The Flat Planes of Sculptures
We define spheres as solid structures with rounded surfaces, on which any and all points are equidistant from the central point of the object’s core. From any angle in three-dimensional space these surface points trail together to form the circular boundary of the object, referred to as a circle. Let us imagine a round object that can be fully nestled with two arms, something like a rubber balloon or perhaps a ball one might find at a gym. Inside the thin layer of rubber is a cavity filled with air. As the density of the air inside the object increases, the surface grows taut and closer to a perfect sphere, each point on its surface growing uniformly from the fixed center point. If you hug it tightly or sit on top of it, it will respond with elasticity, compressing and rebounding to its original shape.
Humans have made numerous attempts to realize a perfect sphere. This experimentation is perhaps most familiar in the evolution of the football. The football, an object first made by inflating the organ of an animal, has now developed to a stage of construction which uses minimal patterning in order to reduce air resistance and increase sensitivity towards external shock. The traditional combination of black and white hexagons used to construct a football highlights the impossibility and artificial nature of the sphere. As mentioned above, a perfect sphere requires uniform distances between the fixed center and each point on the surface of the ball, which is achievable solely through injecting air inside a seamless surface. Particularly, to do this, the material must have elasticity, as moderate flexibility and the density of temporarily compressed air are what maintains the form of a sphere.
In Acrobatic Cosmos, presented at ONE AND J. GALLERY in 2018, YOON Jiyoung exhibited the No Planar Figure of Sphere series. The works consisted of silicone sculptures placed on the floor, a molding flask hung on the wall, and a computer graphic video. The artist’s proposition to imagine the planar figure of a sphere is an attempt to break down the three-dimension form into a combination of flat planes. In the series, the artist renders spheres into flat, planar figures, as well as other organic bodies and geometrical forms, including as human bodies, cylinders, and regular hexahedrons. Deflated, the loose silicone forms collapse on the floor, unable to retain their original forms, reminding us, once again, that within our reality operated by physical force, (flat) planes, from the start, cannot exist structurally. To speak of structures via absence, in order for the flat planes to become a three-dimensional form, it requires a structure that can support the planes, and it is this structure that works as the condition of existence for No Planar Figure of Sphere (2018).
The silicone sculptures of No Planar Figure of Sphere, draped across the floor, lacking this condition of support, should be recognized as an intentional failure, as they cannot materialize the potential forms (spheres, human bodies, cylinders, cubes, etc.) which they bear. The artist presents not perfect forms, but sculptures (planes) that cannot stand upright, demonstrating the impossibility of a planar sphere. The resulting sculptures form planar figures that possess qualities of both the three-dimensional and the flat planes. To create these figures, the artist uses the graticule method. Let us picture a globe. Humans have divided the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere based on the equator, introduced longitude and latitude, and covered the world with a curved grid system. Through the grid system, the three-dimensional globe is divided into numerous circular planes. Wherever you cut through the sphere, the cross-section appears as a circle, demonstrating that a sphere is an assemblage of many circles. The artist, looking at the sphere from above, divides planes as if slicing a cake. At this very moment, an important condition is added, which is the fact that the surface of the sphere is of a flexible existence, possessing elasticity. Only when this hypothesis is activating, can the cut-up three-dimensional forms be placed flatly on the ground. It is for this reason that the artist uses silicone as the sculpture’s material. Silicone, having elasticity and resiliency, functions as the existence that vacillates between the three-dimension and the flat plane.
A Sculpture of Flat Planes
The same year, YOON participated in Genre Allegory—The Sculptural (Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, 2018), showing A Wooden Cube, approx. 15cm in Side Length, Became a Plaster Cube in Which Something’s Negatives are Hidden (2018). The exhibition questioned how contemporary artists respond within the situation where works of sculptors are divaricating sculpturally. The exhibition’s atmosphere obscured a clear notion of ‘sculpture’ through the vague rhetoric of the ‘sculptural’, which the artist visualizes as a creation of attitudes and forms. The following year in 2019, she exhibited the same work in the group exhibition We Don’t Really Die held at ONE AND J. GALLERY, which dealt with the “immaterial of the material,” which originates from a line in Luc BESSON (1959–)’s film Lucy (2014).
