A Tree, Inherent Forms
2008. 3. 19 (WED) - 4. 20 (SUN)
Lee Gil-Rae s Sculpture_ A Tree, Inherent Forms and Nature s Original Form Kho, Chung-Hwan (Art Critic) Lee Gil-Rae s work presents a possibility of post-sculpture, while maintaining an aesthetic of traditional sculpture as expressed, for example, in the labor intensive weaving process. His work presents a form that lacks massiveness, has a structure wherein the inside runs through the outside, and a pictorial situation. Through all of this, his work maintains a dual-tension relationship with traditional sculpture, and there the distinctive character of Lee Gil-Rae s work begins. He has been consistently pursuing inherent or original forms of nature, and his subject matter has included such things as a lost castle, archeological excavations, creation, cohesion and recently he made his Tree Series. A Lost Castle. Lee Gil-Rae s earlier series of work A Lost Castle reminds us of the remains of a civilized society. The conception and impression of the work seem to suggest the legendary Atlantis that is known to have sunk into the ocean after having developed highly civilized life styles or the ancient ruins of Pompeii that fascinated classicists, and at the same time it reminds of sentiments of romanticists who were more familiar with death than life. As we all well know, the romanticists tend to be excited about past rather than present, ideal rather than real life, death rather than life. They enthuse about traces of civilization such as tombs or ancient remains. The reason why they are fascinated by the traces of life rather than the life itself is probably because they remind them of the lost and the forgotten rather than a resurrection of the ancient civilization itself. Furthermore, we can see their aestheticism from how they draw existential self-consciousness based on some sort of deficiency from the traces. As in Nietzsche s comment on aestheticism that without the aestheticism life cannot be justified in any way, they believed in artistic life, that unrealistic vision was the reason for art and the starting point for making a real life more meaningful, rather than an escape from the reality. In this manner, Lee s consciousness aims at the past rather than at actual life. In A Lost Castle , the castle signifies the childhood of the artist, the utopia existing in the inner self of the artist and also an imaginative city like sand castles made by the artist s imagination. Through the mirage created by the work, the artist returns himself to his childhood, at the same time encounters his alter ego. This seems to suggest an aspect of the artist s self-reflection over the evasion of reality: What did I lose? Or did I lose myself? (As we can see, the castle is a deformation of a house, and a house implies one s identity.) Archeological Excavation. Fascinated by the remains of the lost ancient civilization, the artist imports the concept of excavation itself, and takes it a step further beyond the mere realization of the remains. For instance, after digging the ground, the artist puts fiberglass reinforced plastic into the hole in the ground, and then puts dirt into the shape again or sometimes puts some figure that he made before into the ground. Afterwards he excavates the figure from the ground. When he does this type of work, the artist is not prepared with the exact outcome of the work, but only guesses. The shape that is produced through the inter-related process of the surface of the ground with the FRP can be described as incidental and unexpected. It is a shape made by nature. Although the minimal beginnings of the resulting shape is provided by the artist, the finished shape itself has been naturally produced by the nature of the ground and the intrinsic characteristics of the materials. By minimizing the conscious intervention of the artist, he suggests that his intention is to mimic the original shape that nature had, not at all a spectator s attitude toward the work. Through this process, a shape that resembles the texture of dirt is made. And although that shape reminds of the characteristics and textures of burial objects, it is different since it does not have decisive forms such as utensils for religious services. These forms as those of burial objects just excavated from the ground spurts out the energy of the earth and nature. On top of that, the grand scale of the work brings a monumental impression as if we are looking at the boldly standing Stonehenge. Some might say that it looks like religious utensils with a tripod or a phallic sculpture, or the entangled roots of a big tree. Through this work, the artist seems to express the original form that can be recognized as mysterious, significant and absolute. In this way, the artist s intention to excavate the significant forms through harmonizing himself with the truth of nature and the earth resembles the tendency of historians or archeologists. And it can be also read as his attempt to reflect the recent academic trend in art that it tries to apply other areas of the humanities: for instance, a cross-disciplinary study of art and archeology.
