2011 Maria Lund
Desires…desire to draw, to create, unnamed desires, without destination…It’s an unidentified desire that leads Yoo Hye-Sook to work. Using minimal means (pencil, paper, canvas and space) to better “hear” her interior, she began by drawing small red beans — one bean a day! Starting with this basic, universal and symbolic subject matter, Yoo Hye-Sook has instinctively given shape to an interrogation that characterises all her work: how to make visible the ‘other reality’ that lies beneath? How to delve under skin in order to reveal the animality and sensuality which exists in our smooth surfaced civilisation? Intriguing, alluring, erotic, distressing, or even sometimes repelling, these works appeal to our senses through familiar motifs which are also a reminder of the unknown. Unanimated, silent forms, that almost appear to be breathing, Yoo Hye-Sook’s works “unnamed” are like strangely lived-in portraits.
A story of hair and other attributes
In 2001, Yoo Hye-Sook paints and draws a very large format series on black hair: long hair seen from behind and large plaits in undulating forms upon a white background. Captivating, distant and terribly sensual, the works are covered in fine and luminous strokes of pencil which make each hair exist upon an area of dense black acrylic. Hair without proprietor, wig or sprawl of grass, these very concrete subjects represent however something that goes beyond their simple physical form. Yoo Hye-Sook goes on to work on underwear and female clothing where movement and the third dimension are born from the subtle variation of blacks on the matted fields of the silhouettes. The atmosphere of these works constitutes an interesting parallel to the ensemble Mother’s1 by the Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako who, without sentimentality, draws a portrait of her dead mother through photographs of the contents of her wardrobe and accessories. .
Unnamed — anonymes
From now on, clothing and textile as a subject matter form an inherent part of Yoo Hye-Sook artistic universe. A subject that she hasn’t ceased to explore: if clothing is often considered like a second skin, the artist is rapidly interested in “skin clothing” and, more specifically in hairy textiles and fur. In one of her works, a monumental cape reveals its snug interior to the spectator with a landscape exuding heat, eroticism and animality, appealing to both gaze and touch. It also happens that ‘identifiable’ clothing gives way to an organic form, a kind of large hairy core that invades the centre of the monumental canvas (300 × 200 cm). In this black mass, thousands of pencil strokes create a surface of hollows, slits and ridges in a topology of sensuality. Perhaps it’s covering up a body or an embrace?
…cover or concealment? The interrogation is pursued in works of hairy ‘curtains’, with deep drapery. We are in doubt whether they are large animal skins or if we are at the doors of an invisible territory. The monochrome tradition is revisited here, as her energetic pencil strokes, either joined together or distant, fragment light in order to bring forth movements in an obscure surface area. A notion of the infinite is introduced as these works function just as well individually as in modular juxtaposition composing an endless frieze. The animality suggested up until now is introduced in a very direct manner and not without humour, in the recent paintings of a jumper with a hood, bear ears and fluffy pompoms. Both childish and voluptuous, clothing becomes landscape through the presence of expressive touches on black surface areas where a fine pencil line gives birth to the third dimension. Driven since the beginning of her career by an unnamed desire, Yoo Hye-Sook has allowed herself to be guided by her intuition and instincts. For the last fifteen years, she has created works that develop through the association of ideas, where one subject naturally leads to the next. Her free spirit endowed with technical mastery and great rigorousness has allowed her to brave the empty surface without the support of a model, to let the forms and subject be born through contact with the matter. Thus, the series anonyms — unnamed came about.
1 Sandra S. Phillips in “ischiuchi miyako mother’s 2000-2005 : traces of the future”, The Japan Foundation, Tankosha, 2005.