A little darker A little brighter

Yoon Sang Yuel

2021-04-20 ~ 2021-05-31

A discovery obtained from a long-time adventure


"I want to live like an arrow." The statement that has become a creed of artist Yoon Sang-yuel deeply engraves on our memory as an aphorism. It is because no other words can express the artist's world as accurately as this. This statement reminds us of the well-known arrow paradox proposed by the Greek philosopher Zeno, "the flying arrow is motionless." When someone shoots an arrow, the arrow stays at a certain point for an infinitesimal time, then it stays at another point again. This stay continues at every moment eternally. Therefore, the flying arrow is not moving. However, since time cannot be physically split, Zeno's paradox is nothing but a splendid fallacy. Here, we can understand the essence of time thought by Yoon Sang-yuel. Since time presents different meaning at each moment and is closely entangled, it is indivisible. Time possesses dissimilar meaning at every instant. We must remember this when approaching the works of Yoon Sang-yuel.

Chapter 14 of Doctrine of the Mean, also talks about the arrow. "‘In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself." Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 14. 子曰: “射有似乎君子, 失諸正鵠, 反求諸其身.”
This is teaching of one's behavior and attitude towards an objective world. In the Western philosophy, regarding the relationship between one and the world, modernism views the world as darkness, and one is positioned as a searchlight shining the darkness. On the contrary, Northeast Asian people do not regard the world as darkness. The world is continuity of ceaseless relationship. We must put a value on "relationship among people" and "relationship between humans and nature" at the same time. These two relationships are interconnected to form the majestic universe, and we take responsibility for life in this universe. For this reason, one is not a protagonist from Bildungsroman of the West where one learns and dominates the world, but a moral self who takes responsibility for establishment of the relationship between one and the world as well as a being of virtue requiring self-discipline. In the work of Yoon Sang-yuel, virtue of self-discipline is hidden. It is because the artist's work and everyday life is full of incessant self-discipline.

The arrow mentioned by Yoon Sang-yuel does not refer to aggression or a symbol of power. In Chinese characters, the combination between 矩 (meaning a ruler measuring the straightness) taking the word 矢 (meaning an arrow) and 矱 (meaning a ruler) creates a word 矩矱 meaning accurate standards and law. The artistic will of Yoon Sang-yuel consists in the wish of surpassing the previous generation while delivering his own law to the posterior generation. Therefore, his statement, ""I want to live like an arrow" can be interpreted as private expression wishing to be a cultural example. The arrow mentioned by Yoon Sang-yuel is strictness of time, a substitute declaration of self-discipline. and an echo replying to the posterior generation by condensing questions asked to the art world of the previous generation.

This exhibition organized by Date Gallery presents serial work of Silence imbued with a dark atmosphere. It is mainly composed of linear painting highlighting profoundness, which is considered a trademark of Yoon Sang-yuel, There are some reasons for which his work gained the name "linear painting." His serial work of Silence was created after drawing lines with a regular interval of about 0.3 mm using mechanical pencil lead to put the inkjet paint between the "ditches" of the canvas. At this moment, minimum computer programming is intervened. Sometimes the artist draws in the transparent film by overlapping several layers onto the acrylic board after precisely applying inkjet paint to dramatize illusion of depth. The artist repetitively draws straight lines on paper and film by conveying profound emotions and private feelings. On top of the drawn paper and film, numerous crests and troughs form a marvelous rule. On top of them, the artist makes lines through computer programming, for instance, lines of about 0.3 mm or 0.5 mm and provides the lines with light and shade of 93 % of black or 77|% of brown making combination of numberless lines and colors to create an abyss of mysterious depth by applying crests and troughs. The color layers invite us to indescribable wonder. This is impossible without extremely trained mentality though. At the same time, it is indispensable to have sophisticated sensitivity. It is not possible without computer programming either. This is a highly dramatic story where conciliation was made between the most ancient basic act of painting and the recent technology of programming, namely, digital virtuality counting on finger manipulation. The artist's serial work reminds the viewers of an extreme sense of mystery and the journey of unfinished painting history, while emphasizing the achievements of contemporary art. However, this is not the end of the meaning.

