A Remembrance of Things Past
Choi, Tae-man(Art Critic)
Lee Yeoungsup’s studio is near the archeological site of the Godal Temple, Yeoju. His studio’s proximity to the site allows him to reflect upon the continuity of time while contemplating unearthed thousand-year-old remains, dead things, like a memoto-mori that, here, almost by miracle, has come back to life. Time is pitiless, and no living thing resists it. But these archeological finds, which have been punished by time, have also been resurrected, and now symbolize the promise of rebirth. The clay idols in the National Museum in Kyungju are evidence of the disobedience of things once buried in the continuous flow of time. For centuries they refused to be seen, but now they are suddenly in front of our eyes. These simple, funny, seemingly awkward shapes, outdated yet profoundly Korean, help us to imagine vacuum packed under museum glass. We try to imagine their past, but can we truly go back that far? And even if we do succeed in reliving their past, it is a past that is in the present. This must be why we are nostalgic in front of them.
Lee Yeoungsup’s creative process demonstrates that what has disappeared has not really disappeared, but just been forgotten; and that things exist underground and send signals to those who might love them while they wait to be discovered one day. His simple, unfashionable ford is in the image of archeological remains. His research into the human body sculpted from terra-cotta is a faithful journey and challenging adventure into traditional sculpture. Instead of creating by adding, he creates through a mock archeological generating and unearthing of original, time-fragmented forms. And it does seem that he is doing research more than creating, for he first prepares a drawing of the object, then he etches a second drawing using while China clay into the earth of the courtyard of his studio, and fills like a mold the inside the etching with cement, sand, plaster, and fragments of terra-cotta.
The resulting molded form, which is solid and rough, reminds us of a clay statuette or small mummy. In its simplicity, solidity, richness, and primitiveness, it touches the immutable and eternal. The form is opposite of a dead object; it is ready to move, and it suggests a remembrance of things past. The sculptor gives life to immaterial life. Mortal man word magic to give life immaterial! Lee has discovered a difficult, original and creative style founded on his desire to pour into his work the continuity of time that he has witnessed and admired at the foot of the archeological site of the Godal Temple, in which his studio is located. He shows us that time is not lost, but rediscovered.