Impression of Young-churl Shim's Public Sculpture : Young-nam Cho > Review

'Love' is the motive of my art world

Shim, Young Churl
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'Love' is the motive of my art world

Impression of Young-churl Shim's Public Sculpture : Young-nam Cho

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Impression of Young-churl Shim's Public Sculpture


 I am a singer but I have also been recognized as a painter for some time now, thanks to my love of contemporary art. I would first like to stress that I am not an art critic. The reason I start off by saying that is because I have been asked to write about the work of Young-churl Shim and I therefore wish to ask for the understanding of any reader that may be perplexed to see a singer criticize art. Rather than read this as a criticism, I think it would be correct to see this as the impressions I have of Shim's artwork.

 First, how did singer Young-nam Cho and Sculptor Young-Churl Shim get acquainted? Well, I started golf a few years ago as exercise and my private instructor, a single lady of a certain age, happened to be a high school alumnus of Shim's. Knowing that I had a great interest in art, she arranged for us to meet.

 The Young-churl Shim I first met five years ago was very beautiful. This may be due to my biased view of sculptors. I imagined a lady dressed in an apron, maul in hand, standing before a lump of stone with a hard expression on her face. Of course, she had inherited from her parents' handsome features like that of a westerner. But aside from that, I had the bias that sculptors should have an inner strength unlike any other person, which, in fact, did not turn out to be completely untrue. As for all, the art of sculpture is basically a special field where the artist has to handle rocks or steel.

 I wondered where her petite body could be hiding such great inner strength but that daydream was dispersed into the air with a phone call from her, asking me to give to special 

lecture on contemporary art to the art majors at Suwon University where she herself taught. Given the social atmosphere of Korea, that is the kind of favor you could only ask of me if you had grit. I wouldn't have thought much of it if Shim had asked me to give a lecture on a subject such as "One Hundred Years of Korean Pop" or "Pop Music : Past and Present."

But this was a lecture to be delivered to undergraduates majoring in art. Therefore, asking a non-verified pop singer cum amateur painter to give a class on art studies was a risky move which could entail much criticism from the school or even the students. Despite such delicate issues, Professor Shim pushed forward in arranging the class nonetheless, and the lecture I delivered and the discussions that followed were both most delightful and sincere. All thanks to the sculptor-like grit of Young-churt Shim.

 The first time I encountered Prof. Shim's work without any prior information of preconception was in the main driveway of a golf course in Yongin. Amidst a well-maintained field of green grass stood a number of white sculptures which looked very much like mushrooms and came up as high as one's waist. I couldn't tell if they were made from stone or a special material but the ivory color of the mushrooms on the green grass went together so well and appeared extremely warm and cozy. Mushrooms are originally small organisms. But take the dualism of the body and head, the round shape of the base pillar and the round top, which reminds us of a nicely thatched roof - that itself fits perfectly into modern sculptures of post - Brancusi and Rodin era. What is the mission of a sculptor? Isn't it to give people, who inadvertently look over a mushroom sticking out in the bush, a new perception about it, by picking it up and saying, "This is a piece of art made by God himself!"

Young-churl Shim fully got into that role. She magnified the shape of mushrooms, which easily goes unnoticed, so that people could take at least another look at it while passing it by. Then she laid, raised, and straddled them as if when kids were playing games. As far as sculpture is concerned, a good piece is one that you like more and grow fonder of, the more you look at it.

 It is not an overstatement that golf courses in Korea are the biggest consumer of sculpture. That is because relatively affluent people frequent golf courses. At golf courses, you can enjoy a variety of sculpture for free. Among them, mushroom sculpture pieces by Young-churl Shim were the best, given special environment of golf courses.

 All the works by Young-churl Shim that I came to encounter since then were a series of surprises. Looking at structures of complex shapes that appear to be three or four steps more advanced than a simple mushroom shape and a series of pompous works for which completely unexpected high-tech were used to put it nicely, I got caught up in an irrelevant thought that they might be her expression of unsatisfied desires for love and affection. As such, works of so vastly different genres were presented side by side.

 She chose to create and combine different shapes in a big framework, such as "Monumental Garden" that she laid out, without a set pattern. Exploration of diverse shapes is a part that a sculptor has to play. In the case of her, however, she did the exploration with all her might so much so that her obsession of having to explore by herself what scores of sculptors did was revealed.

