Yang, Hong Sup Solo Exhibition_Breaking the Mold: Inside / Outside
(2018. 4. 5 –4. 16)

Perception, association and non-intervention
Yoon Jinsup (art critic)

Yang Hongsup is an artist with a unique career background. He has been escalated into the position of being an unparalleled master or artisan after four decades of persevering efforts in the field of sculpture from the onset of engaging in the genre in his mid-ten’s. While serving as a corporate manager of a precision casting factory which is well known in the art circles, he acquired B.A. and M.F.A in his 50s – albeit belatedly – in order to achieve his long-cherished dream of being an artist. He has passionately pursued his career as sculpture well versed in both practicum and theories of casting.
The above facts are to be premised to understand Yang’s art universe and life because he has produced artworks based on his seasoned hands-on experiences with and knowledge on casting unlike most of the sculptors who leave their works to a casting factory for the casting process. As such, his works have been unfolded based on his thorough understanding of and knowledge about technicalities as well as the tricky process accompanied in precision casting.

In this solo exhibition, Yang presents a new style of works where photos are attached to the existing casting works. He has expanded heterogeneous metal structures using an optical microscope on the existing works by utilizing materials for aviation components which are super heat resisting alloys consisting of diverse alloy materials including new materials. And then, he adds colors to the microstructures on the computer, juxtaposing the photos which are almost like painting works. To be more specific, casting sculptural works and photography works are exhibited at the same time. Heterogeneous microstructures reflected through the optical microscope are as beautiful as a piece of an abstract painting, and Yang uses a computer program to create a more flamboyant universe by adding color tones to such microscopic images. Would this microcosm be dubbed as the world of abstraction? It would suffice to call it the world of reality because the microcosm represented in the microscope is a metal structure which actually exists. Yang manifests through his works that what we call ‘abstract’ in fact is not an illusion but the ‘reality’ which de fact exists. Such an attempt of his is meaningful because his works are exhibited in juxtaposition with specific works as casting sculptural unlike when they were presented as mere paintings or photos.
In this sense, it seems utterly valid that he named the subtitle of this exhibition title as ‘Inside/Outside’ because the world seen from within could be the content of casting sculptural works which exist outside: in other words, the ‘inside and outside’ as a modality of existence for casting sculptural works.
Then, what would be the ‘artworks as casting sculptural works produced by Yang? What meanings would they have in the horizons of contemporary sculptures? We would have to look into the forms of his works to find the answers. Yang had introduced a myriad of casting sculptural works in his first solo exhibition held in 2012, and same applies to his second solo exhibition in 2014. Such a tendency still continues on today. I previously used the word ‘production’ in a context of him producing his works, but would it be a proper term for Yang’s works? It is because of his unique work process: selecting aviation components, melting them at such a high temperature of 1,700~1,800 degrees Celsius, letting the liquid flow naturally and hardening it. What is noteworthy here is his ‘minimum intervention’. Yang’s casting sculptural works are the hardened images of the naturally flowing metal liquid: we come across the concept of ‘happenstance’ in the contemporary art which has become familiar after Dadaism. Interpreting it a bit deeper than that, we encounter ‘unpredictability’ being analogous to ‘Rhizome’ of post-modernism being different from the linear and reductive perspective of modernism. In other words, Yang’s casting sculptural works can be described as the ‘informal’ world of whose direction is unpredictable. As it is well known, the direction or the outcome of the fluidity of metal liquid melting at such a high temperature of 1,700~1,800 degrees Celsius would be an inevitable one in accordance with natural conditions, but it could be a ‘happenstance’ in that intention or intervention of the sculptor has not come to play. Therefore, Yang’s sculptures could be described as ‘sculptures of the nature’ in that the Mother Nature – water, fire, air, temperature and humidity, etc. - produces such sculptural works. Yang’s work note states as follows on this aspect:
“While modernism and classical physics were Euclid’s geometry being similar in substance, constructive, reductive, linear and simple, it would be multi-dimensional, non-linear and complicated fractal geometry in post-modernism and modern physics.”
Yang’s such understanding of contemporary sculpture brought about the concept of ‘reshaping the art of sculpture’. Such an expression on sculpture would hint at Yang’s ambition as a sculptor. True, he is not the first sculptor with sculptures that are ‘raw’ without being processed, but the world he introduces as an expert on precision casting exposes his sharp insights penetrating into the beliefs and norms of the world. His comment is again worthy of attention:
“The rationalistic language found in his works connotes rhetorical implications to be reborn into a new world and even a better world by breaking down the structures of distrust and conflicts, artificial and unnatural aspects, and the wrong-headed structural frames of oneself and the society, which are being rampant in our reality.”
‘Reshaping’ refers to shaping again something which has been already formed. Therefore, movement from State A to State B is based on the premise of having such a trigger as some physical force or psychological soul-searching. It could be personal reflection, modification of objects or social restructuring. Therefore, the act of Yang using and working on new materials could be a reflective message as a metaphor on oneself or the society through ‘reshaping’. As well noted, proper appreciation of artworks such as sculptures is completed when viewers come up with some message from them. This aspect is different from simple appreciation being merely content with aesthetic satisfaction. As in ‘abstraction ladder’, a concept founded by Alfred Korzybski, in general semantics in linguistics, the higher the level of abstraction of words, the more objects become conceptualized with their visible existence disappearing.
Another noticeable concept found in Yang’s works is ‘deconstruction’. The deconstructive attribute revealed along with that of ‘Rhizome’ serves as criteria to interpret his works in the context of post-modernism. According to his explanation, works are mostly resorting to “the precision casting and ceramic shell casting techniques using the Steel Use Stainless (SUS) and carbon alloy ranges as well as bronze”. Such materials turn into completely molten metal in pure red at such a high temperature of 1,700~1,800 degrees Celsius. The molten metal, in turn, “have a gray-like monochrome as it bursts out from the ceramic shell mold, melting, flowing and being hardened gradually”. While only a few parts in object works where Yang uses aviation parts have their original image being left intact, a big chunk maintaining its natural form through all the melting process ends up being deconstructed, which is worthy to grab attention. Viewers of Yang’s works would be reminded of people that are standing up, shatters of buildings in ruins, or willow trees with swirling branches. And yet, they simply induce the viewers to look at them that way, being driven by their cognitive reactions based on sensations: the objects are simply nothing more than the casting sculptural themselves. Yang’s casting sculptural technique generates his unique surrealistic scenes where the existing aviation components – are deconstructed to be transposed in a completely new context. To interpret them using somewhat cliché expressions, they are an implicit metaphor of the defects of the contemporary civilization which has reached its limits. He describes such an aspect of leading to the scenes as ‘Breaking the Mold’.
Hence, Yang seeks to move forward into the world of ‘informal’ from that of ‘formal’. His ceramic shell molding technique is an intermediary between the two worlds, from which occurs alchemistic changes based on materialistic imagination in the ‘Bachelard-style’ aspect. What makes an artist great is that he or she enables a material to communicate to the audience a different message than it would do before through some kind of change. In Yang’s case, it is manifested as shatters of buildings, ruins of a city, willow trees with swirling branches and humans in solitude in a city. How can one produce such a scene with objects that are nothing more than a chunk of aviation components? It is because such scenes show Yang’s non-intervention, or more specifically speaking, paradoxical non-intervention as a proxy for achieving materialistic imagination. Yang puts on another touchstone on the mystic aura surrounding humans’ perception and action of association.