Formation and Condensation. Lee s awareness of expressions of the nature of the earth, dirt and nature naturally results in his usage of natural materials. The artist employs everything from traditional materials such as wood, iron and stone to natural materials such as clam shells, oyster shells, marsh snail shells, and fragments of pottery. Among those, except the fragments of pottery, everything is from the ocean, and this has something to do with the artist s unconscious memory of his childhood. The artist s aim to express nature-friendly forms and his expectation that the materials collected from the natural would encapsulate the truth of nature would probably have worked with some sort of physiological assimilation in the artist s mind. The artist constructs the overall form through the repetitive process of fixing these natural materials on sculptural materials like fiberglass reinforced plastics (FRP). Those forms are mostly minimalist geometric shapes such as round shapes, modified tetragon shapes or vertical pillars. From this point, we can infer the artist s reductionism based on minimalism. For instance, with his propensity of inclining absolute forms that are the origin of all the forms, particularly his attitude of restraining forms to the least structure recalls structuralism: the other side of all the uncertain phenomenon has a structure that elucidates the phenomenon. In literature, it is a main theme that penetrates the whole difficult text. However, there occurs an irony that all these geometric and abstract forms are structured by organic materials collected from nature. In other words, the abstract forms and organic materials, which wouldn t match on the external appearances, assimilate with each other and produce reverberation, energy and vitality from the inside. In this way, the relationship between the forms and the materials in Lee Gil-Rae s work is opened to the point of contact where pure abstract ideas and the nature s vitality meet. On the other hand, the artist also uses readymade objects like buttons or machine parts alongside natural materials. By utilizing traditional sculpture materials and natural materials like shells or fragments of pottery, and even some readymade objects into his work, there is nothing that can t be used as his sculptural materials. The forms that are accumulated with artificial objects such as plastic or stainless steel give quite a modern sense, and that impression comes very differently from the other works of the artist, which usually have a sense of the original. When the nature of those works resembles the true nature of the nature, the works that reminds of the nature of the civilization, on the other hand, gain our sympathy of the discourse of dailiness. The artist s interest, as it were, that was focused on the search of the origin finally got expanded to the subject of daily life. This is not just about the expansion of the boundary of the artist s area of interest, but more about the fact that the artist s consciousness has expanded to the mundane that is based on his recognition of reality as well as the idealism represented by the original forms. And in these works, we can see the recognition of the organic relationship between the part and the whole: each part accomplishing organic harmony with the overall shape while not hurting its individual characteristic. In this way, the concept, which the accumulation of individual part makes the whole, can be related to the origin of the world or the evolution of the universe. On that account, the recognition of the fact that the whole is structuralized by the minimum unit such as shells, pottery fragments or buttons seem to be an analogous expression to the formation of the world and the universe that is constructed by the organic assembly of particles and monad. Such recognition of the organic relationship between the parts and the whole became relatively more clear and standardized in the works made of copper pipes. In this series, after cutting pipes to a certain size, Lee repeatedly puts those round shaped pipes together. Since these assembled pipes are cut in the same size and shape, comparing to other works with the natural materials, the organic relationship between the part and the whole is revealed more clearly in this series. The finished forms of this series of work are also clearly distinguished from other works. While the works made with the natural materials express the vitality of the nature in the format of genuine notion through abstract forms that even remind of minimalism, the works with copper pipes take the notion of representation that we can recognize concrete form at a glance. Those shapes can vary from a enlarged light bulb to fruits like persimmon, cherry, musk melons or vegetables like zucchini, hot pepper, garlic, onion, bottle gourd. The reason why the subject matter changed from abstract allusion to the representational is first of all for the change of the artist s personal interest from the ideal to everyday life. It might be naturally transferred by a change of the artist s outlook on living: he farms a small kitchen garden from time to time. However, one might even be able to feel the artist s awe of the life from this series. In other words, each copper pipe that constructs the whole form is identified with the minimum particle of the life, a miniature universe, a seed of the life, a cell.
