Search by

Situation-site, Space of light
Her works starts in contingency. When she just started her study abroad and was intensive in surviving everyday life, she gathered her fallen hairs while combing, as if to console her nervous body. The idea to make something out of hairs resembling empty heart might have been the expression of the desire to bind her floating self to somewhere. And the hairs came to be reborn as an art work to evoke the evanescence of life.
Ham Yeon Joo, stripping the fallen hairs from her body of any traces of self-pity, employ them as an object and materials for plastic art. Meanwhile, she does not impose any meanings to the hairs or employ them for the container of certain concepts and metaphors. She, instead, focuses on the materiality of hairs, itself and is more interested in her body energy, the response of materials, contingency and changes happening vis-a-vis materials. What she imposes on the material is not a power to dominate or to control the materials through specific tools like heavy stone and wood. Keeping the state of materials intact, she applies F.R.P liquid on thin hairs and stimulates the feeling of matiere. The spontaneous expression of matiere, with its distinct materiality intact, is emphasized more. Her art form is created both through the integration of tension and light and through the natural matiere.
Before working on hair works, she continuously explored the natural power and language of materials fully appreciating their nature. For instance, she worked with stocking with strong tensility, latex showing the decay of colors and elasticity, and metals responding to magnetism. Such works show the possibility of changes in forms hanging on the walls or on the ceiling. Sometimes, contained in a small book, they suggest the space of the universe in tactile language. Her works visualizes the energy of nature, which surrounds us but is not visible to our naked eyes.
Here, we should pay attention to the forms connoting a possibility of changes. A possibility of changes stems from indicating fragile borderlines which are in danger of being broken even with slight pressure from the external. This stimulates the imagination of spectators while producing intensive atmosphere. The intensiveness the artist experienced in making works is represented as an art work evoking the same intensiveness. In Ham’s works, we can see the integration of the materials and production with strong artistic effects.
The intensiveness in her works is two-sided. On the one hand, the tension can be a state of mental anxiety on certain situation. On the other hand, it is a paradoxical urge for comfort out of anxiety. Due to such duality, the spectators, mesmerized at the fantasy she creates, enter the imaginary world created with hairs forgetting all the sensitive touches of the artist and the physicality of materials. They are the world of tranquil festivals inspiring the heart, the world of the stars, cobwebs in darkness, branches with morning dew, not the world of the complex artificiality.
Installation at Sarubia Tabang shows successfully how her world can be illuminating in the darkness. With limpidness of thin hairs, the dark place covered with cement and bare frames is transformed into new, weightless space. The artist captured the potentiality of alternative space, which transforms everyday space into artistic works.
The space of the real in which hairs crisscross is transformed into space of seductive illumination through the encounter of light, F.R.P drops and hairs, which lost their materiality in the end. In this space, spectators follow the space led by light and experience the space in continuous time and feel the potentialities of multiple spaces. This potentiality sometimes induces the spectators to experience the transcendental space beyond the boundaries of time.
The installation of Ham Yeon Joo makes the spectators to realize that a special ritual happens in this space where they experience specific situation through their bodies. The artist seduces the spectators to move around the space, to be united with the space and to experience distinct psychological upheaval. They are what the artist experienced while producing art works; the spectators could feel the expression of such tension. The spectators walk along the dim rays of light. Mindful of delicate and fragile installation, the spectators should move cautiously. With such bodily experiences, the spontaneity and tangibility of her works become more conspicuous. The works of Ham Yeon Joo encourage the corporeal and mental activities of the spectators through the spontaneous and creative use of materials and the interpretation of space. The dynamic relation of materials, creation, artists, and spectators, they all make one specific site as a totality.
By Park SookYoung / Ewha Womans University


Weaving home with hairs, Ham Yeonjoo.
For six years, she collected her hairs.
The traces of everyday are piled up around the artist. Never consciously intended nor systematically planned. She started a cautious experiment with piled hairs. Ham Yeon Joo, the artist I met , does not seem to be fussy in arranging and cleaning things. The strangeness found in everyday life like combing hairs, we often encounter them in our life. The artist started to experiment with piled hairs with great care. Originally interested in weaving things, she naturally turned to weave hairs or to use them for drawing materials. There was no grandiose philosophy or concept behind such habitual activity. Naive as it seems, her activity reveals the confidence in herself. Her pleasure becomes a part of her artistic activity. The artist told me that people expected her to have a grandiose philosophy or concept to explain her works. But while talking with her, I realized that such theoretical expectation I held does nothing but to ossify her lively works. Chatting with her, I found crucial elements of her works, beginning and development, and a performance in Sarubia Dabang.
Hairs in a box Ham discovered lumps of hairs pressed down in the bottom of the boxes. Such activity reads very conceptual to me, despite her approach. The artist moved lumps of hairs as soon as the quality of hairs deteriorates. Flattened hairs are not good for making art works. Thus, the artist constantly moves hairs to other boxes with great care. She even collects her hairs carefully wrapping in tissues while traveling. The records of time are stored moving from this box to another box to weave its own history. With more boxes piled up, the weight of time become visualized and materialized. Time does not only leave her traces in wrinkles or fallen leaves. Artists are the people who transfer physical time to visual time. The hairs fulfilling the mission are stored in boxes more preciously than before. They are incubated to gain new life. Her hairs are a module for life. They become a basic unit to build home. Arranging and trimming hairs strand by strand, she once again connects with her materials. The piles of trivial things, with a touch of the artist, transforms into great home. The transgression of the trivial into the precious, such pleasure is found in her works.
I feel materials.
I came to be curious how the artist deals with hairs. The artist tells, “the interesting thing is….. a strand of hairs, each have different shapes and forms. Some thick, others thin, some red, others black, some easily broken, others elastic, they are all different. If I drop a FRP liquid, some spreads out, but others hold drops with them.” She talked about hairs as if a mother shows off her child. Ham Yeonjoo mentioned a small doll she preciously guarded since her childhood. Without it, she cannot sleep even now. Anybody who knows solitude will understand her. We connect with things to some extent. Her works start from the encounter with materials. The artists talk to materials. The artists have the eyes and mind of a poet. They talk with thing inspired from stone, trees, and morning dew. Da Vinci was inspired by old road or old wall and Rodin discovered a beautiful hug of lovers in marble stone. Beauty is something to be discovered.
 I build a form.
It took much time and pains to transform hairs into an object with a certain form. She seems resolute and steadfast in her works. She just lets it happen whether her life or her art works. Her early works showed sculpture-like element while Sarubia installation breaks such forms and sculpture-like elements. With weight and mass lost, her works encounter space and explore space more eagerly. The Sarubia installation, thus, exudes ardent love and quest for beauty. The destruction of sculpture-like quality opened to her a new road. Labeled as the artist with hair works, she could fall into the seduction of self-reproduction. While discarding the weight and forms of sculpture, however, she could talk and connect with space transgressing the stereotyped images of the people to her. The dialogue with space offers an opportunity to discover a new horizon for her. Using every senses, she explores space and converses with space; the ‘aura’ added to hairs disappears within this process, giving way to the totality of cobweb, home. 
By Jeong Hyun / Art Critic

Quick Page Up