With soap, a look at how time ages artifacts : Artist Meekyoung Shin’s works capture how sculptures evolve
But actually, all of these relics are soap sculptures created by Shin, as given away by the delicate soap fragrance floating in the air of the gallery.
Shin created these works not to surprise viewers or to have them marvel at her elaborate skills - although many viewers certainly will. She said she started re-creating Western classic sculptures with soap as some kind of “translation” in the early 2000s, because she was very confused when she went to study in London after majoring in sculpture in Seoul.
“When I came to London, I recognized I had learned a lot about Western classic sculptures but, at the same time, the meaning and context of the sculptures were different from what I’d learned,” she said during a press review earlier this month. “And I also saw East Asian arts and crafts such as Chinese ceramics displayed in different meanings and contexts in European museums. It was a matter of translation.”
Today, Shin, with her soap sculptures, focuses on condensing and visualizing the flow of time that artifacts go through. “I’m interested in the two phases of time that the artifacts in museums have gone through - the time when they were used as daily objects and the time since they were put in museums as relics,” she said. Accordingly, the title of the exhibition is “The Abyss of Time.”
The “two phases of time” are condensed most clearly in Shin’s “Toilet Project” series, a part of which are also on view in the exhibition. They look like sculptures weathered by time for at least hundreds of years. But actually they were “weathered” over just a few months.
“I was able to begin ‘Toilet Project’ after I learned how to cast works into many editions using liquefied and boiled soap,” Shin said. “Before, I made soap sculptures with powdered soap one by one. I went through technology innovations, just like our ancestors did when they went from the Bronze Age to Iron Age.”
The exhibits also includes her works such as the “Ruinscape” installation and “A Petrified Time” series, which are a group of deformed soap sculptures covered in silver or bronze leaf.
Shin works as a kind of visual archaeologist, re-creating the time accumulated in the artifacts with her sculptures.
The exhibition runs through Sept. 9. Admission is free. The museum is closed on Mondays. Get off at Hyehwa Station, line No. 4, exit 2. For details, visit art.arko.or.kr or call (02) 760-4850.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]