In Sculptural Fiber Works, a Korean Textile Artist Explores the Architecture of Human Life

Dec 13, 2016 3:03AM

The circle, the spiral, the triangle, the square: Throughout the natural and manmade worlds, certain shapes are repeated. In Timaeus (circa 360 B.C.), Plato attempted to explain the geometric patterns that order the universe, associating a particular solid shape with each of the classical elements: earth, air, water, and fire. In Plato’s system, the cube—or hexahedron, a word derived from the Greek hexaedron, or “having six sides”—represents earth. It’s a shape that has long intrigued Yeonsoon Chang, widely considered Korea’s leading contemporary textile artist.

The hexahedron shape was at the center of “Matrix III – Time, Space, Human,” an ambitious body of work Chang recently exhibited at Gallery LVS in Seoul, her first solo exhibition in Korea in more than six years.

For Chang, the shape symbolizes more than earth. Aside from Platonic principles, she also draws from Eastern philosophy, in which the hexahedron represents the human body. The form appears again and again in Chang’s sculptural objects, some of which are hollow and empty inside—a nod to the concept of Zen, of emptying the mind of its thoughts.

In some works, the hexahedron is embedded into the very fiber she works with. You might have to look closely: The abaca fiber is dark in hue, as she dyes the material repeatedly with indigo, later cutting it, ironing it, and machine sewing it into a squared lattice.

Taken together, these intricate, abstract works run deep with philosophical underpinnings. Chang’s work remind us of the ways in which certain shapes appear again and again in the world around us, and not just in architecture. As Plato wrote of geometry, it is “pursued for the sake of the knowledge of what eternally exists, and not of what comes for a moment into existence, and then perishes.”

Voted Korea’s Artist of the Year by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, Chang has so far shown her works in France, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S., and her work will soon make its way to the Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) Fair in Chicago.

Chang continues to investigate shape and form as they pertain to the outside world, yet she’s equally concerned with the inner world, with the DNA of the body, the mysterious depths of the human mind. As Plato said, her work “must draw the soul towards truth and give the finishing touch to the philosophic spirit.

—Bridget Gleeson

Yeonsoon Chang: Matrix III – Time, Space, Human” was on view at Gallery LVS, Seoul, Sept. 22–Oct. 22, 2016.

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