Review by Park YoungTaek(Uncanny Pine Tree)

January 27, 2016

 

Sculptor LEE Gil Rae’s studio is located in the quiet countryside of Goesan-gun, in the Chungcheongbuk province. The only thing you’ll find in this silent and cozy town are dried trees and grass, due to its hot weather. The artist’s own “trees” also stand firm in his yard. Those “trees” are made up of metal that has been cut up and welded together. Some of his sculptures are just reproductions of pine trees, but others are in bizarre shapes that almost seem to have taken on the form of both tree and of human being. One might call it a “Tree Man.” Perhaps he ultimately perceives both trees and human beings as the same. Externally, they are different, but essentially they are all the same, living beings within nature. Furthermore, the fundamental structure of every form of life is the same. I believe this is why sculptor LEE works with identically structured small copper pieces and fuses them together to craft pine trees in such odd and dynamic forms. The semi-circled or short straight-lined copper pieces symbolize the cells of life forms. Those cells gather and cohere to transform into its own life forms: plants and trees. They stand upright in spaces or they trail down the walls as a work of art. It feels like he is drawing a picture through welding, with copper pieces in spaces or on walls.

 

His creative process is motivated by his pictorial impulse rather than sculptural impulse. His sculptures are based on the notion of filling space, but he seems to be more interested in drawing with little copper pieces, as if he is doing sketches or paintings. He fills and carves, and he connects the lines that are created by the gathered pieces. He forms lines rather than dealing with chunks and by showing the continuation of time, he eventually brings attention to the surfaces of “trees.” His sculptures make us look at the flesh of nature in copper and its individual cells that form the surfaces of “trees.” He also makes us focus on the completed life forms that are created by those assembled and disassembled cells. At the same time, the audience can see through the body of the “trees”; they lead our eyes to pass through to the other side. Therefore those “trees” and “tree men” greet our eyes and shed light on the encounter of the things on the other side. They constantly breathe through their spaces as air flows in and out through their bodies. The breeze interacts with a sense of vigor; the energy flows. In order to create life, this type of interaction between energy and breathing is vital. Also, sculptures that are empty inside can reflect their presence through one eye and one perspective. His sculpture speaks as one completed gigantic life form and at the same time, shows every little unit of the gigantic body. The sculpture becomes one absolute life form when the whole and its parts are combined. This relationship is fair, unlike the common phenomenon of parts sacrificing themselves for the whole; so the sculpture’s parts exist in an equal relationship with the whole. It is impossible to think of one completed body without those little parts that constitute the whole. It is an enticing game, to speculate on the possibilities of the next stage of the form, as the individual parts grow over time. Through Lee’s sculptures, I can feel his message that nature and its life forms would never neglect the provision for natural growth.

 

His sculpting process does not depend heavily on a traditional sculpting technique, or physical space optimization, but rather is similar to the real plants’ growth and progression over time. Perhaps the artist sculpts and applies his observations of nature to his own “trees” as he has seen how all living things in nature grow and transform. I suppose this was made possible from his living more than ten years in this countryside, of Goesangun., Although he reproduces nature as his main subjects, ultimately he creates natural physiology, so to speak. I see his creation process as adapting the law of nature. Therefore, his sculptures, just like all living things in nature, gradually grow and propagate in time. Enduring the tough process of welding copper pieces one by one is just like plants’ growth cycle, when these little parts and units of all life forms preciously approach us. Through this repetitive process of connecting copper pipe pieces, he sculpted a “pine tree,” and those remind us of such odd life forms.

 

In particular, he noted the reason behind his choice of a pine tree as follows: “The pine trees were the best suited subject to work with since they are the symbolic tree of Korea, and they show characteristics of Korean culture through their familiarity. So, many people like pine trees and desire to own them for spiritual reasons; for some, they can be a playground. Moreover, our history is built in them. Liberal shapes, vivid and dynamic colors of a tree, weathered surfaces that show passing of time and more were enough architectural beauties for me to decide on pine trees as my subject” (Artist’s Note).

 

Pine trees contain so many meaningful fruits, perhaps to a fault. To Koreans, pine trees are distinctive, as we have grown up surrounded by them. As Lee comes down to the countryside, he encounters more pine trees than before. Especially, the thick and tough skin of pine trees drove him to create. He reproduced those pine trees in three dimensions and made additional works with copper wires. As those trees hang on the wall, they function like a painting. Lines of gathered metal pieces depict dynamic and rising trunks of a tree, widely spread pine needles, and tough and bulky tree bark. It might seem such a simple depiction, but when we realize that these pine trees are made of little connected copper pieces rather than a simple drawing, they become another unfamiliar image. Personally, at this moment, I want to demand more powerful shapes or imaginings.

