• Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

    Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

  • Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

    Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

  • Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

    Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

  • Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

    Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

  • Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

    Lee Sookyung, Flame, Installation View, ONE AND J. Gallery

Yee Sookyung’s highly anticipated show “Flame” at ONE AND J. Gallery firmly established herself as one of the most creative contemporary artists working in Korea today. The primary subject matter of this show are canvases filled with images of burning flames along with exquisite circus acrobat drawings. These works show how small flames accumulate into a bigger flame and the bigger flames expand into a huge flame. The artist uses a medium, also used in the circus acrobat drawings, called cinnabar to draw countless flames on a huge screen. Cinnabar is an ink of a medium color in between orange and red that is used by soothsayers to draw charms against bad spirits and it is a unique material generating a strong sense of lines and religious energy when used on paper. It does its job of emphasizing the most distinctive feature of her work.
The artist does not plan a particular form before she begins the flame drawings. She only focuses on unifying her body and mind with the subject of the flame, and makes her work as if she has become a seismometer recording the vibrations of her hands, body and mind. Thus, the flame series are not drawn to depict the form of flames, but as a healing method for the artist herself, like the Mandala drawing method. The attempt to pour out all the flames in her mind and soul becomes a full-sized painting of thousands of flames covering the entire screen. Most importantly, this piece of work is the result of her rigorous devotion, since she committed herself to the act of drawing 18 hours a day without a single day of rest. Cinnabar tends to make runny marks when the artist’s concentration is broken, and therefore the artist was always on a state of extreme tension as she purified herself drawing each flame.
The interesting fact is that when looking into the artist’s flames, along with feeling the dry texture of the cinnabar, the viewer also feels the power of the mysterious energy like a flame charm. Soon, the flame catches on to the viewer’s mind to create a gentle flame. Beginning with the artist’s flame images, the viewer then sees the flame within him or herself and soon realizes that there are burning flames within all living creatures existing in this world.
The “Circus Lady Acrobat” drawing series also presented at ONE AND J. Gallery was inspired by the plate spinning girls and pottery spinning performers from the Chinese Circus and features a lady performing a stunt holding many ceramics with her hand and feet. This drawing series are also linked to the artist’s autobiographical story. As a tool to cure her mind, the artist completed a drawing every single day. The artist drew a circle within the drawings of the circus lady paintings which, in a sense, became painting a painting of a painting incorporating Mandala drawing methods in her works which worked to self-heal.
Finally, the newest works are her Translated Vase series which are sculpture composed of pieces derived from actual ceramic works, but the finished product of her work is something unfamiliar and unusual. The method she uses to attach the pieces together correspond to the restoration of valuable ancient ceramics and these works are distinctive in the sense that they allow the viewer to become mindful of notions of the what is highly valued versus what is abandoned, what is historical versus what is modern, and what is art versus what is non-art. The artist questions the viewers as to who is the artist. The act of the ceramists destroying their failed works can be read as cliche in a sense of an artist wanting a flawless piece of work but at the same time it is also a gesture of contributing scarcity to commonly made ceramics. On the other hand, the artist’s act of collecting the broken pieces to make a new piece of work, and the circus acrobat trying her best not to break the ceramics can be seen as the exact opposite gesture of the ceramists.
Text excerpted from ONE AND J. catalogue essay by Kim Hee Kyung

Yee Sookyung lives and works in Seoul, Korea. Her recent “Translated Vase” series consist of hundreds of broken pottery fragments discarded by a master Korean ceramicist. These works were last shown at the 2006 Kwangju Biennale and ARCO 07. Her “Flame” series works on canvas are a move away from the purely conceptual to a more innate and natural act of expression. These works were drawn with a special ink used by fortune tellers to ward off evil spirits. The artist most recently participated in the 2006 Kwangju Biennale, 2006 Busan Biennale, 2006 Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Micro Narratives exhibition in Yugoslavia curated by Lorand Hegyi and topped off an impressive year at the Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul. Yee received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Seoul National University and has completed residencies at Villa Arson (Nice, France), Apex Art and the Bronx Museum.