Artist gets to work raising an eyebrow

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2011, 12:00am


Renowned Korean sculptor Yi Hwan-kwon has flown in to repair a damaged artwork.

The piece, entitled Jangdokdae, has been on display in the lobby of the Kerry Centre in Quarry Bay for the past six months.

An unknown visitor to the lobby is believed to have damaged the artwork, which was subsequently removed from display.

The piece comprises six black sculptures made from fibreglassreinforced plastic, depicting three generations of a traditional Korean family.

'I received a call saying that the eyebrow of the father had been scratched, which is unsurprising because many people walk through the lobby of the building,' Yi said.

The artist came to Hong Kong to repair 'dad's eyebrow' with more plastic. It was a success - the patriarch will join his family in their original spot in the lobby today.

The sculptures are compressed to be shorter and wider than is natural but they maintain minute facial and physical details. Yi is known for his proportionally distorted figures that are either compressed or elongated to play with viewers' perceptions.

His fascination with distorted images began during his childhood in Seoul, when he regularly went to the cinema and obsessively watched television.

'When I saw movies projected onto a wide screen, the people looked wider than they should be. This contrasted with when I watched TV at home on my rounded screen that elongated the images. I imagined what it would be like to climb into these screens and live in these distorted worlds. This was the motivation for my art,' Yi said.

In the case of Jangdokdae, Yi uses stout figures as a metaphor for the importance of the matriarch in Korean society. He made the sculptures in the same shape as the traditional Korean pots used to store red pepper paste, fermented soya bean and kimchi. The Korean word for these pots is Jangdokdae.

'When I would see these pots huddled together I would think of the family. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of family is the mother, who normally will have the position of making food. The jars are her property, she takes care of them, keeps them and cleans them, and it's a relationship that is like hers to her family,' Yi said.

While in town, Yi also visited the Hong Kong International Art Fair, where three of his pieces were on sale. The pieces are part of his Movies series - all inspired by the films he watched as a child and that world of distorted realities he wanted to enter. All three - depicting scenes from Rocky, Leon and Iranian film Children of Heaven - were sold at ART HK.

The city's art scene, showcased by last weekend's fair, offers 'a good environment for young artists', Yi says. 'A large part of my reputation came from auctions in Hong Kong and the art fair and I would like to thank Hong Kong for that,' he said.

Yi's work has been shown in galleries in South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Germany, New York and London. His work fetches high prices as a result of his fame. Kerry Group paid US$220,000 for Jangdokdae when it bought the artwork in November.