Sujin Moon Critical Essay

Garth Grimball





 

What part of a sculpture elicits marvel? The most common experience of sculpture, in a gallery or museum, is to walk around a pedestal as if testing the object’s three dimensionality. If the sculpture is large enough to be protected by a line on the floor, viewers are told, “please do not touch.” From an acceptable distance sculpture is considered not sensed. Only considering the finished form limits the scope of the medium. We become detached from the action of sculpting. Marvel emerges in the sculpting.


Sujin Moon sculpts. Her work concerns the body and performance as much as any molded object. Time, natural elements, the interplay of weight and effort alchemize in her sculpting. The immaterial is equal to the material. For Moon sculpture is an inclusive art. To experience her work is to ask, what isn’t sculpture? Which is not to say her work is vague or undefined. Her specificity lies in the ability to make room for the unknown, to allow the process to surprise her.






The biggest circle I can draw (2016) intimates the story of Giotto and Pope Benedict XI. When the Pope requested an example of Giotto’s work to be considered for a commission, Giotto sent a hand-painted perfect circle. He got the job. Moon uses her whole body to achieve the same mastery. Like a human compass she fixes her right big toe to an imagined center and stretches her body to its limit with a piece of chalk in her right hand. Slowly she builds the curving line. Inch by inch her left foot and arm muscle the line of her body, the line of the compass. She has the taut concentration of a rock climber. Moon stops at points to slough off pieces of the chalk’s paper wrapping. The focus shifts from her body and the line to the material. The transfer of matter, like ice to water, appears as the solid chalk decomposes in the composition of a circle.



The title, The biggest circle I can draw, encompasses the tenets of Moon’s work. She tests her endurance and focus as if responding to a dare. You want to see the biggest circle I can draw? Well, here it is. Lying stretched on the ground she can’t see her progress or accuracy. Invisibility as another limitation. The circle forms not from hand-eye coordination but trusting sensations. Watching her muscles strain and relax elicits a kinesthetic response. Are my muscles cramping or am I slowly contorting myself into her shape during the 17 minutes it takes for the ends to meet? The body, the chalk, and the surface merge into an experience: circle making.




















For Living Island (2020) Moon combines found object and land art with an infusion of dreaminess. During a residency in rural Maine she walked onto a frozen lake and shoveled snow into a huge mass. The simplicity in action belies the wonder in reaction. Moon filmed the process. The opening shot is like an Impressionist painting. Heavy snowfall covers the landscape. On this blank canvas a single figure trudges away from the camera into obscurity. Cut to a mound of white presiding over the naturally occurring contours of a wind-sliced snowpack. Original music by Jeon Yeongjun duets with the sound of wind. The soundscape mirrors the sculpture—natural elements remixed by human craft. The film presents the sculpture like a found object by editing out its creation. As if it just landed on its spot like a sci-fi monolith.






 

A collage of shots over several months transform the mound into an island. As it melts a pool collects around the perimeter. The weight of a metaphor can collapse the physical form. Does the melting represent climate change? Is the isolation of the sculpted mass akin to social isolation? Seeing the island melt down to a remnant of its former self, are we meant to think about how time weathers us all? Living Island encourages interpretation and remains intact against the limits of interpretation. The film ends with the same figure walking towards the camera. The landscape is serene and sun-filled with green trees. Moon brought the island to life and witnessed it dissolve into its original form.


Distinctions between artwork and artist blur for Sujin Moon. There is no separation between the weight of her body and the weight of her material. Weight renders time into a physical feeling. Time continues. Weight changes. Feel the weight of time. The feeling syncs with the time of the material and its environment. Sometimes the body itself is the material; its weight is known but the environment is a mystery to be located.




While attending the MFA program at The School of Art Institute of Chicago, Moon’s sculpting became acts of locating. Into the Grid: hiding in public (2019) and From the Grid (2018) are a mixed-media diptych of dislocation and location. Into the Grid sees Moon carrying a mirror around downtown Chicago. In photographs and video she hides herself behind a reflection. In many of the photographs it takes a moment to locate her mirage, like an invisible Where’s Waldo? This visible invisibility actualizes the experience of being in a place but not of a place. Anonymity feeds freedom and loneliness. Moon is free to play in the unfamiliarity of foreign space, uninhibited by collective routines. But the photographs suggest a loneliness of being without the compass of memory. Where are you when no one knows you and you know no one?