In both exhibitions, which question the existential relation between sculpture and sculptor, the artist presents a faceless ‘self-portrait figure’. Let us first examine the title of the work, A Wooden Cube, approx. 15cm in Side Length, Became a Plaster Cube in Which Something’s Negatives are Hidden. The title, which functions also as a detailed description of an object, allows us to envision the appearance of the object. The plaster cube is a hexahedron, with six flat sides and edges of approximately 15cm long. Traditionally, plaster is a material used as a mold to cast forms, but here, with its hidden engravings, the object functions simultaneously as both the casting mold and the casted product.
What, then, is the sculpture hiding? In the sense that this sculpture is a faceless self-portrait, the ‘appearance’ of the body is not revealed on the ‘exterior of the form’. It can thus be inferred that certain parts of the body are being hidden. The three printed images presented with the sculpture serve as clues. In the images, which are printed in black and white, abstract marks (the result of radiation nondestructive testing photographs) form the shapes of an ear and a symbolic, rather than anatomical ‘heart♥’, both denoting parts of the body. The ear holds particular significance, both as a feature which must be shown for identification purposes when taking a passport photo and which is treated as the organ which, in oriental medicine, controls the entire internal organ system. It is both a distinct feature of a person and, at the same time, the representation of a person’s entirety. To make the ear, the artist cast her own in plaster, molding it from natural beeswax and inserting the beeswax ear into a 15cm³ plaster cube. After lending its form to the baking plaster, the wax melts away to the outside, like lava flowing from rocks to leave a cave. In the plaster cube, the resulting negative space is the form of the artist’s ear. This mold-making and plaster casting technique is one traditionally used in the process of making sculptures and represents a broader history of sculpture-making, showing the artist’s desire to expose the visible (plaster cube) and the invisible (the ear) simultaneously.
The ‘heart♥’, placed beside the ear, is a symbolic rather than literal representation of the artist’s body. Although the symbol has no visual likeness to the anatomical heart, it is commonly understood as to represent the heart and works as a sign for delivering feelings of adoration or love. Then, why the heart? Does it signify the artist’s heart? Once again, there is no direction between the heart shape and the artist’s own heart. However, I hope to set this situation up into a network of as follows: Sculpture-Heart-Artist. Within this triangle, the heart indicates its own operation as that which mediates the sculpture and the artist per se. As we’ve followed closely along with the artist’s reasoning for making the sculptures, the artist’s attitude as a sculptor, and the way in which sculptures operate, conversely, it brings us to recall the ancient animistic perceptions in sculptures as they move along in between the semiotic and the significant. A point where the origin of sculpture and the attitude as a sculptor interlink; the ear and the heart place themselves as a form of portrait of the artist.
A Wooden Cube, approx. 15cm in Side Length, Became a Plaster Cube in Which Something’s Negatives are Hidden seems like a straightforward piece in showing the artist’s own sculptural attitude, mainly using the mold-making technique and the materiality of sculpture. While you can imitate the contours of an object through casting, you cannot replicate the inner attributes which fill the object, this is the limit of the sculptural process. By not leaving the interior empty, the artist demonstrates an awareness of this problem as a sculptor. While the title sufficiently explains the work’s appearance through a detailed and clear description, as well as the photos presented alongside the object, the viewers are faced with a mere expressionless block of plaster and cannot see the inner contents for themselves. The use of impenetrable reinforced plaster further gestures the viewers’ lack of access to the interior, which would not crack even with physical impact.
From flat planes to three-dimensional forms, or vice versa–What is it that makes them all valid as sculptures? It is because even the flat planes are regarded as structures and another structure (interior-exterior) is built from the three-dimension. Here the artist, YOON, uses materials that originate from the structures’ attributes and creates works which cross between the opening and closing of planar figures, embodying potential forms.
Song Ha-young is a co-director of the exhibition space, ONEROOM located in Seoul. Song Ha-young has organized exhibitions such as Yellow Blues_ (One & J Gallery, Seoul, 2021), Roll cake (ONEROOM, Seoul, 2019), and Afterimage (ONEROOM, Seoul, 2017). Song Ha-young has been working on a project called ONE-PIECE since 2018, which is the project including the interviews about the works of artists, and presents it in a form of documents and exhibitions. It focuses on the individual works of artists and participatory exhibits under the awareness of the lack of artist research and archive in Korea.