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 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).
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 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.