Although the story seems to have gone awry from the start, anyone who meets Young- churl Shim for the first time will feel a bit of agitation at her beauty. Certainly, her beauty is dazzling. Also, goodness resides within the beauty of it. This is why I cherish her beauty.
I remember in the early 80's, and I first met her when I stopped by the lab to meet the professor at the art college. She was a teaching assistant at the time. I could feel her clear, fresh, non-toxic beauty (if I may). This is because beauty is usually arrogant or rude, and I have seen many cases of tangible things that lack individuality, and there were times when I had to accept the toxicity that beauty had to possess as a means to protect itself. The thorns of a rose or the poison of a striped snake, as an example.
She was always beautiful, had a bright vibe, and a delicate and tender sensibility. If she said that she was doing music or dancing or she was doing literature, I would have nodded her head. But she was sculpting.
The difficulties of all artistic creation are often compared to labor pains. I would call it the fierce spirit of the artists who dedicate themselves to artistic form. In particular, the difficulty of the sculpture can be guessed because the work process requires physical strength to the extent that it is never less than labor, and the consumption of physical strength follows. The labor force that must be devoted to a formidable amount of work is a battle against time and loneliness itself. In a lonely battle with intangible material media, she may have claimed to be a prisoner abandoned in a prison or a Roman slave before being an artist who crafts the true meaning of labor. With her rough handwork that erased her fingerprints, she used to burn her own passion.
Thus, in the early spring of 1983, she hosted her first solo exhibition with the title <Stepwise Representation of Comb>. Of course, combs are exclusive to women. However, Young-churl Shim first paid attention to the femininity of the comb. What kind of image of the comb was she fascinated by? First of all, she paid attention to the natural beauty of the decoration tools, and the symbolic image of the fidelity, love, longing, and passion of old women who went beyond their appearance and took care of them. She wanted to read the women's minds and precise language of longing in the shadows of each neat comb.
The natural grain of wood, the sculptural beauty created by the concavities and convexities of the comb’s teeth is the pursuit of true feminine beauty through the integration of a woman's expression of her inner emotions depicted through the simple and robust external texture of wood.
A piece that flexibly rounded the teeth of a short comb, upon vertically digging long and short grooves on wood grain reminiscent of the cross-section of a stratum. For the shape of the lower lip, the upper part of the comb was raised in a half-moon shape to represent a woman's beautiful face at the same time. In particular, her work, in which the lower part of the sculpture, which looks like a house and a wooden ship as a whole, was dug up in the shape of hundreds of meat scales, and then placed five belly fats on it like a roof, came to me as an image of a woman sinking in the sea of passion.
From her school days, she never gave up her fierceness to find out what was required of her. Also, her longing for new things was part of her constitution and physiology.
She refuses to limit her art mediums to familiar materials such as wood, stone, and bronze. At the same time, she resists the methodologies and virtuosity that are consistent with her art. For her, the methodology of her art must be something that constantly pursues novelty and diversity. The strong skepticism about the fixed method and the formation of similar media means a longing for the creation of new and original methodologies. It also means a drastic departure from existing senses and similar techniques.
The constant pursuit of new things and the experimentation of challenges is the flow of contemporary art, but also a characteristic that fits her artistic constitution very well. In the end, it seems that her development of a new art medium and her longing for art made her decide to pursue her dominion in the spring of 1984, thus setting her proper direction. Now, out of the stagnant world, her artistic spirit begins to run into a world of fluidity and vitality that does not stop the flow and vortex.
Her sensibility was the wind rushing through the green fields, the sailboat riding the rippling waves, the soul exploring the swamp of the abyss that knows no depth, and the active volcano that embraces them all. With the sensibility of an active volcano, she passionately devours everything that unfolds before time. The artistic soul that boils all over from her head to her chest has begun an exciting dance with the new world. From all printed information materials, to various visual media such as TV and videos, and even to advertisements in supermarkets, she mobilizes the simultaneous senses in breathless infiltration, as someone from the multimedia generation would.
Expressions on the street, people passing by, their fashionable patterns and colors, architectural forms, museum exhibits, shopping mall displays… Experience a cultural shock with the sense of an outsider amidst a flood of free-spiritedness and inexhaustible material that is quite different from the school's curriculum. All of these things eventually dominate the thinking of the artists of this country and can be applied to the production of that art. A combination of lifestyle and artistry.