 

The video captures the awkwardness of hauling a human-sized reflector through intersections, negotiating distance, bulk, and passersby. Seeing Moon struggle with the weight and dimensions of the mirror only to peek from behind with a look of giddy transgression feels like the work of translation. After hours of memorizing and conjugating, meaning suddenly clicks. Moon locates the complexity of being new to a place in her body and the reflection of others.












From the Grid renders the cityscape soft through textiles. When Moon arrived in Chicago she was struck by the grids within grids. She describes walking around the downtown Loop as disorienting; the intersecting streets and the rows upon rows of skyscraper windows blended into an uber-grid. Using a natural-synthetic fiber blend Moon sewed city planning into tapestries. Buildings and thoroughfares are reduced to squares and lines. The fabric bunches or folds in places like the histories built into the city’s structure. Streets thick with protests, policy, and populations. Moon presented these soft sculptures from the view within a highrise apartment. Hung on the windows like drapes, the city bleeds through the transparent parts. Hard and soft materials, the real and the imaginary meet.


Implicit in an analysis of Sujin Moon’s work is the digital. She is a sculptor. Much of her work is site-specific and widely shared via filming and digital presentation. How many people experienced Living Island in real life? Does it matter? To borrow another Renaissance tale: the feud between Leonardo and Michelangelo. Michelangelo claimed sculpture was the “real” art because it is three dimensional. Leonardo countered that painting was the truer art because sculpting was labor that caused one to sweat, therefore not fine art. Within this apocryphal exchange is the tension present in much of Moon’s art. Her work hurdles over distinctions and dimensions. The digital divide invites a closer viewing rather than extending the distance between art and viewer. Editing, like sculpting, shapes transitions. Whether experienced as an image, an object, or a performance, she is sculpting. What emerges is marvelous.



  Expansive stories built through de-construction

   Anna Harsanyi









 




In Youngle Keem’s film, Searching for Seahorse (2016), images of ocean fauna and flowing waters are interspersed with a gentle narration: “One day, seahorse disappeared. When it happened, some of human capability was also lost. No one felt sorry about that. Everybody forgot about it soon.” The story is of a missing, suddenly disappeared seahorse, and of an anonymous protagonist’s search for it within an ever-changing world. At first, the viewer might think this is a true story, blending scientific fact and the tale of one individual’s search for a specific seahorse. But through a subtle unraveling across image and narration, Searching for Seahorse can be understood as a parable about reckoning with history while simultaneously navigating a rapidly changing contemporary society. When looking for seahorse, the anonymous searcher must turn to the world around them. We see images of crowds, of newly built housing blocks, of city dwellers crowded in commuter clusters. We see closeups of diplomatic hands shaking in ceremonial commemoration, world leaders passively gazing into the glare of atomic weapon detonations, and violent scenes of civil war. In the viewer’s process of connecting such disparate imagery, the seahorse emerges as an anonymous, potentially universal symbol for the individual who contends with memories of the past within shifting worlds of economic, technological, and political tumult. Where the video began with the ebb and flow of an ocean tide, its images swell from natural sceneries to those of man-made physical and social scenarios. Even when seahorse reappears in memories, she is unrecognizable and unable to swim against the tides she has been missing from. Seahorse drifts away in the naturally occurring rhythms of her own environment. This story, it turns out, is not a story at all – it is a structure for breaking down and then re-constructing visual language.
 
 
 
Keem’s practice encompasses both publication and video formats, treating the book as an art object and its text as a framework for visual contemplation. A book shifts in form and function over time and can develop a relationship with its reader. In terms of what is presented on the page, there is no “right” or “wrong” interpretation, no singular culminating message to be gleaned at the end. For Keem, the book and its contents have a fluid and expansive life, a place of conceptual reflection and personal meaning-making.
 
 
 
In the same way that books serve as a tool for critical imagination, in Keem’s work the act of interpretation is often situated in the in-between, in the invisible spaces which tie together image, text, and sound. Pictures and words are presented outside of their usual contexts, stories are shaped by their proximity to images, and an image’s meaning shifts in relationship to other ones. This relational structure forms a network of symbolism and metaphor in Keem’s work, a language which holds at its core the familiar and ubiquitous aspects of our visual culture.
 