A Tree. Lee s interest in nature hits a turning point in the combination between the inner vitality of nature and the sensuous shapes of nature. Finally the artist is able to express the nature s vital power and the formation of the nature through sensuous similar shapes of the nature in the same intensity as expressing the immanent energy of the nature in the suggestive and abstract manner. The general process and methodology are not so different from the previous series of work that dealt with fruits. The only difference is that in this series instead of cutting the pipes in a certain size regularly and using the round shape face as it is, this time the side of the round shape is pressed to a long oval shape. This long oval shape then becomes the monad of a tree and through a welding process a form of tree is produced. What is amazing here is that the tree shape made with these oval shape particles very much resemble the surface of the actual tree. There is a standing shape, or naturally curved shape. And there is an imposing one or a skinny one. These trees that especially reference fine trees incorporate the naturally distorted shapes by time and weathering. How come trees? There is a rather profound reason why the artist who has worked with the subject matters of fruits and vegetables chose trees, which might look simply relevant to those previous subjects of interest. The artist s interest has been only focused on the original forms, and that kind of consciousness made him choose trees as his new subject matter in the extension of the origin of the nature. Therefore, the trees from Lee s new series of work express a metaphor of the original forms that all the forms in the world are originated from and the origin of the nature that is to say natural vitality condensed inside the similar looking forms. Therefore, the tree shape towering high toward the sky overlaps with the symbolic meaning of Omphalos, Obelisk, Totem poles, Sotdae, the tree of life, which all signify the centre of the world. The upright shape that gives a monumental impression reflects an occult wish that connects the sky to the earth and transcends life and death. In particular, the lighting installed at the bottom of the tree emphasizes such occult senses and even creates a kind of spiritual atmosphere. On one hand, this series of tree shapes is distinguished from traditional sculptures that are based on massiveness for its lack of voluminous sense. While maintaining a sense of traditional sculpture by applying labor intensified weaving technique, the artist is trying to find a possibility of post-sculpture that is differentiated from traditional sculpture. Moreover, one can see his recognition of border or postborder from the structure of the trees that the inside and outside are interconnected to each other. Combined with abovementioned factors, the decisive factor that differentiates Lee s work from the traditional sculpture is its pictorial tendency. Lee s work can be called pictorial sculpture. Not only the figurative shape, but also the repetitively accumulated form made by copper pipe fragments is associated with linear drawings. Furthermore, the artist creates a pictorial setup with his work, and that shows that the artist understands such situations from a conscious level. For instance, he hangs the tree shape on the wall as if it is a piece of drawing. Or sometimes around the work he puts a frame, which reminds of a picture frame. Moreover, he puts an image of his seal into the shape as it is used in a picture. However, all these attempts are not just to mimic a painting in the manner of a sculpture. Lee s work is rather trying to overcome the border between a painting and a sculpture and reach to an installation of space or a space presentation, and particularly he is trying to represent traditional landscape painting drawn in Chinese ink into space. Indeed, his work creates an illusion for the linear tree shapes installed on the wall as if we are walking inside a landscape painting. The exhibition space gets turned into a three dimensional and spatial landscape painting. This series of works that are represented in the manner of installation and space presentation, and the structural characteristic of the space and representational situations that are unified suggests totally differentiated characteristics from traditional sculpture, paintings and even installation works. As we all know, in traditional Korean landscape paintings, even if there is no human figure in the picture, the existence of a human is suggested. As the marginal space in the painting is not considered to be empty, the existence of a human exists in the painting in the manner of absence. From this, in effect, we can enjoy and relish the landscape paintings. When interpreting it with Laozi s reasoning, that is the state of enjoyment in untroubled ease , and when interpreting it with Gilles Deleuze s discourse, that is the nomadism of thinking. In any case, the artist realizes the desire to walk inside the landscape paintings, which is barely implied with the help of imagination. In this way, Lee Gil-Rae s work suggests a totally different way of using space and realizing a desire.
memory in the mirror video installation 9min 20sec. 2007
