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A burning desire to ‘something new’ do not subside despite post-modernism paradigm covering the aura of modernism. Judging from the artists to still pursue any special things while criticizing that ‘novelty’ is the myth of modernism, art as the highest level of human productions and novelty seems inseparable relation after all. ‘Something of their own’ for today’s artists seeking differences looks often ambiguous or heterogeneous complexly, since the different results from the past in form, notion, and contents aren’t revolutionary like the historical period of modernism. Soyoung Park is an artist to simply concentrate her sense upon personal experiences and search novelty in the process to find substance that she wants and respond to it frankly. Her belief, however, that the discovery of newness in daily routine can be changed into the question of life has been challenging persistently through her works.


Starting and Conversion

Soyoung Park is one of rare leading women artists to show artworks consistently and energetically. She majored sculpture and three-dimensional art both in Korea and Germany. Right after return to Korea, she released her works successively, which point out the convention of our recognition through language based on German ideological tradition. They were mixed with wits properly by twisting or escaping from the original context of things as an interest of modern art field.

So did her works such as “Polish Up”(1994)p.104, “A Milestone”(1995), “Life Vending Machine”(1993), and she exhibited her imagination to overthrow instinctive expectation about a property and function of matters in “A Common Denominator”(1996)p.111, “White Bandage”(1997), “Burning Grave”(1997)p.112 and so on. Soyoung Park succeeded steadily the genealogy of conceptual art breaking the limit between art and dailiness and her imagination developed through the way to start from the structure of language and search the substance of object in real space. Besides speculative questions was used to be revealed studying the symbolic attribute of things.


Her process as this began to change gradually. It was not until in 2000’s that she got to liberate herself from the oppressive subject of ‘what should do’. A notion on sculpture was also changed to her concerning about ‘herself’ instead of the weight of educated ideal. Through her interest about ‘what I really want and what I really like’, Soyoung Park’s process in ideological tradition of sculpture as linguistic research by questioning a property of matter, a formative attribute, and contexts turned into an interest on the limit between inside and outside, also its beauty. That was the birth of "Shell".

The early drawings such as “Flower Toilet Bowl”(1995), “Flower Hammer”(1995)p.86 already showed her ‘pretty’ sentiment and her humble view in dailiness. Her effort to change universal things into beautiful objects unexpectedly begins with adding simple artistic behavior. It’s triviality that she draws flowers.

So, her “Shell of Sculpture”p.81 in 2000 contains diverse meanings. Flower decoration attached in a FRP can may look so childish or naive at a glance. But she expressed her concern over the generation of novelty about expired matters. Matters with functions seems to have the term of validity. Especially the outside of matters/creatures just accepts and announces their extinction after being abolished. Thus, she got to collect objects dumped by others and focus on formalize its outside, that is, shell. Even though shell is the last cover to enclose matters, now inversely it used to be a starting point as new existence.


The Meaning of Shell and Variation of Demeaning

To use discarded matters reveals her own intervention will to make the judgement of their original owners reconsider. Soyoung Park’s shell is mostly leaf-shaped. Small leaves joined thousands pieces become a minimum constituent unit, which let the outside of things vitalize like fresh-blown plant. She put absolute time, her energy and delicate labor in the process making leaves and fixing them on the surface. The whole process that she creates small shells by ceramics or draws and prints them meets classic value as exertion of artist’s pure labor and craftsmanship. At the same time, it reflects the only sensitivity and the significance of existence for women artists that differs from grand art, monumental art, which overwhelms audience and destroys nature as a results, or masculine art pursuing political issues. “Shell”, even though it’s small and trivial, accords de-authorized genuine unconventionality emphasized by post modernism in respect that it shows anti-political and anti-masterful characteristic.


Shell is one of many layers of matters. In fact all nature and artificial productions(including human) have many layers. The interest on the last cover among layers to be inherent in matters can be analyzed through semiotics also. If every form including matters have a symbolic attribute, an outer cover consisting of them is one of signifier. Shell to decorate the cover is namely signifier to inform an object and signifier gets to change by adding new shell. Therefore, what signified will be like on this occasion? Does the fact that a form is the same while the cover is changed have things belong to entirely new contexts? It becomes lie on the boundary between past contexts and new one just keeping up characteristics of new existence named a work of art and as a established object. Soyoung Park’s works feature such ‘ambiguity’. It fosters contrary viewpoint as regards expecting the birth of new signified after changing signifier or sustaining the outline of matters which had originally. Deep-seated Questions of modern art go on here; which factors enable to decide the characteristic of symbol and if their change can be accomplished perfectly, whether signifier becomes to be decided by its cover or form within the cover and so on.

But her “Shell” is greater than semiological interpretation and meaning. On the temporary connection point between imperfection of symbol, signifier and signified, she tries to restore the original attribute of artworks tired from the discourse of post modernism through combing the most fundamental labor and the admiration for beauty. Soyoung Park’s works do not contain grand pedantic assertion. They try to make us more identify the existence of material imposed from daily common worthless objects.

The process, however, has been created from the long-term observation and understanding about every lives. A property of matter, function and form that matters had originally are absolute factors(forms), while correlation with peripheral things is relative factors(forms). The former can be changed in spite of the unchanged latter and Soyoung Park points out the possibility of art to lead the variation of relative factors as ultimately a point of contact between matters and art, searching how the absoluteness of matters can be altered by relative factors or if relative change causes absolute change.


Change, Continuance and the Purpose of Life

Her observation is condensed into pursuing the relation of continuance and change. What is changing always exists. Although it sometimes clashes with constant factors, both are not always exclusive each other. People believe and expect that a behavior can be divided and terminated perfectly rather than it is in the successive flow. Yet, life goes on since there is a change(division) and the contrary are also true. That’s the meaning of her “over and over”. Her series of shell works is given to the existence of life through continuously stimulating the limit between continuance and change.

Soyoung Park’s artwork which might sometimes look too simple, mechanical or decorative begins with trivial glance. The objects covered with her ‘beautiful’ shell were simple for the first time. Needless to say their value as artwork, they given to new shell are very humane because of keeping on living and revealing her belief to revive them.

Her works as synthetic sensitivity, covering the premise of western philosophy that the analysis about matters and the other redivide into classification and the division connects with order, are represented the positive view to a little trite and boring our routine and life. What to practice it may appear as the meaning of repetition for her. The repetition, whereas, is not meaningless, prosaic and very objectified but her unitive effort to begin to talk again about beauty and value in oblivion.

Her anti-political attempt overthrowing dichotomous western conception means the unification of sensitivity and intelligent legacy through art history. Thus “Shell” is so glad to me as life.

By Whuiyeon Jin / Professor, sadi

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