 



 
The artist’s book Monami 153 Chronicles (2009) tells the story of the Monami 153 ballpoint pen, a pervasive object of daily use. Within its pages are ruminations, histories, photographs, song lyrics, and other materials which are applied to reflect on the pen’s many qualities including its color, uses, and design. The images and subject matters laid out within the seven chapters traverse Korean histories of authoritarianism, economic progress, and cultural development. Shifting contexts and narrative voices present the pen as an object with a rise and a fall, and whose memory contains multitudes. At times the pen is its own character against a national backdrop of modernization. At others, it is a utility which makes possible the writing of personal notes on paper. Freely associating between word and image, page and frame, true stories and invented ones, the publication at once ties divergent elements together while intentionally keeping them disconnected. There is a tension here between the instinctual reaction to the pen – it is a familiar object, and any viewer or reader can recognize at least something about it. But this book refuses to adhere to traditional story arcs or exposition. Instead, it guides a journey into the construction of this object’s identity, which can only be completely understood in the reader’s mind and through their own interpretations of the disparate visual and textual elements. What Monami 153 Chronicles offers is a synchronous trip through past and present, fact and fiction, an experience of fluid critical conjecture rooted in that which is recognizable.
 

 



 
The publication Captive Stones (2019) gathers visual representations of stones in art history, daily life, and the environment. Here again the reader is presented with juxtapositions of stones in their naturally occurring states, or as materials for sculpture, or in historical paintings. Stones, it seems, are manipulated in many ways – they are props in image construction. What happens, then, when we pay attention to the stones themselves, as opposed to the context in which they are viewed? This type of removal through close-up focus in Keem’s practice does not tell, it shows. Employing a process of examination of the familiar, the artist allows the reader to think about their own subjective systems of observation, understanding, and application.
 
 






















Keem’s work draws out the power of images and words by revealing their social and cultural capital – the recognizable, the ordinary, and the accessible. Blue Land (2019) is a short film which intertwines the Smurfs with the history of Korea and its global politics, which influence its cultural and governmental institutions. In the film, the Smurfs are introduced as they are commonly known - illustrated characters created by a cartoonist - but their story morphs into a narrative in which they become integrated members of society, their lives overlapping with Korea’s societal changes in political and cultural systems, urban planning, and class dynamics. The film intersperses quick cuts of archival footage with a voiceover conversation in French (the language of the Smurf’s real-life Belgian creator, Pierre Culliford) which meanders between self-reflection and abstract questions. The experience of watching is one of inquiry – to follow the trajectory of the film is to move from passive viewing to actively questioning the links between the many source images and voiceover narratives woven together. The notion of context is removed from all that is presented in the film – there are no captions for the archival footage, so it is up to the viewer to consider what the connection might be when, for example, a series of images from political ceremonies, meetings of industrialists, social uprisings, and urban daily life flash in succession. The film’s end posits the nuanced omnipresence of the color blue, which appears in contemporary events like blue paint being sprayed on Hong Kong protestors or the blue background of the Twitter logo. The process of making sense of what is presented here is one of realizing that, without a prescribed context, the meaning of images and narratives change. Perhaps the artist is signaling this approach when, in the beginning of the film, a close-up shot shows Smurf characters being meticulously cut out from their cartoon paper. They are literally being removed from their usual, familiar context (the cartoon), and being placed into a new one – a multivalent world which drifts between past and present, a narrative shaped not by a traditional story arc, but by its own details.
 
 
 
Drifting between fact and fiction, between real and imaginary, can also be a tool for critical reflection. By starting with ubiquitous imagery or familiar story-telling formats, then subverting assumed contexts through a composition of smaller narratives and disparate image groups, the viewer has an opportunity to challenge the idea that narratives must be linear, that images have universal meaning, and that a story follows a trajectory. Within this blur of truth and fiction emerges a politics of de-construction. Keem’s works do not overtly suggest political ideas or specific social messages, but they raise questions about our own realities in order to piece together new ones. The unknown or the unclear becomes less of a point for confusion and more of a space for pondering potential alternatives. Through works that present truth as fiction, image as text, book as art object, and vice versa, Keem’s practice offers up a space where critical imagination can become reality. 



