Sunday, January 18, 2009

3D Calligraphy Explores the Meaning of Words

The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper
A black and red sculpture stands in the middle of the main street in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. Curvy and fluid, the three-meter tall sculpture evokes a pair of graceful red-crested cranes spreading out their wings. It is "Poe," by sculptor Lee Jae-ok.

One will be surprised to find out that it was also intended to be shaped like the Chinese letter "Poe," which means to spread out. It is Lee's style to transform two-dimensional calligraphy into a three-dimensional sculpture.

Lee's solo exhibition is currently running at Juliana Gallery in Cheongdam-dong. The first floor of the gallery is packed with the artist's colorful calligraphy-originated sculptures.

"When I make the letters into sculptures, both its indicative and figurative charms are brought to light," Lee told The Korea Herald.

Her method is possible because Chinese letters are pictographic. But she does not simply stick to expressing the letters' original meanings. Instead, Lee translates the lines and shapes of each letter in her own way and creates new figures.

For example, Lee turned the Chinese letter "lak," which means to enjoy, into a yellow flower. Not only does the shape resemble the letter, but the vivid color and the bouncy lines itself are very joyful. Naturally, she titled the work "Pleasure."

"An-yang" resembles a couple dancing the waltz. The turquoise figure, which seems to be the male, leads the dance and the yellow figure follows in tiptoes like the female dancer. Dancing peacefully is what came to Lee's mind when she thought of the word "An-yang," which means to relax.

Lee Jae Ok's work is better acclaimed overseas than in Korea. "These were showcased in many art fairs such as Art Cologne or Art Chicago and received a great applause," said Juliana Park, director of Juliana Gallery, to The Korea Herald.

"Foreigners found them very unique because it is a totally different type of sculpture from what they used to see. They are fascinated at the fact that calligraphy can be turned into sculptures, and at the works' oriental beauty."

The colorful works now on display are Lee's third version of the series. She had first made them in a more simple tone with bronze and nickel.

"More creative and fancier versions will be coming up next," Lee said.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 31 at Juliana Gallery in southern Seoul. For more information, call (02) 514-4266.

By Park Min-young

Power in the Word of Calligraphy

Words, says a Chinese calligrapher, have the potential of becoming more powerful than any weapon invented by man.

ASK Tony Yong what’s in a word and this 50-year-old Chinese
calligrapher will tell you that this is where the entire knowledge of
universe is housed.

Wording it right: Yong opines that Chinese calligraphy is a bit like kung fu.

Words, opines this father of three, have the potential of becoming more powerful than any weapon invented by man.

is this realisation that makes this former amateur jockey take his work
very seriously, more so during the Lunar New Year season when the
Chinese embark on a massive campaign of sorts to ensure they start the
New Year with a positive frame of mind.

And speaking of words,
one of Yong’s favourite phrases is, “We must be grateful for the number
of years that heaven has bestowed upon us.”

shine: Yong grinding an ink stick on an ink stone. Characters written
with this type of ink has a glossier and longer-lasting effect.

“This is very fitting for the new year season as it reminds us that we should never be apprehensive about growing older.

is why I like Alan Tam’s (popular Hong Kong singer) attitude where he
maintains he will always be 25 years old. One need not be afraid of
growing old as long as one remains young at heart,” said Yong who jogs
and does yoga every morning to keep fit.

Of course it does make one wonder why such an active character like Yong had opted for a desk job.

Prized work : An excerpt from one of Li Bai’s (ancient Chinese scholar) novels carved on wood.

“Do you know that doing Chinese calligraphy is a bit like kung fu?” Yong disclosed.

According to this self-taught artist, the process of writing each character requires a high level of consciousness.

each stroke that is executed, the artist has to know the amount of
pressure to exert, the type of hand movement to employ and the amount
of ink can be loaded onto the brush.

Even the length of time the tip is in contact with the scroll is taken into consideration.

Yong would affirm that it is the peace he experiences during the
process which has made him stay in the profession for the past seven

Read more of the story about Calligraphy