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Reflections on a Korean Urn, A Meditation on the work of Yeesookyung

Independent Curator, David Elliott



“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,─that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

─John Keats(1795-1821)[1]


John Keats’s enigmatic, much pondered, and often challenged words about the virtues of ‘beauty’ and ‘truth’ as they are embodied in art – in this case an imaginary classical Greek vase - point to a fundamental dichotomy that has driven the work of Yeesookyung from the outset. This depends not so much on definitions of either ‘beauty’ or ‘truth’ as both are, to a large extent, relative; rather, it is rooted in a profound research of what these concepts mean when they are applied to new ideas, things and contexts. In this respect her creative development may be understood as a moral progression towards an aesthetic goal that can never be fully known nor recognised because of the simple fact that it is in a constant state of becoming. Integrity is never an easy path either to understand or follow. Ironically, she has described her work as an artist as a quest for the Paradise Hormone (2008)[2]

Echoing Keats’s ode, Translated Vases (2002/2006-), one of her major works, a still continuing, sprawling concatenation of installations, interchanges, videos and objects, has, since its inception in 2001, provided a platform on which the traditional – in this case Korean - vase has become a medium through which Yeesookyung has interrogated the world. It has provided a metaphor for transition, for the difference between cultures, and for reconciliation, and the images which it has conjured take different, conflicting forms: the elegant curves and texture of its fine white porcelain hint at the presence of a female body, yet this material is often fractured and awkwardly reconstituted, suggesting pain, adversity – and healing. The implied balance within Keats’s aphorism, however, expresses a desire for a more simple, symmetrical world, in a motif of organic division and reflection that, from the earliest time until now, also runs throughout the work of Yeesookyung.


Getting Married to Myself (1992), the title of her first solo show in Seoul and Tokyo in 1992, asserts from the very beginning her belief in herself as an artist as well as her need for an artist double.  Circumstance had planted the seeds of this ironical love affair in childhood. In Seoul where she was brought up, absent, hard-working parents meant that she had to find courage to combat loneliness by creating another world and persona through drawing. “around five years old I thought I would be an artist … as if this was my karma.”[3] She grew up in a Buddhist family and was strongly influenced by the teachings of Buddha although, as the continuing series of works The Very Best Statue (2006-) implies, she is highly sceptical of organised religion.[4]


As in all marriages, the road she has taken has sometimes been bumpy. And the journey on which Yeesookyung the person, guided by her trusty ‘doppelgänger’ artist, is still passionately embarked has been a long path of trial and error, self-discovery, awareness of others and revelation. Like Dante led by Virgil, art has enabled her to scrutinise and pass through the circles of hell, purgatory and heaven taking in what she needs to make her work.


Born in 1963, Yeesookyung belongs to the first significant generation of women artists and curators to have emerged in Korea. As in China, western modernity did not begin to make an impact in Korea until after the First World War but it was strongly tainted by association with the colonial rule of Japan.[5] As a result, ‘modern’ art was either based on an evolution of classical painting or on elaboration of folk art. After the Korean War(1950-53), the country was divided, China and the USSR gained influence in the north and the USA in the south. In both halves of the country the military ran riot.


By the 1950s, the cultural scene in the south began to be challenged by ‘international’ forms of abstract art originally from France, then from the United States or Japan, regarded by many as imperialism in disguise.[6] Some artists, like Nam Jun Paik(1932-2006) or Lee U Fan(1936-), left the country to work but the domestic art world began to polarise between the hollow universalism of the international style and the left populist agenda of the ‘Minjung’ Cultural Movement, which had coalesced in 1980 after the declaration of Martial Law and the ensuing massacre in Gwangju. Between these rigid, irreconcilable, essentially ideological extremes there seemed little space for individual exploration, frank self-criticism or reflection – in fact, neither truth nor beauty. The development and work of Yeesookyung, as well as that of many other artists of her generation, can be seen as a direct response to this impasse.


