2008 Jean Louis Poitevin
The splinters of time
On dark surfaces, lines dance like huge fields of grey grass swept by indecisive winds. Yoo Hye-Sook’s paintings envelop us like a dream. When we look, we try to acknowledge what we see. This is the trap, yet also the strength of her works. Once the identification process is finished, be it hair or towels, it’s the very matter of the artwork that seizes our imagination and leads it along more arduous paths.
For a long time, Yoo has been working with pencil. What grabs us without us being able to identify it, is a growing feeling of extreme precision, restrained violence and the gesture’s haunting softness, a thousand times repeated, inscribing lines onto the surface either in strike or in caress. And what we discover is that the artist had to control each gesture in order to obtain all of these nuances, movements, lines and folds. Realizing this gives us goose bumps: we feel the pitching of the grand world.
For a long time, her pencils have given rise to dark masses of braided hair. Today she digs out the secrets of time by painting unlikely dark towels as though they had been used for wiping off the dust of oblivion, which she displays in big curtains that cover, almost chastely, the secrets of life - falling, with hemmed pleats, and held back indefinitely.
And then, on the other side, the shade’s opposite, a vibrant and coloured world, most often reds or pinks, and which makes the echo of beginnings resonate within us.
Since 2003, Yoo has started a singular search from what we could call a motif, a pink or red band bristled with black peaks, for the most part wrapped around itself, but sometimes folded or pleated.
This unique approach comes from having in the first instance developed this motif like a sculpture in space. The peaks are made out of silicon and sometimes the pink and black rolls can be likened to our intimate body parts, those that remain mostly concealed by skin. Except that here, they seem to have been extracted from our body and displayed in full light like the trophies of a battle between the self and the flesh. Since flesh is in us like an other, yet, at the same time, flesh we are.
Then, she has photographed her sculptures, turning them into shiny and glazed images. The intimate then seems to join the smooth world of magazines, a magical world which fascinates us but doesn’t move us. Flesh exposed as such expresses this world’s immense coldness.
Yet, in parallel, as if to contradict the evident, she has also developed her motif through drawings and engravings. Thus, the entire strength of the body resurfaces: it is the wonderment in front of the unknown that awakens in us, a fascination for this hidden world that is finally revealed takes hold of us.
In this motif there is also an aspect which we can link with certain classical representations of western and Christian iconography. If it has a clear kinship with the great history of painting, this is because she has never ceased questioning the enigma of flesh and the mystery of incarnation.
Oscillating between red, pink and black, recent works by Yoo translate, in a renewed way, the fragility of our presence in the world as they manifest a disturbing force which seems to become one with these black peaks. Like splinters emerging from the skin of time, in particular they seem to engrave into our soul the furrow of irreversibility.