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
Sunday, January 18, 2009
The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper
Posted by John Harmon at 12:46 PM