Excerpt from the introduction to the exhibition “Phänomen – Raum”
By Johannes Albert (translation Uli Meyer & Elisabeth Müller):
Distinguished guests, dear Chris, dear Su-Kyoung,
Today we have come together to celebrate the opening of the exhibition “Phänomen – Raum” (Phenomenon – Space) and to discover the works of Christine Wigge and Su-Kyoung Yu. Please let me introduce you to the two artists and their artistic interpretations.
The name of the exhibition lets one think initially of a presentation on different appearances of space, in fact you should not ignore the hyphen between phenomenon and space, which suggests that this about the juxtaposition of two concepts and thus two themes: phenomenon – space.
I would like to introduce you to Su-Kyoung Yu from Korea.
She was born 1965 in Kim-Je, South Korea.
From the age of five, she has taken lessons in drawing and painting. At the renowned Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, she studied fine arts and traditional Asian painting and from 1990 on she has been living in Friedberg where she runs her own art school.
Since 1987 numerous exhibitions in Germany and Korea.
Su-Kyoung’s work shown here in the Franck-Haus is done mainly in acrylic paint and Indian ink realized on large format canvases. The size is essential as her imagery and the stories she tells are highly complex.
To understand her imagery, to receive the key for entering this world, so to say, requires an extensive explanation of the different series of paintings presented here. The majority of these are part of the series “Auf dem Weg” (On the Way), which Su Kyoung started in 2015 and like the preceding series, “Phänomen” (Phenomenon) 2009, is based on very private, to a certain extent autobiographical experiences, and thus a specific perception of the artist.
In this concept, the “self” the original human nature is more and more lost in the course of time. Surrounded by the ego, which wraps around the self like a protective cover and begins to grow in childhood, shaped by external influences and becoming ever larger and harder over time, it is pushed back further and further inside and eventually falls into oblivion.
“Jeder ist sich selbst der Fernste” (“Each man is furthest from himself”) said Nietzsche in „On the Genealogy of Morals”. We, the observers, enter that world through entrances on a four-part work to be seen on the gallery above. Here the real world is a lavishly designed botanic site full of numerous colourful plants and large weeping willow trees, which Su-Kyoung calls storytellers, and maybe these poetic tree giants are already whispering about what is waiting behind the four gates into the inclined ear.
In the world behind these gates Su-Kyoung finds that lost “self” that is often forgotten or believed to be forgotten.
The protagonists of this world, androgynous little creatures, she calls children. To find them the observers often have to take a close look, as chameleon like they merge with the environment of their world and are sometimes portrayed so delicately that they become almost invisible. It almost seems as if they don’t want to be discovered in their purity, authenticity and originality. When taking a closer look one will notice that their portrayal changes over the years. While in the early works of the series “Phenomenon” the children are still walking on their own little feet through that world, in later scenes one can see them growing out of a tree, a water landscape or the earth, without feet. This makes them appear weightless and suggests a rootedness within that world, as if to ensure that they are rooted there forever.
They are on their own, then again in groups, next to each other, together or one with another.
In a work from the series “Auf dem Weg” (On the Way, 2016) one of these children is up on a tree holding on to a branch while watching a group of other children curiously, who are together in a dense, dark forest. Small points of light seem to help the children to explore the area. Another child leans alone against a tree while another one stands like a figure of light, pointing the way to the place where the dark forest is thinning out, a soft blue sky is visible bringing brightness into the scene.
The work has no actual vanishing point, rather its composition appears like a simultaneous juxtaposition of several scenes, some darker, in mysterious black, others brighter in delicate green, yellow and violet colours. This simultaneity is a feature that is also found in Su-Kyoung’s other works. The space is dissolved; the silence that her world emits becomes tangible.
Her landscapes are often on the verge of abstraction, dissolving into colourfulness, losing their shape. The artist describes this transformation as magic, the fusion of figuration and abstraction, and shows that nothing can be held on to – whatever was just there, was, what is, is and what will be, will be. What remains is only the here and now.
Su Kyoung is connected with that innermost world; she immerses herself in it, walks through the past and thus dissolves time.
During this immersion Su Kyoung brings with her objects and experiences that she adds to that world:
Therefore one finds strips hanging from trees with stones at their ends. This is a ritual from Korean shamanism, where stones are attached this way to holy trees to protect one’s sight on the journey through the world and thus they bring protection to these small creatures. Religious elements exist in other works as well, for example in the form of a mosque, a church and a Buddhist temple standing closely together on a mountain – a personal, thoroughly critical statement by the artist on the expectations of the respective religions.
Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, a Chinese landmark in the south of the country and a motif that Su Kyoung had to paint very often during her artistic education, is present in those places of yearning likewise landscapes inspired by the Romantic period, reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings.
Again and again you can discover level staffs and wind socks, to prevent direction to be lost, as well as boundary stones marking transitions, perhaps from this world into the other world.
An airship floats above a landscape rendered in a dense and intense play of colours thus turning into a metaphor for the curiosity of children and their urge to discover and explore everything. A folded paper plane glides into this landscape, as if Su-Kyoung had launched it from this world to send greetings to the world of children, with which she is so intensely connected. In her artistic explorations, Su-Kyoung discovers this seemingly lost world, by creating her works very intuitively and spontaneously, as if her hands were directed by that very source within.
Su-Kyoung is a world traveller, a nature seeker; her worlds are projections of her own innermost dreams and desires. Thus, Su-Kyoung discovers herself – the self, in its original purity, not yet shaped and subjugated by its environment, but dreamy, curious, sometimes shy, insecure and anxious, always searching and open to new ideas.
In that world, these features have remained pure. Su Kyoung opens this world by entering these places of longing and museums of memory; she sheds light on the past and shows that all of this, our innermost world, is always with us, in the here and now. Through a density of colours and stories, she shows us this world and invites us to enter, discover and possibly build a bridge to our own selves.