and a half feet (approximately 3 x 4.5 meters). Just one painting that size would normally take a month, at least.
Beginning the mural, December 17th, 2019
Day two of the mural, December 18th, 2019
Day two of the mural, December 18th, 2019
Day six of the mural, December 22nd, 2019
I do not pre-design paintings – they are a process of discovery - but my original concept for the painting was to have the sections work both as one painting and five separate paintings. So each section stands on its own while there is a continuation through the entire length of the mural. As the work evolved I began to muse about a dragon weaving through the five elements, fire, earth, metal, air and water. The title, “Dragon Song”, occurred to me – which connected with a concept fundamental to my work – that of resonant signatures. I think of all of existence as being comprised of resonance – from the smallest particle to everything in the entire Universe. In this title I conflated the myth of the Eastern Dragon with the Celtic creation myth, Òran Mór
Title: "Oran Mór" | Date: 2014 | Size: 63 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches / 162.1 x 259 cm | Medium: Acrylic on canvas | Artist: Stephen Pusey (Gaelic: "Great Song") – about a song which starts as a low whisper and gradually builds in volume until all of creation is brought into existence. I play with these ideas as a way of understanding the process of my work and our existence. It is not just the Song OF the Dragon: the Song IS the Dragon.
Dragon Song 5 | Size: 108 x 174 inches / 274.32 x 441.96 cm
Dragon Song 4 | Size: 108 x 174 inches / 274.32 x 441.96 cm
Dragon Song 3 | Size: 108 x 174 inches / 274.32 x 441.96 cm
Dragon Song 2 | Size: 108 x 174 inches / 274.32 x 441.96 cm
Dragon Song 1 | 108 x 120 inches / 274.32 x 304.8 cm
New York City, February 6, 2020