Rijswijk Museum

Human Abstractions

Calligraphic graffiti has succeeded in breaking free from the walls to float freely in space. They are not texts. Nor are they logos. More like… cranes, swordfish, whale baleen, whiptail stingrays? Or rather kites or Chinese lanterns ? Ji-Yun’s multi-form objects provoke us into a free association mode. Prior knowledge is certainly required before some elements can be recognised as deriving from the human body (or parts thereof).


Ji-Yun (1981, Masan, South Korea) draws/paints, takes photos, creates installations and gives performances. Although she has been living in France for quite some time, she has never been disloyal to her eastern roots. The fragile, drawn-upon rice paper, the lantern-like constructions, and also the underlying philosophy. Her grandfather a calligrapher, once said that everything you look for can be found on a blank sheet of paper. These words of wisdom can be interpreted in a number of ways. You are the one who decides how the page becomes ‘un-emptied’, or, according to Ji-Yun : the white sheet forces her into introspection. Black and White feature prominently in the results of her  dialogue intérieure, with the underlying choice of subject bearing a strong personality. While growing up as a child of a surgeon, the hospital was for her a living anatomical picture book. In that time, she ‘neutralised’ patients into distant bodies, objects without a soul. The body as a whole, the individual limbs and organs, continue to this day to from the basis for her reconstructed, hybrid objects.

Over the year, Ji-Yun’s photos have become more abstract, partly through the focus on details. Colour steps aside for corroded black and white. The stylised character of the photos approaches that of her drawings, which are in line with the Korean principles. Compared with Western paintings, these leave a conspicuously vacuous impression. Composition takes second place to (maximum) expression achieved with a minimum of manœuvres and contacts with the paper. Lines, strokes and planes are conceived by pencil, pen, paintbrush and washes. Like Yin Yang, straight, jagged and fluid alternate with each other and keep each other in harmony. A vital link within her œuvre is Ma Balaçoire (My Swing), a (wall) installation in a exhibition dating from 2012 in the South Korea Korean Moonshin Museum (Changwon). The wall, bathes in layered and puffed up paper, connects the flat with the spatial. At the same time, in the same exhibition, several objects hang on barely visible threads and ‘conventionally’ framed drawings adorn the other museum walls.

While it is possible to just about distinguish little feet and thigh bones in the drawings, and while in the most recent photos the black lines and stripes turn out to be human hair, the dehumanising discernible in her floating ‘zeppelins’ is so  highly developed that completely new interpretations arise. Does the form have a long and sharp pointed protrusion ? ‘Swordfsh’ (‘or is it that crane after all ?’). Is the form rounder and lightly curved ? ‘A ray (observed from below)’. Numerous parallel lines ? ‘Whale baleens!’ The lightweight character hints at animal-like forms, which float freely (under water) or hover (in the air). To achieve such a lightness of foot, here too Ji-Yun falls back on her Korean origins, mimicking the lantern constructions with rice paper and steel wire. Neutral and yet meaningful. Light with an in intrinsic weight. Ji-Yun’s structures possess all the characteristics of opposed poles in harmony.

– Museum Rijswijk

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