In 1989 Yeesookyung had graduated with an MFA in Painting (western style) from the Seoul National University and firmly asserts that ‘no professor ever influenced my work.’ Even when looking for avant-garde models she admits that she “never really liked the work of Nam Jun Paik. I could see its importance but none of it ever moved my heart.”[7] The critical figure for her around this time was Choi Jeong Hwa(1961-), an installation artist, designer and producer who often incorporates popular culture as part of his work. She remembers “lots of young artists used to gather in Jeong Hwa’s house. He generously shared experimental films and up-to-date art books and magazines with younger artists. I think I learned about contemporary art not from school but from him. He influenced so many young artists in the 1990s.”[8]


And these were vertiginous times. The spinning, naked wire armature of a bride-to-be doll that occupied centre stage at her first exhibition testifies to this as do the wall-mounted glass plates in which whirling interlace patterns imprison the same bride. Subsequent works explored further this sarcastic and almost too real fantasy of entrapment: fashionable, smartly tailored carapaces of aluminium wire netting (Armor (1993)), or brightly decorated high heels that could never be worn (Death of High-Heels (1993)), hinted at every day torture. In connection with her husband’s work, Yeesookyung moved to New York for two years in the early 1990s where she gave birth to a child and made little art.


Returning to Korea in 1996, the cruel artistic fairy-tale of love, marriage, entrapment and desire continued, but with a harder edge. Snow White Revision (1995) was a ‘jewelled’ princess’s crown filled with a violated membrane of smooth pink bubble gum. Queen of the 21st Century (1996) consisted of two flesh-pink silk tailored women’s jackets, the kind of garments Ugly Sisters would wear, placed on coat hangers attached to the wall. Equally unsettling was Nail Flower (1996), a threateningly surrealistic montage of beauty and abjection in which a ‘lotus blossom’, made presumably out of some wicked Queen’s cosmetic nail extensions, is balanced on the rim of a wine glass half-filled with urine. The more discursive Story of Munkil (long journey) (1997), an installation of small puppets thrown on the floor, a recorded story and chairs for the audience, provided no happy endings, nor even moral, in that this hybrid, amplified amalgam of fairy tales was violent, sarcastic, ironical and seemingly endless.


Green Shoe Tribe (1998) told another kind of story - a parody of news media and pseudo-anthropology as well as an essay in both sensory and conceptual disorientation. It was installed in a virtually empty space in which slides of violent, cartoon-like drawings previously made there were projected. In the background, a disembodied voice, sounding very much like a newsreader, ‘reported’ the discovery of a diasporic tribe, who all wore green shoes, whose descendants could be found today amongst the indigenous people of North America and Alaska, or in a small town in Germany as well as in the Green Shoe Tribe of Korea. Nothing was quite what it seemed. A window in the space appeared to look out onto a park but, on closer examination, was a large photograph showing the view seen out of the matching window on the other side of the space. Nothing in it was real, nothing of substance. There seemed little place here for either truth or beauty.


And so the increasingly dyspeptic nightmare of the artist-woman-child continued. In a consciously clunky attempt to collide representation with reality, the installation Elephant Rescue Team (1996) consisted of a small painting of a baleful elephant consumed by flames hung high on a wall. A ladder reached up to the painting, at the foot of which were buckets of water, presumably to put out the image. This installation was significant in that it was the first time that fire had appeared as a motif in her work, at first destructively - ‘I am drawing fire so that I can burn it all’ – but ten years later in Flame, a still continuing series of drawings started in 2006, fire had become transformed into a consuming force of a different kind – one that purified and generated.[9]


Colour Blindness Test for a Blind Minnie Mouse (1998), one of Yeesookyung’s rare performances, was initially conceived as a parody of Joseph Beuys’s 1965 seminal action How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. [10]  While for Beuys the taxidermied hare cradled in his arms represented the romantic necessity of sincere imagination, and the honey that covered his head was a natural, healing, living substance, there was no such solace in the work of Yeesookyung. Minnie, an ersatz Disney character, wife of Mickey, who she held in her arms, had been rendered purblind, her button eyes torn out - as mouth-less Hello Kitty had already shown, such mutilations could be regarded as ‘cute’! By inventing the idea of a colour blindness test for a fantasy creature with no eyes, and re-enforcing this by performing with her own eyes closed but with large seductive, cartoon-like eyes painted over her eyelids, Yeesookyung railed not only against the absurd power of old male masters and the ways that women were still demeaned and discounted, but also implied that many young women were actually complicit with the debilitating culture of cuteness and willingly, sometimes seductiely, embraced the bars of their cage. The fact that the performance was made sitting on a toilet pedestal rather than in a gallery added to the sense of outrage and disgust. For a time, it almost seemed to her that art had become too compromised for it to work. She felt lost in art space and had to find a way out.