LEE, GIL RAE Graduated from Dept. of Art Education, Kyunghee Univ. M. A. Dept. of Sculpture, Kyunghee Univ. Professor at Kyunghee Univ., College of Art(1994-2003) 1996 Solo Exhibitions 2008 The 6th Solo Exhibition(Savina Museum, Seoul) 2007 The 5th Solo Exhibition(Art-space Camerata, Seoul) Korean Contemporary Art Festival(Seoul Art Center, Hangaram Art Museum) 2003 The 4th Solo Exhibition(Galerie BHAK, Seoul) 2001 The 3rd Solo Exhibition(Galerie BHAK, Seoul) 1997 The 2nd Solo Exhibition(Kum-Ho Museum, Seoul) 1991 The 1st Solo Exhibition(Gallery Ye-Hyang, Seoul) Group Exhibitions 2007 The Five selected Contemporary Sculptors Exhibition (Daegu Gallery Soheon) Lee Gil Rae Installation Sculpture Exhibition (Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Seoul) International Sculpture Symposium in Ichon(Ichon Seolbong Park) Art-garden(Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Seoul) Korea-China-Japan Modern Arts Exhibition(Nowon ward office, Seoul) 1st Open Air Sculpture Exhibition (Pyramid Square in COEX Trade Center, Seoul) 2006 Art-park(Seongnam Art Center) 2005 Outdoor project-Blue in the stream(Seongnam Art Center) Melting Zone(Gallery Davinchi, Seoul) 2004 Art & Circumstance(Galerie BHAK, Seoul) Outdoor project-Festival(Sejong Cultural Center, Seoul) Should say not all Still Life(Gana Art Center, Seoul) 2003 Seoul Auction Fair 2003(Seoul Auction A+Space, Seoul) 40's Artist(Gallery Moro, Seoul) Kyunghee Univ. Art Education Exhibition(Gallery Chongro, Seoul) 2002 Invitation Exhibition of Dong-A Art Prize(Gallery Sang, Seoul) Kyunghee Sculpture Association Exhibition(Insa Art Plaza, Seoul) Member of Dong-A Artist Association Exhibition (National Museum of Contemporary Art, Kwa Cheon, Korea) Sculpture and Space(Korea First Bank, Seoul) 2001 2001 to 2002 Sculpture Exhibition(Gallery lamer, Seoul) Invitation Exhibition of Korean Contemporary Sculpture (Chunchen MBC) Artists Today(The World Ceramic EXPO Open-air Pavilion, Seoul) 2000 Unification 2000(The National Assembly Building, Seoul) Miami International Art Fair(Galerie BHAK, Miami Beach Convention Center, Florida, U.S.A) 200 Sculptors Invitation Exhibition(Gallery Wing, Seoul) 1999 San Francisco International Art Exposition (Galerie BHAK Fort Mason Center, U.S.A.) Invitation Exhibition of Jung-ang Art Prize(Hoam Art Museum, Seoul) Invitation Exhibition of Dong-A Art Prize(Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul) 1998 200 sculptor Small Works Exhibition(Sun Gallery, Seoul) Pusan International Art Festival(Pusan Museum of Art) Gak Sculpture Exhibition(Dukwon Gallery, Seoul) Drawing Crossing Exhibition(Kumho Museum, Seoul) 1997 International Ceramic Biennalle(Seoul Museum of Art)
Prize 1995 1990 1989 1988 1987
Invitation Exhibition Dokushima University (Dokusima University Museum, Japan) Breathing of the Korean Race Exhibition(Art Hall, Seoul) Asia Modern Art Festival, Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gallery Doll, Seoul) Member of Dong-A Artist Association Exhibition (National Museum of Contemporary Art, Kwa Cheon, Korea) Invited Exhibition Regional Young Artist(Seoul Museum of Art) Asia Modern Art Festival(Doll Gallery, Seoul) Invited Exhibition Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Kyunghee Univ. (Seoul Art Hall) To find out the Han River(Gallery Jo-Hyung, Seoul) Member of Dong-A Artist Association Exhibition (National Museum of Contemporary Art, Kwa Cheon, Korea) Korean Art-2000 Challenge Exhibition(Mi-Gun Gallery, Seoul) Seoul-Kyoto 6000 Seconds Art Message Exhibition(Seoul Museum of Art) Member of Dong-A Artist Association Exhibition(National Museum of Contemporary Art, Kwa Cheon, Korea) E-Hu Exhibition(Total gallery, Seoul) International Impact Art Festival 1991(Kyoto City Art Hall, Kyoto, Japan) Seoul-Kyoto 6000 Seconds Art Messege Exhibition(Ye-Hyang Gallery, Seoul) NEW FORM Exhibition(Yun Gallery, Seoul) D.M.Z. Art-Cultural-Movement Work Exhibition(Seoul Art Center, Seoul) Expantion Exhibition of Consciousness(Kyung-In Art Hall, Seoul) Kyung Hee Sculpture Exhibition(Total Gallery, Seoul) Art Gallery Openning(Cha-ha-mun Gallery, Seoul) E-Hu Exhibition(Total Gallery, Seoul) A.Gu Exhibition(Total Gallery, Seoul) Total 114 Exhibition(Total Gallery, Seoul) Message Exhibition in Commoration of Cha-ha-mun(Cha-ha-mun Gallery, Seoul) Great Situation Exhibition of Korean Modern Art(Dong-Sung Art Center, Seoul) Great Seoul Modern Sculpture Exhibition(Seoul Gallery, Seoul) Moving Now Exhibition(Kwan-Hun Art Gallery, Seoul) Hyang-Byang Exhibition(Yun Gallery, Seoul) Post-Modernism Exhibition(Doll Gallery, Seoul)
Special Prize in Jung-Ang Biennale Dong-A Art Prize in the Dong-Art Festival Special Prize in the 8th Great Art Exhibition of Korea Encouraging Prize in the 11th Jung-Ang Greate Art Exhibition Special Prize in the 5th Greate Art Exhibition of the youth
Permanent Collections 1989 Suwon Samsung Electronic Company 1998 Seoul Supreme Prosecutors Office Memorial Sculpture 2003 Anseong Memorial Sculpture Park 2004 Daegu Health College 2005 Jinhae Jangbok Mountain Park Outdoor Sculpture 2006 Yeongdong Sculpture Park 2007 Seoul Mariott Hotel 2007 Kwachon National Museum of Contemporary Art 2007 Pohang Valueplus 2008 Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Office Building
A Tree, Inherent Forms 2008. 3. 19 - 4. 20
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