2018 Maria Lund
F o r a y s i n t o a f a m i l i a r u n k n o w n
You have never been there and you will never go, but you know this place although it does not exist.
Contradictory, yes and no. In her recent works, Yoo Hye-Sook suggests a space, a location she knows without knowing it, a place that isn’t one, but provokes a reaction. For her, it’s about the exploration of an indefinite, born from the simple pleasure of hearing and seeing the pencil go over the canvas. A space, resulting from the meeting of matters: first the artist lays matte black acrylic backgrounds on which thousands of graphite lines form surfaces on the surface and little by little, they turn into perspectives creating a place: a wall, an opening, what one discerns as a room, an anonymous angle. But soon, this vision reverts into a nameless abstract geometric composition, as the surrounding light interacts with the artwork all the time playing tricks on perception; a vision appears and then morphs. The shiny graphite matter captures and reverberates light while creating a luminosity that allows the geometric shapes to “emerge” from the black surface.
What is at stake here? The artist says she’s looking for a type of void, undetermined, an artwork that stays open enough to give way to imagination. Hers first and then the viewer’s. Black is a darkness that unifies, that unites whereas light separates and enables to discern. In life they alternate; both are indispensable. Yoo Hye-Sook wants to awaken our senses by providing bridges between the two through these places where we don’t entirely see, where we think we see. When she creates, she slowly moves forward on the black surface feeling her way, shaping while observing. A process which is sensual and instinctive, animal, similar to the way our senses function in the obscurity of the night: sharper, more receptive.
In front of her artworks, we are reminded of James Turrell’s installations, their flooding light, the unreal and yet visible veil that hovers over many of the American artist’s “spaces”. Faced with these spaces, the visitor enters an illusion created by colored light; the immaterial substantializes. With Yoo Hye-Sook, we witness the opposite process: the substance of the matters laid on the canvas creates the illusion of a space, an experience that continues in the mind to then decompose itself, to immaterialize as light and obscurity.
For this new work, the primary source of inspiration was Edward Hopper’s paintings such as Morning sun (1952) and Sun in an empty room (1963). Moved by these artworks - in which Yoo Hye-Sook particularly loves the light, she first took over the composition principle, yet eliminating human presence to only leave a bed and the sunlight on the walls. She then focused on a detail to finally move on to the creation of other spaces. Emptied of human presence, these places, these “nowheres” and “everywheres” seem nevertheless inhabited. Like the dark water of a lake which surface glissens with the reflecting light and to which the rhythm of the currents brings a breathing movement, Yoo Hye-Sook’s works give the feeling of being animated by invisible lungs. As if the artist had inscribed in them this big breath of nature that stimulates us without us necessarily being aware of it. By working with matters, she brings to life something invisible, primal, hard to name, something along what connects us beyond time and substance. It is this presence that carries us, such as the longing for a reunion, in the same way that her previous works with hair or her fur topographies instilled an irresistible desire to touch, to immerse ourselves.
Through these artworks which seem minimalist and almost inscrutable, Yoo Hye-Sook manages to awaken more primary registers, activate our senses, while offering a foray towards an elsewhere. A respite and a reminder.
Paris, July 2018
Translated from French by Jessica Watson and Maria Lund