 A problem that frequently arises on the occasion is the artist's identity. An artist is apt to drift away from her identity when she creates too many shapes of different types. Young-churl Shim is still young. What she has to pursue going forward is the identity issue. Simply put, she has to come up with a piece of work or formative charm that conjures up when people hear the name Young-churl Shim. Historically, so-called successful sculptors have a piece of work unique to and representative of them, which were created with their special spirits and tastes, and remembered for generations by posterity. Just as we conjure up human figures or heads for Rodin or Jin-gyu Kwon, simple columns for Brancusi, and long swords or half-moon shapes for Staccioli.

 In that sense, sculptors, or even painters, are very similar to us, pop singers. Just as the first thing the public asks us is "what is your hit song?" sculptors and painters get asked what their hit sculpture and painting are. Plain rural landscapes of Su-geun Park, oriental subjects of Hwan-gi Kim, such as jars and storks, water drops of Chang-yeol Kim, and stacked-up TVs of Nam-jun Paik are a few examples. But Young-churl Shim does not have to worry on that front. For she has secured a unique formative charm with the mushroom pieces. The reason is because mushrooms are sufficiently sensual as well as special, and they are even sexy. Sensuality and sexiness are the virtues on the top of the list of the times. What I mean is that the odds are in mushrooms' favor.

 Even with the mushroom shapes aside, she fulfilled her duty as a sculptor. Outdoors sculpture pieces that she has already made, with the focus being on artistry, large sculpture pieces installed for public buildings, and environmentally friendly pieces to which she is especially devoted all show that we cannot ask anything more from her.

 I once praised Young-churl Shim's works on "Wolgan Misool", an art monthly, two years ago. At Coex in Samsung-dong, Seoul, are various pieces of sculpture by dozens of sculptors on permanent display. Among them all, I took "The Beautiful One" by Young-churl Shim as the piece that best matched the building.

 First off, since the building is all in steel and glass, this silvery piece of sculpture made of stainless steel looked as if it were a part of the building. The piece consisted of a number of bent cylinders. Each cylinder she used was different in height and thickness, and she arranged the cylinders in a way that curves, and the surface, the volume, and the shapes created by the curves produced different numbers. Harmony of delicate linear lines and delicate curves made spectators feel dynamism, which made them clench their fist without realizing it, especially a delicate dynamism caused by softness. In other words, dynamic, which is regarded as Korea's motto, has sunk into Young-churl Shim's work.

 In addition, "Electronic Garden", a work of Shim's, deserves to represent her realm of formative art. For it is by far the best among other pieces of works by Shim. First of all, it is highly valuable in that it emits light day and night. Mushroom shapes towering in the middle of a dazzling electronic garden, which might surpass a natural garden in its beauty, stand upright, but each has a curvy feature, so we cannot help feeling dynamism. Something that gushes up in a dazzling and spectacular way, how much have we longed for something like that! If the upper part of the shapes start moving slowly, there is no doubt that they will be long noted as a piece that concludes the history of female sculptors in Korea representing this era.

 Young-churl Shim is my aesthetic friend and colleague whom I have known for almost 10 years now. Young-churl Shim has already completed her duty placed on her. What Shim has to do now is to become a beautiful woman again. Not faithful to her boyish name, but to her real feminine self. It cannot be helped that she walks around with a hammer and a welder, with an apron on, because that is her destiny. Once you decide to be a sculptor, you have to have that big of an ambition anyway. And we trust Young-churl Shim's insatiable ambition. Considering, however, how many respectable pieces of sculpture she will end up leaving behind, why does she have to devote everything to sculpture, with that much frown on the face and that much temper tantrum?

 So, a few days ago in August, at the end of the summer, I accepted her request to write for her on the condition that she came over to my place to have a cup of tea. We spent that whole afternoon giggling with other family members in a long time. I wanted to remind her as a person, who is older than her, that life matters more than art. I wanted to remind her that having fun for the day simply giggling away, with petty art, religion, and philosophy all aside, matters much more than religion. I wanted to remind her that love that can be shared with a person, or even a dog, next to her is more precious than love for art or religion. For I know too well that love matters because every excellent piece of art in the world comes from love and passion of an artist him/herself.


Young-nam Cho (Singer Painter)


Art & Landscape Institute

Seokju Art Award commemoration 2006

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