 

The reproduction of the pine tree comes to us more energetically, with its unique color and properties of copper creating a sense of a strong and immortal existence. Possibly, sculptor, LEE is planting his own coppered “pine tree” at a particular exhibition space. Even though it is a reproduction of a live pine tree, he opens our eyes to perceive the existence of pine trees and further, plant life itself. Furthermore, just as his oddly formed “pine trees” can be seen as varied kinds of plants growing and spreading, we might realize that we human beings are just like pine trees in a bizarre way. His “pine tree” makes us recall every living things’ existence, structure, appearance, and desire to be original. Perhaps, through showing the existence of a pine tree that survives beyond the finite time we live in, he gives us a moment to contemplate our own existence: we are the ones who make our finite lives hopeless.Sculptor LEE Gil Rae’s studio is located in the quiet countryside of Goesan-gun, in the Chungcheongbuk province. The only thing you’ll find in this silent and cozy town are dried trees and grass, due to its hot weather. The artist’s own “trees” also stand firm in his yard. Those “trees” are made up of metal that has been cut up and welded together. Some of his sculptures are just reproductions of pine trees, but others are in bizarre shapes that almost seem to have taken on the form of both tree and of human being. One might call it a “Tree Man.” Perhaps he ultimately perceives both trees and human beings as the same. Externally, they are different, but essentially they are all the same, living beings within nature. Furthermore, the fundamental structure of every form of life is the same. I believe this is why sculptor LEE works with identically structured small copper pieces and fuses them together to craft pine trees in such odd and dynamic forms. The semi-circled or short straight-lined copper pieces symbolize the cells of life forms. Those cells gather and cohere to transform into its own life forms: plants and trees. They stand upright in spaces or they trail down the walls as a work of art. It feels like he is drawing a picture through welding, with copper pieces in spaces or on walls. His creative process is motivated by his pictorial impulse rather than sculptural impulse. His sculptures are based on the notion of filling space, but he seems to be more interested in drawing with little copper pieces, as if he is doing sketches or paintings. He fills and carves, and he connects the lines that are created by the gathered pieces. He forms lines rather than dealing with chunks and by showing the continuation of time, he eventually brings attention to the surfaces of “trees.” His sculptures make us look at the flesh of nature in copper and its individual cells that form the surfaces of “trees.” He also makes us focus on the completed life forms that are created by those assembled and disassembled cells. At the same time, the audience can see through the body of the “trees”; they lead our eyes to pass through to the other side. Therefore those “trees” and “tree men” greet our eyes and shed light on the encounter of the things on the other side. They constantly breathe through their spaces as air flows in and out through their bodies. The breeze interacts with a sense of vigor; the energy flows. In order to create life, this type of interaction between energy and breathing is vital. Also, sculptures that are empty inside can reflect their presence through one eye and one perspective. His sculpture speaks as one completed gigantic life form and at the same time, shows every little unit of the gigantic body. The sculpture becomes one absolute life form when the whole and its parts are combined. This relationship is fair, unlike the common phenomenon of parts sacrificing themselves for the whole; so the sculpture’s parts exist in an equal relationship with the whole. It is impossible to think of one completed body without those little parts that constitute the whole. It is an enticing game, to speculate on the possibilities of the next stage of the form, as the individual parts grow over time. Through Lee’s sculptures, I can feel his message that nature and its life forms would never neglect the provision for natural growth. His sculpting process does not depend heavily on a traditional sculpting technique, or physical space optimization, but rather is similar to the real plants’ growth and progression over time. Perhaps the artist sculpts and applies his observations of nature to his own “trees” as he has seen how all living things in nature grow and transform. I suppose this was made possible from his living more than ten years in this countryside, of Goesangun., Although he reproduces nature as his main subjects, ultimately he creates natural physiology, so to speak. I see his creation process as adapting the law of nature. Therefore, his sculptures, just like all living things in nature, gradually grow and propagate in time. Enduring the tough process of welding copper pieces one by one is just like plants’ growth cycle, when these little parts and units of all life forms preciously approach us. Through this repetitive process of connecting copper pipe pieces, he sculpted a “pine tree,” and those remind us of such odd life forms. In particular, he noted the reason behind his choice of a pine tree as follows: “The pine trees were the best suited subject to work with since they are the symbolic tree of Korea, and they show characteristics of Korean culture through their familiarity. So, many people like pine trees and desire to own them for spiritual reasons; for some, they can be a playground. Moreover, our history is built in them. Liberal shapes, vivid and dynamic colors of a tree, weathered surfaces that show passing of time and more were enough architectural beauties for me to decide on pine trees as my subject” (Artist’s Note). Pine trees contain so many meaningful fruits, perhaps to a fault. To Koreans, pine trees are distinctive, as we have grown up surrounded by them. As Lee comes down to the countryside, he encounters more pine trees than before. Especially, the thick and tough skin of pine trees drove him to create. He reproduced those pine trees in three dimensions and made additional works with copper wires. As those trees hang on the wall, they function like a painting. Lines of gathered metal pieces depict dynamic and rising trunks of a tree, widely spread pine needles, and tough and bulky tree bark. It might seem such a simple depiction, but when we realize that these pine trees are made of little connected copper pieces rather than a simple drawing, they become another unfamiliar image. Personally, at this moment, I want to demand more powerful shapes or imaginings. The reproduction of the pine tree comes to us more energetically, with its unique color and properties of copper creating a sense of a strong and immortal existence. Possibly, sculptor, LEE is planting his own coppered “pine tree” at a particular exhibition space. Even though it is a reproduction of a live pine tree, he opens our eyes to perceive the existence of pine trees and further, plant life itself. Furthermore, just as his oddly formed “pine trees” can be seen as varied kinds of plants growing and spreading, we might realize that we human beings are just like pine trees in a bizarre way. His “pine tree” makes us recall every living things’ existence, structure, appearance, and desire to be original. Perhaps, through showing the existence of a pine tree that survives beyond the finite time we live in, he gives us a moment to contemplate our own existence: we are the ones who make our finite lives hopeless.

 

 

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January 27, 2016

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