The Aesthetics of Relationships Seen Through Clay 

Lee Kwan-hoon (curator of Project Space Sarubia) 

   Jihyun Lim uses the natural element of ‘clay’ as the basic material for her creations. She constantly poses questions about the properties of ‘clay’ and about the fundamental thought inherent in it. She has faith in the infinite existence of existential truth. It has only been three or four years since she started making art, but she tries to unravel the thoughts and mental agonies she had before becoming an artist, and makes her own creative language. Here, I would like to briefly trace the sources of her formative sense. 

As clay begins from the earth, clay has a square-shaped memory, water has a round memory, and the years have a memory of time. Here again, the memories of ‘clay-water-time’ form a vertex, and when they, as a circle, preserve the memories of life and space, that is where the grappling of Lim’s soul and the body during her creative process can be said to begin. Now, that is just the beginning, but it could be where the traces of the apparitions coiling around her are slowly awakening. 

   The natural universality displayed in her works “Roundness”, “Smoke”, “Smoke Piece”, “Breath”, and “Untitled”, suggests the perception and sense that something intuitive and primal lies in our attitude, looking into us. These works are based on the same perceptions and senses as the inner impulsive elements that change, moment by moment, into emotions, facial expressions, or some self. Like a primal life energy that transcends ideas and abstractions, some of the elements shown here are seen as an aesthetic possessed of naturalness. The moment in which we behold the works sets before us an experience of imagining the archetype accumulated in the memory of existence within time and space. 

The basic concept addressed in Lim’s creative work is ‘connection’ or ‘juncture’. The pure Korean word for 'connection' is ‘ieum,’ meaning connecting or joining. This connecting can be interpreted as secondary rather than principal, active rather than passive, building relationships rather than making differentiations, 'we' or 'together' rather than individual. On the other hand, it can also be inferred as a spatial sense. In the archetypal space, the function of this connecting is that it allows one point representing the starting point for generating space to be connected with other points, lines, and planes, naturally becoming a manifestation of the structure of space, and ending up with the potential for diverse and organic forms. When connecting each individual and meaningless piece of handiwork, these two meanings give rise to formativeness, and furthermore invest justification into the generation of meaning in the capacity of communication and distribution in social relations.

 

   The artist may not know yet where the prototype of such a sense comes from, but as far as I am concerned, it could be viewed as resulting from an overall sense. Seen from an academic psychological standpoint, the senses (the five senses) are gathered together by thought (consciousness). And this consciousness, as a superficial self that oversees the five senses, can reach the realm of subconsciousness, depending on the depth of the beholder’s sympathy with artistic inspiration. Assuming this academic theory, the moment of her immersion into creation may be a process of heading into a deeper self, perhaps the domain of the unconscious. As we lead our lives, we may have much greater power and resources than the self-consciousness of life and perception—that is, the spiritual potential to broaden artistic horizons. Besides our given genetics and environment, we may have a latent capacity for deeper consciousness stored in our unconscious minds.

 

   As part of our instincts in life, virtually everyone pursues their desires. As for such desires, many things are mixed together with the meaning of ‘relationship’. Among them, the aesthetics of relationships with nature, objects, and space that exist around humans are an important part of the phenomenological realm of art. Although it is only the beginning, as she works on projects of several types, Lim is also involved in studying phenomena derived from the relationships between 'nature-objects-space', that is, complex, subtle things existing beyond the reality, and experimenting with them. When working with ‘clay’, she often faces the phenomenon of unexpected ‘air’ (氣, gas, air, breath). Such an unseen phenomenon is hard to access through theoretical thinking. But, starting off as an observer or contemplator of no-longer-seen ‘air’ that began from the experience of thought and reason, it functions as a helper in controlling and coordinating space and objects. At the same time, if the repetition of self-criticism and self-consciousness become a prescription able to calm down excessive desire by expanding the boundaries of thought and experience, that would have the same meaning as another artistic aura within naturalness. 

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