Over the past ten years my work has explored the way in which birth, growth, death, and decay intertwine in the cycles of human experience. I have used seaweed, fungus, cotton, iron, bronze, sand, and clay, for the way in which their organic physicality reflects this primal experience. The natural elements: air, fire, and water, are the catalysts that transform these materials into new sculptural languages.
Beginning in 1994 my work addressed questions of a woman’s life in traditional Korean culture. Silence, and later Herstory (1996), explore women’s experience in a male-dominated society through figures and objects constructed with seaweed. Seaweed, as an organic substance, contracts in its process of drying and transforms the work in unpredictable ways. Subject to natural forces, seaweed has a strong metaphorical power that suggests the way in which women’s lives are rooted in and determined by the natural world.
My interest in women’s experience gradually evolved into more universal questions regarding existence. In Chrysalis (1998) abstracted forms evoking the placenta and decaying bodies join the past, present, and future in a poetry of growth and decay. The fossil-like sand molds of Trace (2000), which had been filled with molten iron, captured the spontaneous reactions between sand, iron, and air. The molds, like the placenta, are the remains of a birth and reveal the meaning and beauty that reside in the materials and processes of creation.
In Markings (2001) I began to use my own body as a means to explore individual identity and existence. By lying on wet fabric, placed over sheets of steel, a rusty imprint of my body was transferred to the fabric through the process of oxidation. These rusty stains, like fingerprints, are a sign confirming the existence of an individual. This idea evolved into a more direct and sexual expression of individual identity in Secret Garden (2002). The images created by impressing my body directly into photographic emulsion emphasize the organic physicality and fecundity of the female body and offer it as a fertile garden.
In new work I am continuing to explore the limits and possibilities of existence through the use of natural materials and processes. I have reduced gesture as much as possible in order to allow the intrinsic physical characters of the materials to reveal themselves through interactions with the natural elements. I am interested in the manner in which these interactions recreate form and reveal mysterious analogies to human experience. In this way my actions initiate the structure of the work, but natural processes and the passage of time determine its final form.
Koo Kyung Sook
Korea, March 2004