She looks back in retrospect. Her journey to the new world has brought her the grace of discovering her amazing senses and artistic motifs, especially the night scenery of Las Vegas, which stands tall in the middle of the desert—a spectacular sight full of darkness. The glamorous city of the night was her Rome, not Nero's. It was a moment when I experienced the masterpiece of Light Art with a thrill that stabbed my whole body.
The road to art was never a one-way street. The amazing store also gave her an opportunity to elevate her emotions infinitely. She had a gut feeling that she had to be her own amazing store, a shop that collects and sells everything from antiques to state-of-the-art craftsmanship. She enjoys communion with the infinite world of objects, the artistic impulses and formative images that come from them, and follows the direction of her heart, tilting and devouring all the passion that can burn like the mane of a running horse. Research on each art medium is naturally required to image or format the characteristics of each art medium. She takes a class that studies neon, video bronze casting, and hologram as a specialized medium. Of course, she doesn't hesitate to browse not only the curriculum of her university, but also the curriculum set up in studios and museums. Each medium has its own expression. It explores what kind of encounter the expression can have with one's own emotions.
The class, which expands her understanding of the world of art by visiting artists' studios to see their work process, and talking with her classmates also fueled her passion. In the class that professionals such as curators, art critics, and painters take, they were able to get in touch with their perspectives and expertise in understanding the artistic situation. All of these classes provided her with hours of her self-burn that were truly daunting and exciting. After looking back at the exhibition, showing how the three-dimensionality and color of a single tree or plant could be applied to modeling, she realized that her thoughts, which she had been struggling with in her pursuit of diversity in her art medium, came back. Thankfully it was never in vain. She felt that broadening the scope of her formative field was the most powerful whip of her own frontier spirit. She said that her soaring ideas and sensibility were sailing into the realm of installation art without her even realizing it.
Living and traveling in the US for about 5 years – although it was unfamiliar territory her passion for art blossomed. It was also a time that she was rewarded for, as she was motivated.
However, upon returning home, she realized that she was standing in a desolate background with unfamiliar landscapes, faces, a without a loving hand to hold, nor a friendly gaze. Was it because of her delicate sensibilities?
The past of loving people itself is equivalent to getting trapped in a fog. A conch shell left alone on the mudflat overflowing with the river of pain and sorrow.
She had to become a falling reed because of her trust in human beings, the emptiness and pain felt when the veil is lifted, and because of the compassion and longing for the other. Lack of courage to overcome the pain.
And then one day.
She gave up her own pain and longing and stood before God as a bruised reed. The encounter with the gods began like this, at the edge of the cliff. It was a meeting after she had fully confined herself.
In the fall of 1989, her second solo exhibition, 〈Jesus Love You〉, was 6 years apart from the first exhibition, but showed a very heterogeneous deviation in the selection and interpretation of objects. First, in the title, she writes ‘Loves’ as ‘Love’. Those who read the distortion of the intention to boldly drop the ‘s’ with their hearts will notice that Jesus can soon be replaced with I(u). We feel pain in the bold and unusual combination of red fabric and neon in 「Torn Veil」, thorns in Crown of Thorns with red and blue neon intertwined, and thorns in 「Messiah」. Did she translate her own pain directly? Art is not something that can be translated directly. Isn't it still valid for us as modern people to put ourselves on top of the pain of others through the meaning of redemption?
Unable to obtain compromise and reconciliation from humans, she learns to love humans in the perfect love of God, develops a passion for art, and realizes that she can devote herself to God. Her supplications are granted by her divine love and returned to her by her divine providence. The vitality of life and the driving force of creation is to be cultivated, taken root, and harvested in the fields of all faiths. Her love and parting are deduced to her as synonymous with her divine will. The beauty, hate, ugliness, prettiness, and all the smells they emit are also explained by God's grace.
It is not natural, therefore, that the desire of the spiritual world, which has consistently dominated her since this solo exhibition, is returned to the power of this 'faith'. It integrates with the soul of her art, sometimes directly and sometimes implicitly.
Compassion for humans and delusion are orchestrated in God's arms and molded with delicate techniques of sensibility.
To be honest, the first time I got to know Young-churl Shim through the balanced beauty and femininity of the comb, the transformation into a confessional performance using 1,500 bibles or candles as objects was unexpected and even shocking. Maybe it’s obvious that it may be said that there is a feeling that the oriental sentiment was turned over by Western experimentation, or it may be natural that in the eyes of ordinary enthusiasts, it appears confusing.