Seoul Art Space Geumcheon(SASG) will be joining the 2021 Res Artis Conference <DEFINING THE NEXT DECADE> to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.


About the SASG Participation Panel

Friday 10 September 16:30-18:00 BKK (18:30-20:00 KST)

[Adapting practice & program to the digital environment] 

The pandemic has forced artists to develop an online presence, adapt their practice to a digital medium and conduct online residency, showcasing and professional development opportunities. 

How and can all artists ‘pivot’ their practice? Can artists retain copy-right in the digital realm? What programming and legal considerations should artists and arts residencies contemplate in order to cater for increased virtual activity in the field?


More information about the conference can be found at the link below.

*Informaion_2021 Res Artis Conferences Bangkok

  #Program_2021 Res Artis Conference Bangkok

  #Speakers_2021 Res Artis Conference Bangkok




Res Artis Conference 2021 Bangkok

Defining the Next Decade
8 – 17 September 2021


Res Artis is excited to announce our first ever fully digital Res Artis conference hosted by SAC Gallery, Bangkok and supported by ASEF culture360KONNECT ASEAN, ASEAN FoundationGoethe-Institut Thailand and Japan Foundation, Bangkok. Titled Defining the Next Decade, the conference will examine the tremendous impact of COVID-19 and the future of the international arts residencies field. We will present the results of Res Artis survey data and examine new models of arts residencies that have evolved in response to the pandemic. This includes the rise in local exchange, virtual residencies, and digital residency activity that has occurred while physical exchange is paused.

Taking place during diverse time zones spread over two weeks in September, the virtual nature of this conference will reflect new digital residency activity emerging in the field and will offer greater accessibility for attendees and contributors alike. We will offer workshops and presentations from members of the art residency field throughout the world with a particular focus on those based in South East Asia and Thailand. The conference will include opportunities for facilitated small group interactions, artistic offerings as well as Bangkok gallery and residency tours. This promises to be a digital event unlike any other that through its programming and format will address the importance of meaningful “hosting” in the virtual realm.

Stay in 2021

E-mail : yjyyjs@gmail.com

URL : jiyoungyoo.com

SNS : @jiyoungyooo

 

Artist Statement

Working primarily with painting and often combining it with digital printing, installation, and objects, Jiyoung Yoo examines the way a format of medium transforms its content. Her practice is primarily focussed on the conversion of indefinite ideas in flux into disconnected fragments arranged within a certain frame and on the consequent substitution of their nature with the medium’s formal qualities. Yoo employs painting as a means of visualising the process by questioning the underlying principle of painting where it has its external relation to the wall and internal relation to content. Overlapping the conditions of painting with daily elements within the system of arrangement, her works unfold an unusual painting situation where the viewers are invited to perceive the structure within and outside the medium.

 

 

Biography

Jiyoung Yoo is a South Korean-born artist who is based in London and Seoul. Questioning the conventional conditions of painting, Yoo explores relationships between objects within the system of arrangement developed based on their uses. She graduated with an MA degree in Painting from the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2017) and received a BFA in Painting from Hongik University, Seoul (2014). She recently had two solo exhibitions in Seoul including One After Another, Alltimespace (2019); and Spilled Water, RainbowCube (2018). She has been awarded grants and residencies, among which are: the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture’s solo show grant (2021) and research grant (2019); and the position of artist-in-residence at Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, Seoul (2021) and Katitak Centre, HKBU, Hong Kong (2018). She was the finalist of Korean Eye 2020 organised by Parallel Contemporary Art (2020) and Contemporary Visions 8 run by Beers London (2017).

