That Light, Which Emits from the Passage of Time
- The Metamorphosis of the Sea Shell
Luminosity engulfs the works of You-Sun Kim. With the use of natural mother-of-pearl, her work exploits its illuminating light to the full, presenting surfaces of flawless brilliance. The surfaces, as thin as thread, emit light, express depth and a subtle radiance, arousing vibrations on the otherwise debased planes. The mystic ocular effect is reminiscent of the refraction of light through a prism.
The artist and her works are self-sufficient. Feminine beauty is distinctly defined, in a manner far from passive. The beauty of the works is positive and self-confident. It is unconscious of others, not contrived or exaggerated, but natural and self-induced. The works owe their beauty to the beauty of the medium, its surface cultivated over the years beneath a cold, dark sea - exterior beauty is represented as culminating from self-indurance.
The sea shell, usually no more attractive than the rock, is transformed by the processes of nature. The artist equates this to a miraculous episode of the universe. The medium is an expression of her admiration for the elements and the cosmos.
The universe and the astral bodies provoke manifold thoughts and opinions in the artist. As a young girl she recalls her reliance on the stars to relieve her fear of the dark. Later she developed a fascination with the nature of time and space, and astrophysics. The universe, a world of extreme macroscopic and microscopic structures, holds the capacity for perpetually capturing the artist's mind. Currently within our sphere of vision are thousands of stars. As the artist concentrates on the brilliance of one, she is taken out of the moment and journeys in search of the origin. This also signifies the process by which she traces past generations of women, in search of her true identity in the present. The ordering of the universe and its energy, expressed through time, is the main theme for this exhibit.
The artist's own perception of time takes various forms. The mother-of-pearl media and the principle subject matter of each piece all work in correlation with time. Time is the essential element by which the existence of the medium is made possible - more important than the chemical or the physical aspects of the process of cultivation. The artist states that 'every second makes up my work', and the process of production and its time element give meaning to the work. They are created with a zealous discipline and respect for tradition - the repeated coating of the wood, and cutting, gluing and chafing of the mother-of-pearl require almost religious patience.
The Plank Wall, The Plank Time and Bulge exemplify the artist's fascination with the universe. The relationship of time and space, the formation and destruction of stars, the time existing between heaven and earth, the flow of time, all represent essential themes.
The works in this exhibit go beyond her expression of light. The mosaic quality of her small sculptures emulates the neo-impressionist style of the 19th Century by its proximity to the Pointillist technique of 'mixing by subtraction', here reversed to the process of 'mixing by addition'. The reflected light engineers a quality of three dimensional space beyond the plane of the surface. The effect is similar to that of a hologram - from all angles the luminous energy has a spatial quality like that of a rainbow.
These works reflect Kim's attitude towards performance art. In contrast to the principle idea of this art form in historical terms, her definition holds a unique meaning due to the elimination of all traces of action in the finished product. As a result, the personal element is retained, as well as the finished product as a separate existence.
Kim's works are of an extremely personal nature. The private world of the artist, past experiences and felt emotions are essential elements revealed in the pieces. Devoid of consciousness of the Other, the artist operates in a distinctively individualistic manner. Coming out into public view with her work for this exhibit is symbolic of a breaking free from the introversion of the creative domain.
These works are the process by which the distinction between her own being and the surrounding elements, the border between private and public, is erased. For her, the cosmos and the forces of nature - all considered as life forms - are not clearly separable from her own existence or subjectivity. She has said that, 'in the universe, the self and all surrounding elements exist under a common ground determined by God', and we can see that the artist is one with her work.
Sagittarius A*, her last work for this exhibit, was made from the fine dust of mother-of-pearl. It is symbolic of the beginning and end of the universe. As one theory of particles dictates, all objects begin and end in dust. It is fair to say that this theorem is symbolic of the beginning and end of the artist's works.
You-Sun Kim's yearning for a representation of the transcendental and universal world beyond human understanding uses the concept of time as its corresponding element in an attempt to explore and overcome the generalised mobilisation of emotion and intelligence. If her works, which depict the universal scheme of nature, can gain a better understanding and agreement from her audience then that universality will at last have a deeper meaning.
Lee Sook-Kyung (Critic, History and Theory of Art)