At this time the alien, for her a broad idea connected with the uncanny, the extra-terrestrial and the other, becomes an important element in Yeesookyung’s interrogation of art. She started off and still remains an outsider, yet her sense of otherness creates a source of both strength and regret to which she constantly returns. Painting for Out of Body Travel (2000-2002) was conceived as a portal into a new artistic dimension and can be partly understood as a parody of conceptual instruction works of the 1960s.[11] Combining the figuration of a kitsch landscape painting she had found and cut in two, with the extendable abstraction of the attenuated lines of colour that she had made to link land, shore lin sea, horizon and sky by joining together the two separated halves of the painting, she had created a machine for projecting oneself into another reality.[12] To view the work properly, the artist wrote the following instruction: “Relax and stare at the centre of the painting until you feel dizzy (…) At some point it will appear to conjoin into one image and you will finally experience ‘out of body travel’ and land up in the painting itself. When you do this you may fall into a waterfall or lake in the painting. Therefore, I have provided a helmet, life jacket and elbow protectors and suggest you wear them.”


A darker fate, however, awaited the unfortunate girl in USO (Unidentified Seoul Object) (2004), an installation that could serve as a ‘memorial’ to her own abduction by a UFO flying low over the capital. As soon as this had happened “the beautiful buildings of Seoul begin to grow out like a fungus (from the surface of the ship) as if they were the halo of a martyr (…)”[13] Only her clothes, watch and a half eaten chocolate bar were left behind. By absorbing the girl, the UFO had turned into a USO (Unidentified Seoul Object) ‘time was frozen and the fabric of space had been torn.’ With not a wholly straight face, the artist had immortalised her own disappearance.


Yeesookyung describes her state of mind at this time as ‘negative and cynical’ and she was obviously unhappy. As a result she resolved to analyse and strip back those elements in her work that expressed dissatisfaction – with art, with herself, with society - in order to concentrate on her own evolving feelings which had to be substantiated in a more positive, generative approach.[14] Partly influenced by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner(1861-1925) as well as by a psychoanalytical method known as Mandala Therapy (in which she had to complete at least one drawing every day which included a mandala image), she extended her practice of drawing into the making of objects that had a unique if often damaged character.[15] She had also been interested in the philosophical writings of Friedrich Nietzsche(1844-1900) since her days as a student and these now clicked into focus, particularly his questioning of the value and objectivity of truth.[16] Embracing the ethos of ‘amor fati,’ ‘love one’s fate,’ Latin for the unavoidability of destiny or karma, Nietzsche had, at the age of thirty eight, expressed the desire to see only “what is necessary in things and what is beautiful in them… Let looking away be my only negation! (…) some day I want only to be a Yes-sayer!”[17] Although she did not yet fully recognise it, Yeesookyung was in the process of reaching the same conclusion: ‘I wanted to put my mind and body together. I wanted to be healthier and happier through my work. I wanted to be a positive person….’[18]This was to have a huge impact on her work.


Translated Vase Albisola (2001), the first in the continuing series of works called Translated Vases, was a critical step in making this transition. While on a residency in the Italian ceramics centre of Albisola, Yeesookyung contacted Anna Maria Pacetti, a potter who, under her instruction, formed and painted twelve white porcelain vases in the Josean style of the eighteenth century.[19] Pacetti knew nothing about Korean art except for what the artist had told her and what she had read in a translated poem about a vase that she had been given.[20] With these clues Pacetti brought her sensibility, influenced of course by centuries of Asian influence on European porcelain, to bear on a cyclical process of dematerialisation and embodiment: from vase to text, then translation, then transformation, re-materialisation and finally re-presentation as vase.


In terms of their quality as ceramics, these hybrids can have satisfied no one in that the artist was oblivious of the strict rules that govern Korea’s traditional aesthetic. Their heaviness, combined with the fact that they were exhibited along with a large ‘Clearance Sale’ banner, indicated that neither were they a skilful pastiche of oriental art. But for Yeesookyung the process was the point, not the final end: ‘the twelve vases can be considered as a trace of a temporary encounter between virtual neighbours. This project is not a presentation of the synthesis of two heterogeneous cultures nor a cultural exchange in the frame of late capitalism, but a presentation of interwoven regional stereotypes which could be valid or invalid according to one’s viewpoint.’[21] What could be seen, and apprehended, from this work would have to depend on the viewpoint and knowledge of the observer.