Philosopher Vilém Flusser explained human history relating to invention of letters. Excepting a minority of letters using ideogram like Chinese Characters, humanity has developed phonogram. According to Vilém Flusser, ancient people developed letters to criticize magical attributes of painting. Vilém Flusser, Artforum: Essay (London: Metaflux, 2017), pp 53-59
When ancient people first saw paintings and the images of bulls, horses, whales, a pregnant woman, the sun and the planet, they must have deciphered what they were and what the meaning they could have. When only painting existed without presence of letters, eyes of ancient people must have gazed on top of the surface of painting. They must move their gaze from the bull's head to the legs. the tail and the breasts, until looking at the pattern of a human palm and the mouth and tail of a whale. Then again they stare at a pregnant woman's abdomen, breasts, voluptuous buttocks and hair ornament until looking at the woman's bloated abdomen again. This gaze is circular. The gaze of ancient people mainly stay onto the woman's abdomen. Even though the main base (theme) of the gaze is with the woman's abdomen, it was not possible to know what the abdomen tried to symbolize because there were no letters. Without doubt, the gaze was supposed to indulge in magic. Therefore, the essence of painting is magical.

Vilém Flusser argues that ancient people invented letters to overcome this magic. Letters, in particular, the alphabet represented by phonogram is straight. The meaning is identified by the flow of time to precisely figure out the causal relationship of an event and phenomenon. For this reason, the idea transformed into a progressive aspect. Invention of letters strengthened historical awareness beyond magical thinking. Historical awareness means cognition of which today is better than yesterday. Historical awareness consists in delivering the theme to the posterior generation after interpreting and adding something to a cultural message inherited from the previous generation. Such letters were united with numbers and became an alphanumeric code. This code has become an equation embracing all phenomena of the world. This almighty code created computers and digital virtuality. The new culture created by this code is the image of digital virtuality. The problem lies in the fact that this image is the image that was born again as letters to criticize painting. Even though it was created out of rationality and historical awareness, it can be locked in magic again because it is an image. It was caught in the net of magic, which is more precise, subtle and dense. Vilém Flusser calls it "absurdity." This refers to an inexplicable thing, state or work of existence of which the reason is absent. Therefore, history of humanity is a journey of magic to absurdity. The true value of the serial work of Yoon Sang-yuel Silence can manifest when looking at this phenomenon based on macroscopic understanding. It is because it is not only about the artist's reaction to simple history of painting. According to Yoon Sang-yuel, since his childhood, he has been attracted to spaces where no one pays attention to or disregard or some extraordinary attributes hidden in the materials commonly available in the extremely brief moment. The artist states:

My work started from a project of personal overcoming. They are considered a sort of token of personal overcoming project that started from a time-space afterimage beneath the memory of fundamental inquiring attitude of truth and falsehood. Yoon Sang-yuel "Artist's Statement"



The questions that Yoon Sang-yuel proposed us can be summarized as follows: How can I establish the relationship between the world and me? How can I adjust vibration of joy and suffering that bloom from art that I pursue? Can there ever be correct division between materials and mind? Moreover, it is natural that there are people who intend to surpass the inherited wisdom in every period. The posterior generation want to know better than the previous generation. Wouldn't it be true that knowing better than the previous generation means asking better questions than the posterior generation does? The four question marks listed here are the representative coordinates of ego that have been established by Yoon Sang Yuel in the relationship with art, the world and people. It may safely be said that the process of marking such coordinates and overcoming is the very artist's art.

Yoon Sang-yuel was born into a family with cultural prosperity, and raised in the myths surrounded by numerous cultural pillars. The term "myth" originates from the Latin word "mutus." Translating "mutus" into English, it is "mute," meaning "silence." Other words "mumble" and "murmur" also derived from "mutus." It is probable that the artist had to keep silent and mumble alone without finding a clear way of declaration or announcement. Artists born into families with cultural prosperity can be divided into two types. One is the type of Moses. It is to abandoning one's home and hometown where one's culture has been inherited. By transferring one's value to an absolute other, one's root becomes nullified and absorbed into the absolute other. Another one is a type of Odysseus. It is to deny one's origin and go through all risks and adventures until coming back to the origin to realize the true meaning of the origin. Thus one obtains fruit later. Yoon Sang-yuel belongs to the second type. he was able to understand the true meaning of the origin through the process of leaving his origin, meeting an unfamiliar world, getting hurt and becoming more mature and stronger. The same way Odysseus had gone through many adventurous experiences while traveling in Circe's Palace, the island of the Sirens and the island of Helios, Yoon Sang-yuel took up a journey to study abroad for he was interested in stage setting and environmental sculpture. After coming back to Korea, he ran a textile factory and was engaged in research and promotional duties at a light panel company. Then again, he carried out his career as a furniture designer and a space designer taking various adventures. Ten years after, he returned to his origin, Troy (art). His art works are deeply imbued with his 10-year experience so far mentioned.