Yang presented figurative works in the 80s and sophisticated sculptural works in the 90s at the 30th, 31th Archive Exhibition of the Korean Sculptor Association. He gained high acclaims with his display of objects and some of his sculptures in his solo exhibition held in the graduate school of Hongik University at Hongik Museum of Contemporary Art. Below his works placed on the pedestal are scattered fine metal powder. These works emulating of Rodin as well as aviation components and guns imply the anti-war (AK.K1.gun) or anti-nuclear (components for nuclear power plants) thoughts of his, and criticism against phallic-oriented masculinity (big bullets looking like a penis). They are thought provokers on the concept of sculpture. That ready-made objects or these works for which he does casting himself would disappear through his repetitive labor have symbolic meanings that what is born in this world would end up disappearing. As seen from his act of emulating of Rodin, while criticizing the major power dominating the world – war, denuclearization or masculinity, the works are interpreted as nullification of masterpieces or negation of absolute values.
As seen from the previous examples, Yang’s stance and attitudes toward sculpture are starkly conceptual. And yet, he had produced and exhibited a series of works on the theme of fundamentality of humans – life and death. exhibiting a miniaturized model shows Yang’s analogy of life to four rooms who has gone through various ups and downs. The four rooms decorated in white, black, yellow and clear rainbow colors of the mother of pearl have doors which lead to one another. This work was produced to configure four rooms in a gallery, and if this miniature becomes real, people would move around each room to appreciate artworks. The four rooms are a metaphor for the life journey from birth to death. He said that the white room is a ‘room of anxiety’ with shock and fear generating from the sheer surprise due to some psychological shock. The yellow room meaning a ‘room of gold’ is a room of self-satisfaction as in love and psychological stability along with love for the family. They represent the psychological world instead of that of materiality. The black room is a room of absolute silence and darkness. The audience would reflect on death which approaches anyone at some point in time. The last one is a ‘room of dreams’ which is a rainbow room. It is a room to pioneer oneself in any areas without complacency about the reality and reflect on resulting agony and conflicts. The audience would have a contemplative time on their life by looking around the rooms which are analogies and yardsticks for life with different characteristics.
Yang once produced works on the theme of life and death. One of them catches attention more than others where a scene of the outside is seen through cracks of a coffin. In a run-down wooden coffin where thick annual rings are impressive, a part of a forest is seen from a hole shaped like a lath. It leaves bleak impressions as the lively and reinvigorating natural scenes are in a contrast with the old coffin. It leaves very strong impressions. Yang attached a bird’s wings with white fluttering feathers on the tip of a high ladder placed towards the sky in a work satirizing a scene from in Dante’s . And yet, these two works have not been exhibited yet, so they will be introduced sometime later.
As seen from above, some of Yang’s works touch upon fundamental issues confronted by humans including life and death. They are based on his persevering moments in life. Humans’ universal destiny and emotions including the four stage of life - birth, old age, sickness, and death – and five desires for money, sex, food, fame and sleep and seven passions of joy, anger, sorrow, pleasure, love and hatred are symbolized and metaphorized through works. Meanwhile, he mulls over essential matters for sculpture through the center of his works – casting sculptural works And for the artist himself, anything could be a critical candidate theme which cannot be brushed off. I pin high expectations on his next works, wondering how the two seemingly heterogeneous works would be presented in what aspect in the next exhibition.