Art Sonje Center opens a solo exhibition of works by Yeesookyung

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Art Sonje Center opens a solo exhibition of works by Yeesookyung
Yeesookyung, Moonlight Crowns, 2021, installation view, Art Sonje Center. Photo: Yang Ian.

SEOUL.- Art Sonje Center is presenting Yeesookyung’s solo exhibition Moonlight Crowns from July 29 to September 26, 2021. Moonlight Crowns is a new series by Yeesookyung, an artist who adopts crowns as a motif of her artwork. The series began in 2017, with five of the works shown for the first time at the Museo Madre and Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy. Adding six more works made after her solo exhibitions in 2019, the exhibition features eleven works of sculpture in total. The works are structured in a way that they expand upward from the crown shape at the very bottom. Upon a small, crown-shaped base, they have a bulging middle section reminiscent of an urn, and a thin, sharp upper section resembling a spire tip. The sculptures range in height from 100 to 225 centimeters, creating a landscape that appears as if there is a crowd of eleven standing people in the exhibition space.

Drawing inspiration from a Silla golden crown and Baekje gilt-bronze incense burner, the artist uses the crown – a symbol of power – as a support rather than placing it on top of ahead. The crown, therefore, becomes both object and a body. As the viewers approach the sculptures, their gaze is captured by the detail of the individual pieces, densely covered by a mixture of craft materials such as iron, brass, glass, pearl, mother-of-pearl, various rough gemstones, and mirror shards. Various symbolic patterns and forms emerge: angels, praying hands, crosses, dragons, plants, cartoon characters, magic wands, and more. The shapes created as the materials come together are like mosaics of fragments, seeming as if it is melting as they dissolve in flame. Like those shattered pieces cluster together to form new shapes and lives, the Moonlight Crowns also creates new “life forms” by bringing together the fragmented materials and symbols diverging from their contexts in terms of conventional beliefs. It is an approach that entails an intricate crafting process. The repeated process of a daily sequence elicits an approach from the artist, which borders on the unconscious and reflection. By combining contemplation with labor, the artist refers to the process as an “automatic writing” – a state of hypnotic concentration.

In the Moonlight Crowns series, the artworks form symmetrical pairings similar to what the artist had often used in her previous work. They resemble the dark and bright sides of the moon, as the sculptures with brilliant gemlike colors are paired with ones that are heavy, black, and dull. This alludes to the contrasts between light and dark, life and death, heaven and hell. However, these are not “eitheror” contrasts where one or the other is assigned to a particular weight or precedence. The sculptures have the same compositions in terms of form and size, only different materials and colors. They exist as parallel objects as if to evoke the existence of ambivalence in every kind of situation in the world and the coexistence of the “other side.”

The exhibition also includes the installation work Thousand Leaves (2018) and the video Whisper Only to You (2019). Based on the old tree roots that the artist encountered, the artist created Thousand Leaves by taking the roots and 3D scanning them to produce a pair of identical shapes, placed on both sides of a folding screen. Covered in different types of white silk, the screen stands like an altar between the two roots. The empty surface of the screen is covered with thousands of leaves, indicating the time they went through along with the tree. Whisper Only to You features a low storytelling voice that traces the details of the artist’s painting Flame (2009). The video adopts a structure, in which layers of shapes are constantly formed from detailed scenes of the painting. The video thus reflects the artist’s approach and major motifs across her sculptures and paintings.

Yeesookyung produced her Moonlight Crowns around 2020, a time when a tiny crown shaped virus was beginning to rampage the world. The series likely appears to continue in the foreseeable future; the artist has expressed her, quoting, “hope that the work reaches the realm of sacred artistic items.” Recalling the comfort that it gave her to concentrate when producing her artwork, she anticipates that it might transcend situations of death, fear, and frustration to convey how, quoting, “our bodies are sacred temples, our spirits resplendent crowns.” As we look upon the Moonlight Crowns, the exhibition invites us to focus on a sacredness within each of us that is not reduced to any religion.

Yeesookyung’s solo exhibitions include: Whisper Only to You, Museo Madre and Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy (2019), Yeesookyung: Contemporary Korean Sculpture, Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, USA (2015), Saint Breeders, Atelier Hermès, Seoul, Korea (2015), When I Become You, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea (2015), When I Become You, Yeesookyung in Taipei, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2015), Jung Marie’s Jeongga, Yeesookyung’s Devotion, Arko Art Center, Seoul, Korea (2010), Yeesookyung im Schloß Oranienbaum, Museum Schloß Oranienbaum, Dessau, Germany (2009). Yeesookyung’s work has also been included in major international exhibitions such as Being Human: An exhibition of modern sculpture, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in UK (2019), Exhibition Paradoxa. Art from Middle Korea, Casa Cavazzini in Udine, Italy (2018), The 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Viva Arte Viva in Venice, Italy (2017), [ana] please keep your eyes closed for a moment, Maraya Art Center in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2015), My Blue China, Fondation d'entreprise Bernardaud Limoges in France (2015), among others. Yeesookyung’s works are in the permanent collections of National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in USA, Museum of Fine Arts Boston in USA, IFEMA ARCO Collection in Madrid, Echigo-Tsumari City Collection in Japan, British Museum in London, and Spencer Museum of Art at University of Kansas in USA, M+ Museum in Hong Kong, among others.

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