The serial work Silence challenges the essence of circularity of gaze presented by painting. The artist draws lines based on precise calculation to chase the meaning of linear temporality. The artist created a splendid world out of the essential element of painting of "brushness (brushstroke)" by drawing with "stilus," the etymological origin of "style," namely, needles to widen the gap of space and borrowing the coat of digital virtuality, which is manifestation of the alphanumeric code. This world is not only a space of art but also a space of contemplation or thinking. Historical awareness that has progressively developed throughout thousands of years met in the space of art expanding the space of new art as a mechanism criticizing art. This is a theme of thinking cast as a form of art. This theme is full of freedom yet lacks directionality, so it stings the uncomfortable contemporary art. Yoon Sang-yuel says that it is the world of absurdity. Since absurdity is something inexplicable. it is always filled with excitement or thrill. It is joyful for being thrilling but it is fearful and painful at the same time. Therefore, to endure a long time once the artist stepped in this art world, it is vital to go through arduous self-discipline of repetitive everyday life. This is the reason for which the surface of art in Yoon Sang-yuel demonstrates noble depth.

Yoon Sang-yuel once said that he wanted to make an installation work with mechanical pencil lead enlarged by tens of thousands of times. For Yoon Sang-yuel, who ought not to take a rest of drawing to be a good painter, mechanical pencil lead surpasses the value of a mere tool. First, mechanical pencil lead is a material but it serves as a crucial medium revealing the artist's mentality. Therefore, it connotes sophisticated mental value. However, division between being material and being mental disappears in the radical level. Since Yoon Sang-yuel also puts excessively high value on mentality compared to material and physical value, he admits that there were loss and shade in the history achieved by humans. When we accept that the material is high energy and the process of creation of mind is also a type of electromagnetic radiation formed between synapse and the adjacent neuron, the metaphysical division between the material and mind can be relieved. The artists says that he staked his destiny on the line only depending on the mechanical pencil lead because it shakes and vibrates. For this reason, the fragile mechanical pencil lead is absolutely heavy for him more than anything else. Therefore, the lines with delicate crests and troughs are the overall sensitivity and life itself.

Therefore, we must remember that Yoon Sang-yuel is an artist who has been asking about existence given to him in a consistent manner. The artist has never turned his face away from the world in which he is. He refused to bring anything if it did not belong to him and he did not try to find a short cut to reveal the so-called artistic achievements. The work of Yoon Sang-yuel is focused on materials, tools, natural environments, human relationship, mechanism of art, time & space, and the holistic story about substance beyond the time-space dimension. The metaphor compressing this story is the dark series of Silence. Some said, "one must keep silent about something unspeakable." Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: “und wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.”
It was unavoidable for me to keep silent about the ineffable power of the work that Yoon Sang-yuel has created.


Lee Jin-myeong, former Head of Curator of Daegu Art Museum







장구한 시간의 모험에서 얻은 발견


“나는 화살처럼 살고 싶다.” 윤상렬 작가의 신조가 된 작가의 말은 화두처럼 마음속에 꽂혀버린다. 윤상렬 작가의 세계를 이보다 정확하게 표현하는 말도 없기 때문이다. 그 말은 마치 고대 그리스의 철학자 제논(Zēnōn)이 제기한 화살의 역설, 즉 “날아가는 화살은 날지 않는다.”는 유명한 화두를 연상시킨다. 누군가 화살을 쏘면 화살은 어느 점에서 극소의 시간 동안 머무르게 된다. 그리고 다음 점에서 또 다시 머무른다. 이 머무름은 매순간 영구히 지속된다. 따라서 날아가는 화살은 날지 않는다는 것이다. 그러나 시간은 물리적으로 쪼갤 수 없는 것이기 때문에 제논의 역설은 멋진 오류에 불과하다. 여기서 윤상렬 작가가 생각하는 시간의 본질이 나온다. 시간은 각 순간마다 저마다 다른 의미를 지니는 동시에 서로 긴밀하게 착종되어 분리될 수 없다. 시간은 매순간 다른 의미를 담고 있다. 윤상렬의 작품을 바라볼 때 이 점을 상기해야 한다.