Fake of the Kingdom
Donghun SUNG Solo Exhibition
June 12th - July 12th 2015
Savina Museum of Contemporary Art
Supported by Arts Council Korea (ARKO)
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism,
Korea Arts Management Service
Written by Curatorial Team, Savina Museum
Korean-English Translation is supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service.
Translated by Ewha Research Institute for Translation Studies
“A world where there exist both the tough and the tender, the original and the artificial, reality and deception; a kingdom of paradox, a strange reality in which both fact and truth prevail. This is the world I see.”
Excerpt from Donghun SUNG’s notebooks, 2015
Best known for his sculptures of Don Quixote, artist Donghun SUNG has ventured upon numerous artistic experiments and the pursuit of a nomadic state of consciousness since the 1990s as means of projecting himself into his own works of art, creating unrealistic and surrealistic characters as a way to criticize and satirize the times. His current exhibition, the first to be held in Korea since 2009, is an opportunity to see 18 of his latest sculptures, which are testament to his development during his time overseas in Taiwan, China and India, where Sung explored a wider variety of materials and expanded his range of themes. The exhibition also features a collection of video recordings, replica sculptures, portfolios and objects that offers a glimpse into the artistic universe he has built as a sculptor over the past 25 years.
Fake of the Kingdom is a paradoxical expression that emerged from the artist’s perspective on the current times. The title itself connotes a “fake kingdom,” and originates from questioning the nature of our pursuit for originality as individuals or the values deemed by society to be of significance. In a way, the exhibition is also the result of serious introspection on the value of art and artists. SUNG recreates this paradoxical reality into unrealistic and surreal characters by using a variety of materials and techniques, including blast furnace sludge, blue-and-white porcelain, ancient Chinese currencies, traditional Indian bronzing techniques and debris from an airplane wreck.
Pioneering his own territory as a sculptor for the past 25 years, SUNG was recently invited to hold a series of solo exhibitions at various venues overseas, including the Künstlerhaus Passagegalerie in Vienna, Austria, and the Ju Ming Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as a project-based exhibition in Taiwan sponsored by the Donho Steel Art Foundation, for which he was given 50 tons of iron for free. Through the current exhibition, Sung wishes to present his achievements in integrating techniques for each material, both in terms of the process and the resulting sculptures, by reexamining the past five years of his time spent overseas, during which he searched and explored different topics and materials based on the working conditions of the country he was in. This exhibition offers a glimpse into Sung’s philosophy as a sculptor, his choice of a wider variety of methods, and the direction in which his work will develop in the future.
The White Kingdom, 2015, Iron, Ceramic, 200x130x245(h)cm
The stag in The White Kingdom combines iron as the origin of modern material civilization with the traditional techniques of blue-and-white porcelain in order to portray an expression of the present day, where yin and yang stand in harmony, and where nature and civilization, tradition and the present, reality and the surreal, truth and facts coexist in a mix. The porcelain features the painted scenery of a harmonious coexistence between fish, lotus flowers, and butterflies, revealing a utopian world as imagined by the sculptor who wishes to live a life of tranquility surrounded by nature.
Rhinoceros of the Fake Kingdom, 2015, Iron, Ceramic, Aircraft Materials, 205x170x360(h)cm
Perhaps best representing the theme of the entire exhibition, this sculpture is a metaphorical kingdom that brings together a combination of individual forms with unique meanings in the shape of a human riding a rhinoceros. The head of the rider is made of plastic beads in the shape of a cloud, satirizing the value of truth by using artificial material. The body of the human is made of debris collected from a crashed airplane, which are materials that have lost their vitality in reality. The rhinoceros carrying the human was a mythical symbol during the Han Dynasty of ancient China, and here it is made of iron from a blast furnace, which served to forge the modern world. The head of the rhino and the heart of the human are made of blue-on-white porcelain as an aesthetic symbol of the analogue or the traditional era.
