‘Cold glass’ works built with an architect’s eye

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‘Cold glass’ works built with an architect’s eye


Pyun Jong-pil’s glass sculptures attempt to reach beyond the scientific and precalculated nature of design and reveal a microcosm of light.
Mr. Pyun, 35, is one of the two leading glass artists in Korea that Gallery Sklo is presenting this year in its exhibition, “Optical Distortion in Glass.” The show displays 11 sculptures made from a process called “cold glass work.” (The gallery’s previous show featured “hot” glass works by Park Sung-won.)
Cold glass works demand architectural precision ― down to the micromillimeter ― in planning and execution. The artist first makes a life-sized model, adjusts it to maintain balance, then cuts, polishes and cleans the glass with pure alcohol. The glass pieces are then put together with a special adhesive. The process is painstaking ― it took the artist eight months to complete the centerpiece for his “Prismatic Distortion” series.
“If Park Sung-won’s works were about the aesthetics of accidents in blown glass, Pyun’s works are the perfectionist’s vision of architectural precision,” said Jung Ju-eun, the gallery’s curator. “Pyun’s type of works cannot allow any mistakes, not even accidental beauty.”
Because of the transparent material, which constantly emits light through reflection and refraction, it is hard for a camera to capture a fixed image of the subtly changing colors.
The series “Composition of Energy” is his own artistic interpretation of a simple decorative pattern that he discovered in a traditional Korean motif. “When I saw the two-dimensional spiral pattern in Korean homes and clothes, it immediately struck me. Spirals were ubiquitous in ancient art in many cultures because they symbolize the making of our universe,” Mr. Pyun said.
It is this work of Korean influence that brought Mr. Pyun to the attention of the Korean art industry while he was studying glass sculpture at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late ‘90s.
The artist’s visual expression of energy is, like the immaterial force in life, invisible. Upon closer inspection of the four spirals, can one see that one leg of the spiral is made with multiple layers of rectangular rods.
If the spirals tap into ancient subconscious memories, the other seven pieces of the “Prismatic Distortion” series capture the artist’s personal memories. Mr. Pyun spent his childhood in a small coastal town in South Jeolla province, playing with his brothers and friends along the beach. Tidal waves often left behind pockets of seawater filled with living creatures.
“I would dip my finger into the clear water and look at the little colorful creatures, like crabs and shells. One day, I realized that my finger in the water looked weirdly bent,” Mr. Pyun said.
The “Prismatic Distortion” series is his childhood revisited in the minimal formative art of transparent glass. Small pieces in florescent orange, lime and lapis suspended inside glass blocks are slashed and tilted as if refracted under water, creating something of a mirage when viewed from different angles. The dreamlike quality of glass, he said, is best expressed through his favorite poem by Chuang-tsu, an influential Taoist philosopher: “Am I dreaming of the butterfly, or is the butterfly dreaming of me?”

by Ines Cho

The exhibition “Optical Distortion in Glass” runs until Dec. 18. Gallery Sklo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Mondays. The nearest subway station is Yaksu, line No. 3, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 2236-1583 or visit the Web site, www.gallerysklo.co.kr.
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