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Questioning the Essence of Nature : Lim Dong-Lak’s Sculptural World

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작성자 ADMIN 작성일 21-03-16 13:50 조회 646hit 댓글 0comment



Questioning the Essence of Nature : Lim Dong-Lak’s Sculptural World


Yoon, Jin Sup (Vice President, International Association of Art Critics)



              Since the mid 2000s, Lim Dong-Lak has established a solid base as an international artist. This momentum was brought about by his exhibition at La Défense in Paris, 2006. While La Défense was attracting global attention to Paris, the European capital of art and culture, Lim’s private exhibition of sculpture was held on the site. The exhibition caught the public’s, and moreover, the international art scene’s attention. For three months, from June to September of 2006, Lim’s exhibition took place on the plaza at La Défense and inside the museum at La Grande Arche, a kind of new Arc de Triomphe, which received favorable reviews from the local press and critics. As the result, Point-Croissance, a piece from the exhibition, became a part of the permanent collection on the plaza at La Défense. This exhibition made it possible for Lim to become the 45th artist in the collection, which includes great artists like Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró.

           With this success in France, Lim focused on the European scene. The outcome was an invitation for an outdoor sculpture exhibition in Baden-Baden, Germany. The mayor of the city invited Lim for a five month exhibition, from April to September in 2007, in Leopold Square. After Baden-Baden, Lim was invited to Open 15: International Exhibition of Sculpture and Installation, in Venice, in 2012. This invitation was another opportunity for him to make his presence known on the European art scene. The fame and history of International Exhibition of Sculpture and Installation, which is sponsored by the president of Italy, brought Lim the honor of having one of his sculptures selected as the trophy for the Venice International Film Festival special prize.

           Following this series of invitational exhibitions, Lim is now presenting his work, once again in Germany, the center of Europe, at the Leonberg Gallery, which effectively acknowledges the importance of his work in the German art scene. Sporadic events do nothing for an artist who wants to become known in another culture, so it is common sense that artists need to make persistent efforts. In this way, we can say this exhibition in Germany represents the fruits of Lim’s serious and consistent steps into the German, French and moreover, the whole European art scene.


           Lim is one of the representative artists in the Korean sculpture scene, who has been cultivating his own artistic language. In his Korean concept of nature, Lim has been adding contemporary sculptural techniques, which are based on modernist sculpture. His work is rooted in Eastern philosophy, which is largely represented by Yin and Yang. Not only is the neo-Confucianism of China based on this concept of Yin and Yang, but in the East the order of nature and the life path for humans can be explained with the very same concept. Even though the variations of nature and the aspects of life may look complicated, in a way they are just variables following simple laws. Likewise, an artwork with many variations can be also be made from very simple internal principles. In his long artistic history, Lim has been, for 30 years, using this principle of Yin and Yang as the basic frame for his sculptures.

           Lim has always been putting his best effort in addressing this principle within the contemporary. He was the one of the earliest artists in Korea who adopted the computer into his art making process. In the 1980s, while most Korean artists were stuck in analog ways of thinking and sketching their works, Lim’s eyes were opened to the speed and the scientific objectiveness of the digital world. The rendering process that the computer allowed was nearly perfect in regards to Lim’s artwork’s coherence and their structural unity. Lim’s minimalistic and geometric sculptures are, in this way, the result of putting contemporary formative characteristics onto concepts of nature, which are based on the principle of Yin and Yang. So in Lim’s work, the aesthetic peculiarity that goes together with the modern city landscape is internalized. This can also be found in his recent way of thinking about merging sculpture and architecture. In other words, he takes a conceptual approach to architecture as an expansion of sculpture, which can be interpreted as an ecological approach of sculpture towards the city. From early on in his career, Lim has been absorbed in environmental modeling, and has continued to think about the environment. He has concentrated on the in-between relationship, originating in the relationship between Yang trigrams, through specific artworks in the early days of his art making. This aesthetics of relationship has been a basic characteristic of his later artworks. A key factor of that basis is the harmony of Yin and Yang, which is clearly distinguished from Western traditions of philosophy that apprehend the world as an oppositional relationship through dualism. After Descartes, Western dualism has followed the dialectical development through the opposition and sublation in-between the subject and the object, while the East has looked for the harmony in concepts of Yin and Yang, that is, a mutual relationship. It is not surprising at all that this Eastern principle is found deep inside Lim’s artwork, despite its universally contemporary surface.

