Chung So Young is a sculptor, who currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, She earned a Diplome national superieur d’arts plastiques (DNSAP) at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, France. Since then she has had solo exhibitions at Daelim Museum of Art, Seoul (2013), OCI Museum of Art, Seoul (2011), Project Space Sarubia, Seoul (2008), Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul (2007), and Gallery Miss China Beauty, Paris (2006). Her works have been included in group exhibitions such as round project, gallery factory, Seoul (2013), Galapagos, Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, Sparkling Secrets, Daelim Museum, Seoul (2012), Sporadic Positioning, Arario Gallery, Cheonan (2012), No.45 Kumho Young Artist, Kummho Museum of Art, Seoul (2011), Space Study, Plateau, Seoul (2011), Unrealized Projects_Architecture of Incompleteness, Space Hamilton, Seoul (2010), Moving Museum, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul (2009), Outside Perspective, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland (2007), Open Studios 8, Ssamzie Space, Seoul (2007), Avalanches, space &bsp at La Générale, Paris (2007), Apocalypse Now –Intrusion, &bsp at La Générale, Paris (2006), Waiting_workshop, Casino Luxembourg, forum d’art contemporain, Luxembourg (2005). Her most recent work was on view at APMAP 2014 Jeju, Between Waves, at Osulloc Green Tea Farm, and currently she is participating in the residency program and performance at Le Cyclop, Milly-la-Foret, France.
Chung So Young’s work can be best described as non-figurative sculpture. But in fact her work has a tendency towards site-specificity. Her concern with the presence space and the absence of form is clearly a question of site. Where does the work begin and end. So here site is not place, but space. As well, Chung’s earlier work references geology and sedimentation. Using the city of Seoul as a source of information and inspiration Chung’s work shows the life of the city as on in which change is unending. When we talked I was struck by how philosophical Chung was about her ever so material work.
The following interview questions, which where answered via email, are based on a conversation Chung So Young and I had in May 2014.
Julia Marsh: Your work possesses qualities and principles found in Formalist and Minimalist sculpture, while also being situated as site-specific. What are the particular concepts related to space that you draw upon as you plan your works? And conversely, how do spaces impact the outcome of your works?
Chung So Young: The particular concept I draw upon in relation to space is to find and analyze theorder of the materials and structure present in spaces we inhabit. This organization of materials can only be found in emerging forms. As well, because gravity is an inevitability of human existence in the physical world, it appears most especially in my works. It is same for visual artists, who create by using raw materials. Because theses arrangements are adapted and shaped into other forms, it might be possible to associate my work with Formalism and Minimalism. But at their basis my works are not conceptual sculptures based on the historical contexts of art making, but rather the form of my works are based on contemporary observations of space, place, and environment. And it is in the space, where my work is placed that it is completed.
JM: In the past sculpture has fallen under categories like those mentioned above. In this supposedly post-ideological era do you think of your work as adhering to certain principles of design or sensation that fall outside of the accepted categories of sculptural movements? You have described your works as being figurative, as opposed to abstract. Can you explain how this embodiment arises in your work?
CSY: I think the existence of the work is determined by the generated sense during the experience of it in the material world. This can be a sort of authorial materialism. My creation is not in accordance with the imagination and transcendental spirit, but in terms of sense and phenomenon, which occur by experience and observation. So like I said before, my work is not abstract. I cannot say it is figurative either, but I can say it is constructive.
JM: Recently you were commissioned to create works for the ROUND PROJECT in Hamyang-gun, Gyeongnam. These works had to meet strict conditions required by the organization sponsoring the project. How did this experience shape, not just the outcome of the commissioned works, but your perspective on site-specific works in the age of festivalism and community works?
CSY: For this project, I presented work that is conceptually simplified and functionalfor public space, in contrast to the sculptures and installations I present in museums and galleries. As well, permanent installations in a certain places do not always carry the characteristics of site-specific artworks. If we consider the meaning of a permanent installation as an augmented asset to the region, then it may not focus on investigating and reflecting thepeculiarity of the place. Though making work that mixes into the installation space is still important to me, I have been attempting to make work that can independently exist from the character of time and place. Among the many directions of public art projects in Korea, the project I participated was placing meaning on renewing the local context and its possibility, not on creation based on local study. We can call it gentrification by art.
JM: In the last 100 years our concepts of natural and artificial have undergone serious revision. To the point that what is often considered artificial can actually be described as organically produced and that what is manmade is just another layer of the natural order. Such division seem to be central to your work, meaning that your works represent attempts to invert accepted notions, like abstract and figurative, as well as what is natural and artificial. As an artist what is at stake for you in such attempts?
CSY: It is hard to find the primary factor for determining success and failure of these attempts. In my case, I think what is at stake is to understand fully the order of such dichotomous conditions, and how to respond to the order as an artist.Though it is a difficult path, I think we have to get away from excessively substituting the artist’s emotions and consciousness, and accurately recognizetoday’s contradictory situation in cultivating a friendliness to nature, as well as removing the space for such interpretations. Also, despite the tensions between the natural and artificial, I think these two axes should be able to coexist. In this way, it should be an open dialog, one in which questions can be openly and constantly.
JM: How do you position yourself within the trajectory of contemporary Korean art? Do you think the history of sculpture in Korea follows a path similar to that Rosalind Krauss defined for American sculpture: one of rupture and dislocation to a new place from its origins as, say memorial, or marker? Also on the question of influence where do you see sculpture heading over all?
CSY: I haven’t studied deeply the history of Korean sculpture. But if modern sculpture, which substituted materiality for concepts, was followed by sculpture revealing the artist’s concepts through figurative recreation, I would like to say that my work emulates this phenomenon, which is created by combining the material order and the artist’s free will. If American sculpture can be described as following a “rupture and dislocation to a new place,”Korean sculpture, as well has definitely experimented with new possibilities in sculpture through dissolution. However, as the result of this dissolution, I think the concepts found in sculpture have been expanded, diversified, and have taken on the multiplicity of placements. From my perspective, the sculpture that will continue to be relevant is heading to a place where its material being is more fortified in the non-material and spiritual world of humans.