The temporary surrender of artistic control that this implied seems to have been necessary at this time of personal transition and is important because it is linked to her new interest in traditional Korean art. On one level this is part of her continuing search to establish an individual artistic identity but it is also related to the vast social, political and economic changes that are taking place across the world as the past two hundred and fifty years of western cultural hegemony is being challenged. This means that regional aesthetic systems now need to be integrated within the creaking meta-narratives of modernity and contemporaneity, although this has not yet been satisfactorily achieved either within mainstream criticism or the working of the art market. Like many other artists in Asia (and in other parts of the so-called non-western world), Yeesookyung began to examine her own aesthetic traditions more closely and to consider how these could be related to her work as a contemporary artist.


Within Korea, as in many other parts of eastern Asia, traditional ceramics made today are not so different from those of centuries before. Master potters live in ceramic villages and take great care in maintaining traditional standards. As a result, they destroy a large part of what they make and the refuse – what Yeesookyung calls ‘ceramic trash’ – is thrown on spoil heaps. The next step that Yeesookyung took in her series of Translated Vases was to visit these villages, collect the trash from the best masters, and use this to make completely new work.


The scale of these works varies from the minuscule to the vast in that, with the help of an aluminium armature, they can be made to any size. Epoxy resin holds them together, in strange, sometimes comic, often baroque montages and, following the traditional practice of mending precious ceramics, their seams are covered with twenty four carat gold. Often these works allude to classical sculpture, but show the body in slightly skewed, poses. Yet at other times they seem to be based on cartoon characters with ‘Mickey Mouse ears,’ ‘Donald Duck beaks’ or other absurd features protruding from their surface.


It is a tribute to their range of reference that in these works Yeesookyung also manages to bring together suggestions of Hans Bellmer(1902-1975)’s dismembered, violated, prepubescent dolls as well as a quotation of Yoko Ono’s Mend Piece (1966) in which Ono had smashed ordinary pieces of pottery and then invited visitors to put the mixed fragments together in an act of propitiation and healing.[22]  Yet what is most remarkable about these works is their awkward elegance, their organic proliferation, the feeling that they can continue to replicate and expand almost indefinitely. In spite of their obvious weight, they seem to be almost as light as soap bubbles and their composite structure is reminiscent of the division and multiplication of cells seen under a microscope.[23] Some are tiny others are very large, yet they are all backed by a sense of fantasy and humour which not only rethinks the purity and balance of traditional Korean aesthetics but also presents an ironical self portrait of the artist – not looking as we really think she ought, but nevertheless, strong, self-confident and sure of her new direction.


The ceramic works are not based on drawings but are obviously closely related to them. At this time Yeesookyung began to augment her previous cartoon-like drawings with the simplified line of late eighteenth century Korean brush painting, bringing this together with traditional Buddhist art as well as with motifs from Christian and other religions.[24] Flame (2006), a series of drawing-like paintings begun in 2006 were made using cinnabar on Korean paper. This crushed stone, rust-brown pigment, mixed with glue, reputedly had medicinal properties and was often used for religious purposes, particularly for drawing shamanistic and Buddhist talismans. Describing them as ‘more traces than drawings,’ she worked methodically, with intense concentration, in a near meditative state, at the same time each day. Initially the flame seemed a metaphor for passion or energy emanating from a central core, but later figures and other motifs randomly began to appear. As with the Translated Vases, there is a strongly unconscious element in the way that these images are compounded as they create waves, voids and interlaces across the surface of the paper. They also begin to have an almost messianic quality, in that the artist becomes, literally, a seer – one who is trying to excavate profound truths. What they represent reflects many different spiritual traditions and particularly focuses on the figure and fate of a crying woman – a syncretic amalgam of artist, bride and saint.[25] It is perhaps best to regard these paintings and related drawings as test beds for thinking and feeling, for remembering and dreaming, as a place where tolerances are measured and where she can become better acquainted not only with her conscious and unconscious self and the world with which she has to interact, but also with the direction her art must take. Yet her technique of montage – clear also in the unfinished series The Very Best Statue and in individual works such as Absolute Zero (2008) - as well as her critical way of thinking, bring an inevitable edge of iconoclasm – and humour - to this process. She leaves little doubt that she is not really willing to take herself so seriously, at least, not until the possibility of a transcendent, and perhaps redeeming, beauty is clearly in sight.