           The concept of mutual relationship often appears in Lim’s work as an embracing form. The physicality that is found in his geometric sculptures is a metaphor for the human, who is the subject of this embracing. The receptivity, which doesn’t reject but embraces nature, is not unlike unity with the Earth. On his glossy and sleekly finished stainless steel surfaces, like mirrors, the reflected image of the surroundings and audience is the most important element of Lim’s sculpture. Light, in that sense, is one of the primary components constituting his work. Lim says, “my sculpture is an organism of light and space.” With light, his work shines brilliantly on the Earth. As the surrounding environment is highly important for his outdoor sculpture, at the conceptual stage he considers the surroundings first. Based on his long experience of making environmental sculptures, Lim takes into account the character of the place, accessibility, entertaining quality, stability, permanency, and economic feasibility as conditions for each sculpture. His thoughts on this are based on the ecology of city and human life. The fact that his works in the recent years have been placed in the outdoors where the city and nature are mixed, can not be separated from the philosophy he has developed for sculpture. First of all, his big scale works have led him to choose downtown parks, and streets where people live, as the main sites for his works, rather than in exhibition spaces. The ecological substance of the city has to be considered in this situation. Especially if the outdoor sculpture doesn’t harmonize with the surroundings, not to mention could damage the cityscape; however, such problems have led the artist to the reasonable thinking that he must produce a sculpture that goes well with the architecture, which is an extension of human lives. I think this tells us the reason for Lim’s recent endeavoring to conflating the sculpture and the architecture, which is an expansion from the sculpture.


           In Lim’s geometric abstract sculpture, light is a very strong element, so much so that we can call it the geometry of light. (This is also the title of his current exhibition in Germany.) Though every sculptural artwork goes through the premise of light, Lim particularly emphasizes light more than any other element. This indulgence in light has brought him to make sculpture with a glossy surface. Lim uses a special coating method, called candy painting, also used by contemporary sculptors like Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons, that emits light most effectively. Lim’s concern with the crucial matter of treating the metal surface, is in order to capture the surroundings on the surface of the work in the most effective way. With this care, the surface captures not only the scenery but also the audience. The working process, which is based on the computer that runs Rheinoceros, a 3D program, tells us his work is a product of the highly developed modern technology. Lim uses a 3D printer to print out rendered images from the computer as models, then modifies and corrects through a complex process. At this point, not only the shape of the piece, but also the matter of structure and dynamics are reviewed, and again this is linked to the overall consideration for problems that can occur when the artwork is installed on site. Lim’s sculpture, made with computers and other high-tech machines, actualizes the optimum sculptural environment, which fits into the cityscape as his objectified contemplation. In other words, the work is not inappropriate for environmental conditions, but actively uses the environment as the absolute condition for its existence, by capturing those conditions in the work. The stainless steel surface that glitters in light, plays the role of a mirror reflecting the audience, adjacent buildings, and the natural setting including, trees and even forests. Audiences may engage in interactive behavior like spreading their arms and striking various poses in front of the artwork. In this way, Lim’s environmental sculpture become a green and humane medium for communication between the human, city and nature.


           Lately Lim has indulged himself in art making based on fractal theory, which recent computer graphics have adopted, and have begun to generate a figure that is close to the actual object. The theory is based on the self-similarity and recursiveness. The self-similarity means the whole and the parts have taken the same shape, and recursiveness is a simple structure that repeats constantly to make a whole. Lim’s Point-Protoplasm series is made with this fractal theory. This giant work, with its vertical structure is flexible in its height and thickness according to the given environment. In other words, the work can grow. One unit is a deformed cylinder shape, and able to expand vertically based on the particular conditions, while the thickness is adjusted by the proper module based on the height. This scientific coherence tells us that Lim produces his work with introspection and at the same time, with scientific and mathematical grounding. Considering that fractal theory is based on the order of nature, it is no coincidence to discover this theoretical ground informing how Lim’s work fits into the cityscape of modern architecture (consisting of geometrical structures), which are based on natural and human scales.

           Lim’s geometric artworks, which are reminiscent of a Mobius strip, are an analogy of the circulation structures within the universe. These artworks with the structure of Yin and Yang distort the surroundings, as do most of his works with fluent curves. On the mirror-like surface, the shape of the surrounding buildings, trees, forest and audiences are reflected in distorted forms. Sometimes a building looks horizontally expanded and the other times an audience appears in a vertically extended shape. Watching these distorted objects is great fun for the audience. This reminds one of the entertaining quality Lim’s considers for environmental sculpture that was mentioned earlier.

           Once Lim showed a tendency to avoid absolute abstraction by combining a tree with leaves into an abstract work and mixing in the figurative elements that remind one of a human body. But now he is fully concentrating on the perfect geometric abstract form by more and more eliminating the figurative elements from his work. This can be read as the artist’s will to approach the essence of nature. Through his formative contemplation on the fundamental structure of nature, Lim’s artistic world has been questioning the essence of sculpture. I expect the day will come that Lim’s artistic vision will not only be introduced to German audiences, but also to audiences all over Europe.




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