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Women in Art: Yeesookyung

Yeesookyung is a Korean artist living in Seoul, who is well known for her intricate and entrancing ceramic forms. Her sculptures are made of the shards and fragments of broken ceramics, carefully fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2011, 76x64x68 cm

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2011, 76x64x68 cm

Yeesookyung created her Translated Vase series in 2002 after seeing ceramic master Lim Hang-Taek’s trash shimmering in the sunlight. She was attracted to the reflection of light on the shards and the organic forms their cracks created. Back in the studio, Yeesookyung takes the ceramic cast-aways and fits the pieces together until undulating, elegant forms emerge.

While originally, Yeesookyung had predetermined forms in mind, she soon let the materials guide her. Her pieces moved away from being quite so geometric and grew into forms she describes as “bumpy” and “stuttering”. The entire effect is enhanced by the beautiful gold she uses to fill in the cracks. Gold lacquer is not only beautiful, but a pun. In Korean the words “gold” and “crack” are both “geum”. In Yeesookyung’s words, “I wanted to add a sense of humor to my work by filling geums (cracks), which are considered as defects, with a valuable material, such as real geum (gold).

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2007, 43x45x49 cm, Courtesy of Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, USA

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2007, 43x45x49 cm, Courtesy of Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, USA

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2009, 80x85x170 cm, Oranienbaum, Dessau, Germany

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2009, 80x85x170 cm, Oranienbaum, Dessau, Germany

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2009, 84x81x122 cm, courtesy of Boston Museum of Contemporary Art, Boston, USA

Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2009, 84x81x122 cm, courtesy of Boston Museum of Contemporary Art, Boston, USA

Yeesookyung, Translated vase, installation scene, 2009, Vancouver Sculpture Biennale, Vancouver, Canada

Yeesookyung, Translated vase, installation scene, 2009, Vancouver Sculpture Biennale, Vancouver, Canada

These sculptures question the ceramic tradition in which perfection is key. According to the artist, “The master potter was trying to create the perfect piece each time, and he would discard even the ones with the slightest flaw. So I chose to create new forms from them, because perhaps, I don’t believe completely in that kind of perfection”.

Yeesookyung’s attention to detail translates to the other mediums she employs. For instance, her incredibly intricate flame paintings are created by laying paper on the ground, starting from one position and methodically moving from bottom to top. This is similar to the way in which she uses ceramic. Her flames are carefully fitted together; they and the vases grow organically.

Yeesookyung, Flame, cinnabar on Korean paper, 100x100cm, 2006

Yeesookyung, Flame, cinnabar on Korean paper, 100x100cm, 2006

Yeesookyung, Flame, cinnabar on Korean paper, 260x196cm, 2008

Yeesookyung, Flame, cinnabar on Korean paper, 260x196cm, 2008

Yeesookyung uses cinnabar, a material used in Korea, China, and Japan for talisman painting and Buddhist painting. Additionally, cinnabar is used to ward off bad luck. The material is made of a soft, red stone that is crushed and added to glue. It is very runny and requires the artist’s heavy concentration. When she works she is almost in a meditative state.

You can check out more of Yeesookyung’s work here or see an interview with the artist by Korean Artist Project here.

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