Since 2009 the theme of purification, connected ultimately with the modification, even cleansing, of space by sound and movement, has become increasingly predominant in her work. An intense newly found interest in deep-rooted traditions of Korean shamanism, as well as in traditional music, have been central to this. The installation Mother Land and Freedom Is (2009) was presented as part of an exhibition at Kimusa, the HQ of the former Defence Security Command in the capital. Although it has since been converted into the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the memory of both building and site is overwhelmingly negative. In colonial times it was a Japanese Military Hospital and after liberation the headquarters of the secret military police; people were routinely tortured in its cellars and coups against the government were hatched there. The title of the work is taken from the words of the DSC’s military song that the artist had rescored and had performed as ‘Jeongga,’ traditional Korean Court Music. Using homeopathic principles and the advice of a ‘feng shui’ master, she sought to transform the negative male (yang) energy that for so long had dominated the site by creating an ‘Infinite Yin (female) Energy Amplifying Furniture.’ Framing an old military camouflage handkerchief she had found there and a large number of geomantic drawings which echoed the emblematic design at the centre of the handkerchief, she strategically positioned, on a simple wooden trestle that crossed the threshold between two rooms, an irregular geometric object she had made out of the iridescent ‘camouflage’ pattern of mother of pearl surrounded by bowls of nickel silver. Sound recordings she had previously made at the site supplemented the female voice.


The performance, architecture and resulting video While Our Tryst Has Been Delayed (2010), followed by the dance, audio performance and resulting video Dazzling Kyobangchoom (2011), amplified the importance of sound, particularly music, as a way of purifying and dematerialising space in her work. Her discovery of ‘Jeongga’ and interest in other traditional forms of Korean music was central to this. While Our Tryst Has Been Delayed was spurred out of Yeesookyung’s sense of dissatisfaction on hearing a performance of Court Music amplified on a western proscenium stage. She was particularly enraptured by how the pure voice of young performer Jung Marie energised and spiritualised this music and decided to design a stage, a pure white sounding board, projecting away from the auditorium, that amplified the notes and sentiments of the music while enabling the voice to be heard alone without the enhancement of either instruments or loudspeakers. [26]  Wearing a specially designed white hanbok, the singer appeared to be immaterial, floating within a white void, sustained by nothing but the power of her voice. She sang ‘Gagok,’ a genre within ‘Jeongga’ that expresses desire, longing and unrequited love.[27]


Dazzling Kyobangchoom, a dance performance in the style of ‘Kyobang Salpuri’ (a combination of two types of traditional music and dance), was made to signify the opening and spiritual cleansing of Cultural Station 284, a controversial, newly restored art space with a complicated and painful history; it had formerly been the Central Railway Station built, during the 1920s, by Japanese architects. ‘Kyobang’ is the house where gisaeng, traditional female entertainers, lived and worked during the Joseon Dynasty. ‘Salpuri’ means the driving out of evil spirits, a ceremony usually conducted by shamans, in which a white handkerchief was used, such as the one held by Lee Jung Hwa, the dancer in this performance.[28] Yeesookyung designed and directed the performance, recycling discarded chandeliers from the old station to provide a dazzling light on the small octagonal stage she had constructed, bringing together the dramatic ceremony and music of ancient shamanism with the elegant, timeless movement and secular traditions of Korean dance.[29]


Constellation Gemini (2012), Yeesookyung’s most recent installation, moves away from performance and music back to ceramics, sculpture and painting. It is comprised of thousands of pieces of celadon fragments, laid out in mandala-like patterns. Large, symmetrical, pigmented paintings on silk based on composite images from the Flame series and traditional Buddhist art are also included along with 3 D photographic renderings of a woman mediating, as if in prayer, which are based on her drawings. She describes this whole family of work as ‘more or less religious,’[30] yet acknowledges that while ‘I work very slowly and repetitively. I keep on working because I can never predict what a sudden idea that pops into my head will turn into. While working, the process changes me and my beliefs. I work in order to change myself, to be more different from the past.’[31]


Such a process of change in Yeesookyung’s work may seem random, even self-serving, yet the motives behind it are always the same: truth and falsehood are opposites, yet they both replicate themselves as different forms of energy, one through virtuous, the other through negative, spirals. Yet truth alone retains an impassive, crystalline beauty at its core – symmetrical, but unpredictable, irregular and sometimes awkward – and this she has to discover each time for herself.


