The ceramic artist, recently drawer Lee Hun Chung, is looking down the entrance of his workstudio in the rain.
The Yangpyeong studio scraped together by artist Lee Hun Chung is embossed with traces of his life. The artist, who likes to travel, says that he also approaches art with a traveling mindset. As would an explorer set up a base camp for a hike to the summit, Lee has set up his own sturdy base and named the studio “Camp A.” Lee, in his raincoat, looking down at the moon-shaped pottery piece outside his base camp, almost looked like a ceramic figure himself. His recent works are a lot more reminiscent of the character that he is. In his recent exhibition The Rooms with Three Stories at Sophis Gallery in Yeoksam-dong, held from March 24 to May 4, not only were there large-scale ceramic human figures but paintings of human figures as well—in one installation, two figures oft he different media were gazing into each other. H is newly introduced drawing works at the exhibition were as spontaneous, fun, and fantastical as his ceramic works. Faithful to the title, The Rooms with Three Stories exhibited 20 new works in three different spaces, one of which heldA Potter’s Room or an Architect’s Vessel, a ceramic cube installation of interior dimensions 2.4 x 2.4 x 2.4 meters and exterior dimensions 2.8 x 2.8 x 2.8 meters, big enough to fit four to five adults inside. Furnished with a seat, lighting, and a window , the cube was designed for the audience to meditate inside. This piece made of clay seemed to be a retrospective of Lee’s artistic journey, his exploration of various genres from installation, molding, practical pottery, art furniture, and design to painting and sculpture.
Canvases and paints are lying around in Lee Hun Chung’s drawing studio. Lately, he has been focused on drawing.
With his recent solo exhibition, Lee Hun Chung officially debuted his drawing works thatare full of ciphers and symbols.
You have just showcased some 20 new works through a solo exhibition, and yet you’re planning another new piece already.
How could I call myself an artist if I don’t try out new ideas every day? A “new piece” isn’t created all at once—it evolves from scratching various unf amiliar surfaces. I have to have a new project in preparation at all times. I tend to leave for a change of scenery when I start a new series. This Friday, I’m heading to Lisbon, Portugal. I plan to live there for about a month and work in solitude.
Among pieces in the recent solo exhibition, the drawing works and the room with a ceramic interior were very impressive.
I’ve drawn on pottery before, but I’ve never done a serious drawing on paper. I’ve always liked all sorts of handicraft, and apart from working with clay, I’ve been doing all the miscellaneous handy work myself for years—carpentry, welding, and so on. I’ve lived as a laborer. Naturally, these outside chores took up a lot of my time away from work, and drawing was a solution I found in attempt to reduce some of the hands-on labor.
The drawing you are working on right now also depicts a human figure. Your work seems to evoke head-tilting curiosity rather than serious contemplation.
I think artists are like poets. They look keenly into the world and imbue their impressions into an artwork, using their own metaphors or prose. Look at this drawing—the paper seems to be filled with undecipherable symbols and letters, but from afar, they constitute the holistic image of a face. This can be seen as a portrait in its truest sense, depicting someone who is filled with infinite thoughts and ideas. I hope that my works blissfully pose questions to viewers, like poetry. All of my works contain ciphers, including my ceramic works. I draw pictures or write things inside the hollow of my ceramic works. Only someday, when the work breaks, can the world discover the secret I’ve embedded within.
In his solo show, Lee Hun Chung unveiled a room entirely lined withceramic from ceiling to floor, entitled A Potter’s Room or an Architect’s Vessel.
Works exhibited in Lee Hun Chung’s solo show, intended so that the figure in the drawing and the sculpture figure stare at each other.
You seem more liberated when you’re drawing than when you’re working with clay.
When I work with ceramics, there’s so much tactile joy that comes from the medium of clay that I tend to indulge in it too deeply and stop thinking. Drawing, on the other hand, lets me organize my thoughts and retrieve indwelling memories. Drawing is a process of manually unraveling the unconscious—it’s like starting a subtle ripple in my mind,my stagnatedpool of prolonged thoughts and experiences, to precipitate the unrecognized things and bring them back out. Art is not quite like design. Design is creating newness through acquiring new information, but artis discoveringnewness in the artist’s unconsciousness, and transforming that into a feasible form.
Your recent worksincite curiosity: Could a ceramic artwork get any larger? You baked an entire room for this exhibition. There’s more of an architectural aspect to your recent works, so to speak.
Large-scale works require a totally different type of clay. The clay has to be just right, but those types are hard to come by.I import clay from places like America and China and personally mix them with Korean clay—the same applies for pigments. Working on larger and larger pieces lately, I came to wonder if I should upsizethe kiln, but I had to stop myselfthere. Now I want to escape large-scale works altogether. I think,when an artist is too caught upwith one task, his mindset gets stuck. The most important thing for me is to stand in the borderline, in between things as often as possible, because I believe that new values hatchnot fromprofound deliberation, but from shifting boundaries, from variable forms. The point is neither that my works are better than the last nor worse than the last, but that they’re different from the last. That’s why I flew off to the United States to learn sculpture in the middle of my ceramic work. Then I expanded into furniture, followed by architecture. Alternating between borders without being tied to one field, and enjoying the thrill of deviation is both my weakness and my strength—my identity.
Isn’t it difficult to balance and objectivize yourself while switching feet?
It’s extremely difficult to change the way you think. You have to be able to look at yourself objectively. There’s an artwork installed on the ceiling of my drawing studio—a Polynesian canoe. Polynesians canoe out in the ocean beginning at a young age, playing with the waves, feeling the ocean with their bodies, and acquainting themselves to the surrounding terrain, like fishes.I also try to feel with my body rather than plan with my head. My works don’t pursue perfection but freedom—they’re my journey towards becoming a part of nature.
TEXT AN-NA GYE (Contents Director of magazine ARTMINE)
PHOTOGRAPHY WOO-JIN PARK (STUDIO KIMERA)
VOD Video Team of magazine ARTMINE
IMAGES OF THE ART WORKS © HUN-CHUNG LEE – ARTMINING, SEOUL, 2018
PHOTO © ARTMINING – magazine ARTMINE / WOO-JIN PARK