Blue, 2015, Stainless steel, Beads, 150x110x220(h)cm
This sculpture of a deer, titled Blue, was inspired from the impressions of the artist upon seeing a poster of a lone deer standing in the middle of a city, which conveyed to him the sense of familiarity to his own life as one of struggle in a city of pretense, fakery, loss of common sense, amidst the attempt to preserve his own principles and way of life. The artificial purple beads that cover the deer’s body are illuminated from the inside with LED lights, and while they are sure to catch the eye, they are also symbolic materials that criticize the fakeness underlying the glamor of modern society. Moreover, through the exaggerated size of the deer’s ears, which resemble those of Mickey Mouse, the artist uses his own language of sculpture to express the way in which he constantly strives towards his dreams of the ideal through surreal expressions.
Head, 2015, Iron, Ceramic, Objects, 110x550x100(h)cm
The sculpture Head connotes the leader of a group, and here symbolizes the absence of a real leader, or the importance of the role of the leader. Through this piece, the artist wishes to figuratively express the absence of a real leader, or the importance of the leadership position. It was made using four different types of porcelain techniques, including white for the head, blue for the round parts on the neck, and the Icheon-style for the neck. Using airplane debris and iron, SUNG seeks to portray the strength and fighting spirit of the “leader.”
Ringing in the Moonlight, 2014, Iron, 95x60x215(h)cm (Including pedestal)
This sculpture depicts a turtle chasing the moon as a symbol of a utopian world. Here, the moon is something that exists in the real world but is also impossible to reach, thereby symbolizing the gap between reality and the surreal, fact and truth, while also metaphorically representing the thirst for a faraway set of genuine values, as well as the utopian world of which the artist dreams.
Circumstances - Don Quixote Riding a Chicken 2014, 2014, Iron, Zinc galvanizing, 90x80x170(h)cm (Including pedestal)
This sculpture is in the same vein as his previous sculptures of Don Quixote, where the eponymous character is a self-portrait of the artist who charges forward to break through the barriers of his time, as well as of all artists who are in confrontation with the system.
The Vibration of Fire, 2014, Iron, 140x110x155(h)cm
As befits its title, The Vibration of Fire in its entirety gives the impression of an incandescent fire. This sculpture is made of iron of high purity, which was repeatedly melted over a fire using gas fuel and then cooled in order to morph it into the desired shape. There is a high degree of concentration and technique in heating the iron over a fire at the right temperature and duration so that it does not lose its form. Despite having undergone this difficult creative process, the artist is said to sit on the piece to meditate, and hopes that those who come to see it would also take a seat and take the time to look into their inner selves.
Meditation, 2015, Indian Bronze Casting, 42x15x17(h)cm
Meditation - An Inner Echo, 2015, Indian Bronze Casting, 40x20x30(h)cm
From 2011, the artist travelled to Taiwan, China, and India to experience different local cultures and traditional techniques, which he then borrowed and used to create sculptures that showed both technical and thematic progress compared to his previous sculptures. These two sculptures were both made in India in collaboration with a local craftsman using traditional bronze casting techniques. This traditional Indian technique differs from the conventional method of gilding, in that it uses a liquid extract from berries to render the color gold. Therefore, the finished surface resembles gold plating despite the fact that it is not, and here the technique is used to convey a metaphor for falsehood hidden behind the appearance of truth. The figures are a combination of different gods from a variety of religions in India including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, reflecting the artist’s interest in religion as a source of comfort.
The Black Wailing, 2015, Iron, Ceramic, Stainless steel, 180x105x290(h)cm
This sculpture is a memorial for those who lost their lives in the Sewol ferry disaster, which shocked and saddened the whole nation. At the time of the disaster, the artist was working in Taiwan, where he used iron sludge to create a shark, the primary predator of the ocean, and thereby tried to satirize reality and the government, whose complacency in response to the sinking resulted in the death of numerous innocent lives. The pieces of white porcelain with yellow ribbons attached to the stomach of the shark and the design of peace made of blue-and-white porcelain commemorates the 304 victims.
"I am, Here, Like this, Live." self-statue, 2014, Iron, Ceramic, 60x65x150(h)cm
This sculpture is a self-portrait that shows the artist with a sword and shield, living his life as a fight against the world. The blue-on-white porcelain on the shield signifies his fragile inner self, while the godlike image depicted on it symbolizes the religious belief he keeps in his heart. The figure of the Buddha in the shield serves the purpose of commemoration, prayer, and contains the artist’s will to serve the side of justice as an artist.