[1] Keats, John, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems (January 1820)

[2] The title of an exhibition of Yeesookyung’s work held at the Mongin Art Centre, Seoul, 22 May-20 July 2008

[3] Email to the author, 13 July 2012

[4] In each version of the sculpture the attributes of different religious luminaries were amalgamated according to the results of a survey sheet that the artist has circulated to the inhabitants of different places. This set out various options on physique, dress and posture based on depictions of sacred figures from different religions. The recipients of the questionnaire were asked to express their preferences for these different options which, when analysed, would provide instructions for the artist to create a hybrid figure of what the different groups of people felt would make The Very Best Statue. To date four versions of the statue have been made in Echigo, Japan (2006), in Anyang, Korea (2008), in Liverpool, UK (2008), in Kyiv, Ukraine (2012). The series will be complete once twelve statues have been made.

[5] This started with the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 and ended in 1945.

[6] The arts projects around the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games were the apogee of this tendency. Many of them have been collected together by the Seoul Olympic Museum of Art and Sculpture Park.

[7]  Email to the author, 14 July 2012

[8]  Ibid

[9]  Hunyee, Jung, Yeesookyung’s ‘Fire Works,’ Iris Moon (trans.), (Seoul: One and J. Gallery, 2006)

[10] Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt, (26 November 1965), (Dusseldorf: Galerie Schmela)

[11] Instruction works consist of a series of written instructions through which the public can realise an art work for themselves. They were an early form of Conceptual Art pioneered by Yoko Ono(1933-) in the early 1960s. Yoko, Ono, Grapefruit, (New York, 1964)

[12] A handle on one side of the painting enabled it to be unrolled at will and extended by up to about five metres in width according to the size of the space.

[13] Yeesookyung, notes on the work, 2004.

[14] Conversation with the author, 15 July 2012.

[15] During 2004 Yeesookyung started a course of psychotherapy.

[16] Friedrich Nietzsche, German idealist philosopher. Yeesookyung was also curious about the relationship between the development of Nietzsche’s ideas and his changing states of mental and physical health.

[17] Nietzsche, Friedrich, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, (Germany, 1882), Williams, Bernard(ed) (trans.), The Gay Science, (Cambridge: CUP, 2001), p. 157

[18] See footnote 8

[19] The Korean Joseon Dynasty lasted from 1392 until 1897.

[20] Sangok, Kim, “Baekjabu,” Chojeog (1947). It emphasises the vase as a metaphor for a beautiful woman, an idea that is fundamental to all of Yeesookyung’s work with ceramics even though it is fractured and reformed.

[21] Yeesookyung in Laurie Firstenberg, “Waiting and seeing,” The 1st Biennale of Ceramics in Contemporary Art, (August 2001)

[22] Hans Bellmer  a German born Surrealist artist known for his sado-masochistic sculptures of bound female dolls.

[23] In their proliferative respect these works relate to the way in which the twelve Breeding Drawing (2005) were produced. The series starts with a schematic line drawing of a semi-naked woman, with a classical hairstyle, holding a balloon; in the second drawing, of two figures, the first figure is flipped and copied symmetrically. In the third drawing four figures are shown. This geometrical process of replication continues from one drawing to the next until twelve works have been completed.

[24] These included ‘quoted’ passages from Goryeo Dynasty(918-1392) temple paintings. Their syncretic quotation of motifs from many religions echoes Steiner’s Anthroposophic approach.

[25] Yeesookyung’s essentially secular depiction of the figure of the artist, sage and seer is reminiscent of similarly enigmatic figures in the paintings of Indian poet, writer and artist Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941)

[26] While Our Tryst Has Been Delayed was accompanied by an installation on another floor of one hundred and seventy six of her daily drawings in an amplified soundscape based on musical settings of the hymn ‘Stabat’ Mater, describing the sufferings of the Virgin Mary at the time of the Crucifixion, sung also in the style of ‘Jeongga’ by Jung Marie. In contrast with the white unamplified space on the ground floor, the loud speakers here, set back into the wall, took on the role of sound emanating minimalist objects or ‘paintings.’

[27] The words of While Our Tryst Has Been Delayed were written by Park Heesuh and are as follows.

While our tryst has been delayed,/flowers fall off in the garden./ I wonder if the magpie/ that call’d this morning brings good news?/ However, I might hold the mirror/ and touch up my eyebrows afresh.             

[28] During the Japanese Occupation such female entertainment became little more than forced prostitution for the Japanese army.

[29] Shamanistic rituals and beliefs are still widely held in Korea and overlap with the other major religions of Christianity and Buddhism.

[30] Conversation with the author, 15 July 2012

[31] Unpublished artist’s statement, July 2012

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