Everyone calls her today an installation artist and a total artist, taking issue with her fierce craftsmanship with constant challenges to new techniques and strong experimentalism. My unfamiliarity with her transformation as an installation artist was felt and continued through her considerable amount of work and scale, and her courage to overcome the one-off emptiness inherent in her installation art. What made her challenge the experimental nature of her installation work? Is it the thorough acceptance of human consciousness of emptiness and the human will to overcome it? Here I am suddenly remind myself of the myth of Sisyphus.
She emphasizes that installation art is quite exciting in itself to enjoy freedom in an open space. Even thinking about the exhibition space in her head, before starting the installation work itself, is a joy that is difficult to contain. For her, the work of selecting various objects that mobilized even modern science and technology (each object has its own plasticity), and artistically integrating them to deliver a dynamic message is vitality itself. Not just static art to look at, but moving kinetic art that the audience mobilizes and experiences sensibly, she may have been fascinated by the beauty of moving, whether it be people or sculptures, and conveying their organic vitality.
Diversity in freedom. Creativity in diversity – even as a teacher, she emphasizes to express oneself according to one’s senses. She emphasizes that, above all else, a free-spirited atmosphere must be given in order to allow students to unfold their formative will and amazing senses hidden within them. The creation of a creative environment, or atmosphere she longed for during her school days will stimulate students' artistic activities through her sensory mediation.
Now, at this point, wouldn't it be good to end my statement as a mere acquaintance? To do that, I decided to look at her closer for just a moment.
In matters of faith, I cautiously question. The connection between religion and art is not new, and I wonder if it is a temporary phenomenon with a kind of methodological experimentation for her...
She is adamant. Above all, she does not view life and art as separate things, but is faithful to the principled position that an artist only speaks through his works. Life is both faith and art, and again art becomes faith and life. The problem of unity of this Trinity or synergy is beyond my ability to explain. Only her fierce craftsmanship and constant passion may be able to represent her.
I get in her car, sit next to her, and listen to hymns and verses. For some reason, the old her seems unfamiliar. Nevertheless, I perceive something that revives the atmosphere of the past in a short moment. Does she want to share her own god and his serenity with me? No, I don't know if she has already done it. It feels as if art and religion are hand in hand with her passion. I think of a horizontal double-armed scale with her life as the main axis.
The recent series of “The Beautiful Man”, which uses mushrooms as an object, brought back the beauty and delicate sense of her goodness that I had known for a long time. As one curator puts it, her god may have allowed her to now turn her gaze to her creation. The theme of this exhibition, 'Love is as strong as death', also reveals an atmosphere of intense obsession and longing. “Love is as strong as death” is a phrase from the Bible. She still retains the power of love, the absolute truth of death, in her artistic soul.
Two mushrooms with their heads slightly twisted outward are standing against each other. They seem to have swallowed sorrow, and a gesture of solitude is also reflected. In a way, it seems that the sad longing of two men and women, erotically reminiscent of the curves of the human body, is fiercely restrained.
Mushrooms live in groups rather than alone. Mushroom spores are carried away by the wind. If it flies without direction and meets a suitable environment, it sprouts and grows into a young mushroom that becomes an adult mushroom. The physiology of mushrooms living in the shade while parasitizing on tree stumps or fallen trees – she sees the human form of thousands and thousands of people in the form of mushrooms. The love of a lover, the love of a family, the pain of a love that has turned its back, the preciousness of bloodlines, a love to meet again...
How long did she have to stay in the swamp of pain and suffering until she embraced the two worlds of love and faith? In front of the Absolute, human beings are always lacking and incomplete creatures. Don't they resemble mushrooms much more than they should?
Now, through that constant love in God, she prays for the healing of that love rather than groaning and being in pain for the wounded love.
Light of my love
Is it a single ray of light?
What to do
That longing that stands on every leaf of grass
I keep getting up again and again
Succumb to longing
Chills and fever
Cherry blossoms are blowing like snowflakes in the wind.
Crimson blood dripping
Chop the flesh
- From the author’s memo -
In her song, which is difficult to describe even in the words of a poet, she meets the dazzling sensibility of the past. “The Beautiful Guy” is intertwined somewhere in her life. “The Beautiful Guy” will interfere with her, sometimes painfully, sometimes sadly, and sometimes beautifully. However, her love for the most “beautiful him” as a creature of God will unfold with the beauty of goodness.
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