Among her most famous works is a series made from ceramic parts discarded by master ceramists in Korea. As is the case with Translated Vase (2009), found porcelain pieces fit to each other like an odd puzzle or complex mosaic structure. What emerges is incredibly beautiful: convex and concave patterns that expand into space like a cluster of cells growing exponentially, or a complete, anthropomorphic form. Each edge is secured with epoxy and lined with 24-karat gold leaf—a decision that is as much aesthetic as it is functional. This network of gilded lines outline where connections were drawn in the porcelain, effectively highlighting steps taken in Yee’s process. They also function as a linguistic reference, as the Korean word geum means both gold and cracks. Like works executed across other media, Yee fuses form and concept quite successfully here, crafting a piece that is at once visually resonant and profoundly appealing.
Pigments and silk replace broken porcelain and gold leaf in Flame Variation 4-3 (2012), a large tapestry-like work. Notably, Yee does not recycle found objects as in her “translated vases,” but instead creates imagery anew. A repeated motif of figures, faces, and flames spreads across an earthy background, immersing viewers in what seems to be a mythical world.
With Flame 2013-2 (2013), a similarly repetitive pattern fills the frame, making reference to the repetitive nature of mantras or prayers. The main material used, cinnabar, is frequently found in Buddhist paintings throughout East Asia, especially in Korea, Japan and China. Ground from red rock minerals and applied with a fine brush, cinnabar is a pigment that is difficult to use and unforgiving of mistakes. Yee explains how the process of painting Flame 2013-2 was also quite painful—the entire work was painted while kneeling on a floor for many hours.
Yee’s innovative use of materials and ability to engage with cross-cultural traditions effectively situate her work in contemporary contexts. As her practice unfolds into more meticulously drawn patterns and intricately repaired seams, the concepts in Yee’s works will undoubtedly expand and deepen in meaning.