 

 

Education

2015-2017 MA Painting, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, UK

2009-2014 BFA Painting, Hongik University, KR

 

 

Solo Exhibition

2019 One after Another, Alltimespace, Seoul, KR

2018 Spilled Water, Rainbow Cube Gallery, Seoul, KR

 

 

Selected Group Exhibition&Projects

2021 Todays, Keep in Touch, Seoul, KR

2020 cut! cut! cut! - index, Alltimespace, Seoul, KR

2020 Axis 2020, 021 Gallery, Daegu, KR

2020 Anti-Sea, The London Arts Board, London, UK

2020 To All Our Absent Dialogues (organised by Warbling Collective), 155a, London, UK

2020 cut! cut! cut!, Seetangraum, Jeju, KR

2019 Study of Basic Forms 1, Ilwoo Space, Seoul, KR

2018 TasteView, Tastehouse, Seoul, KR

2018 Painters by Painters, 2/W, Seoul, KR

2018 Mei Yahn Yu, Kaitak Centre, Hong Kong (two-person show with Jocelyn McGregor)

2018 Contemporary Visions 8, Beers London, London, UK

2017 The Choice of a New Generation (organised by isthisit?), Muse at 269, London, UK

2017 Is this it?, Serf, Leeds, UK

2017 Faith, Austin Forum, London, UK

2017 MeMeMeMe, The Crypt Gallery, London, UK

2016 pillow, swallow, hollow, yellow, The Artwall, Athens, GR

2016 Techno and the City, Fiumano Projects, London, UK

2015 The Windshow, Camden People's Theatre, London, UK

 

 

Awards&Grants

2021 Exhibition Grant, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, KR

2020 Korean Eye 2020, PCA(Parallel Contemporary Art), London, UK

2019 Research Grant, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, KR

2017 Finalist, Contemporary Visions VIII, Beers London, UK

2017 Scholarship, ART-UNI-ON (founded by Hyundai Motor and Seoul National University), KR

 

 

Residencies

2021 Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, Seoul Foundatioin for Arts and Culture, KR

2018 Academy of Visual Arts, HKBU, Hong Kong







*How to break water into pieces;

2020, oil paint on canvas mounted on fiberboard, jesmonite, copper tube, lacquered balsa, clock mechanism, 29 x 29 x 4.2 cm




Anti-Sea

2019, UV print and coloured pencil on linen, plaster, acrylic paint, gel wax, glass, 200 x 140 x 5 cm






September
2019, oil and acrylic paint on wood, plaster, 53 x 55 x 4.5 cm







Template of Hope

Installation view: Spilled Water (2018, Rainbow Cube)






1-13 from Plate XIXX.

2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable









Stay in 2021

E-mail : deemd@naver.com

URL : seriouswarmingup.tumblr.com

 

 

She is a studying for a master’s degree in the Department of Sculpture at Seoul National University college of Art.

 

Her first individual exhibition was Serious Warming-up at the KIGOJA in 2015 and as part of the group exhibition Seoul Babel at the Seoul Museum of Art in 2015.

 

 

I have been curious about the movement of people in the digital media environment to express their opinions. Humans who dream of a new world as subjects who changed history have created movements from the past to the present with their thoughts and will in their bodies. Individuals showed all the movements aimed at a developmental direction to resolve when society lost its developmentality.

 

The daily and continuous movements that people make are made into short videos. This is an anticipation for a future that is not yet visible. I’m interested in where the direction of the force toward the future is headed by collecting many shorts videos like trailer. Create a situation to assess the identity and capture the moments that will be created in the future.

 

 

Education

2020 Completed MFA courses(Sculpture), Seoul National University, KR

2015 BFA Painting, Seoul Women’s University, KRs

 

 

Solo Exhibition

2015 Serious Warming-up 2013; 2015, Kigoja: Independent Arts Space, Seoul

 

 

Group Exhibition

2018 A Rowing Stone, Woosuk Gallery, Seoul

2016 Seoul Babel, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul

2014 Non Class, Digital Media City Gallery, Seoul

2014 Art Factory Project, Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul

 

 

Awards & Grants

2020 Artwork Support Program, SFAC

2018 First Arts Support, SFAC

 

Residencies

2021 Seoul Art Space Guemcheon, Seoul, Korea

2016 Hangar, Barcelona, Spain

 






War against monsters under the fifth high wave

2019, Single channel video, 14' 31“







Pose Searching

2019, plywood, acrylic, LED, 193.6 x 79cm

 







Serious Warming-up

2017, Single channel video, 07' 21"







Serious Warming-up

2015, 3 channel video, 08' 30"