Yi Chul Hee in the Tubeland

Posted on 06 November 2017   Artists, Interviews, News
Yi Chul Hee in the Tubeland, 10.0 out of 10 based on 17 ratings
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Art Life in the Land of Tubes

Yi Chul Hee, the artist who is dreaming about his own Tubeland, an arts village, and an arts theme park, who doesn’t want to be there just as a sculptor, but as an artist that develops new landmarks, new urban brands, or even creates theme parks like large pipe lands, is actually one of the most interesting contemporary sculptors today. In this interview, we will try to know him better.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee, you are the artist that is very easy to present as a sculpture, but it is not enough to define you. So, please let’s start together this journey in discovery of your art. How did you start? Are you born in an artistic family or you are the first one? Tell us how you discovered your “sculptor vein”?

I was born in a humble family, but I think we were a fairly artistic family. There was no one famous in it, but we all drew well. In my childhood, I was a student that had no inclination towards study or art. I have started doing art in high school through the invitation of a friend. From the very first day, my artistic skills improved rapidly and I became confident as I was encouraged and receive praise from the people around me. In fact, this remains a source of my confidence to this day.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

You have studied to become the artist. It was first Kyng Hee University and after that Hong Ik University. What University gave the most to your artistic profile?

I first started out as a painter dreaming to be an artist like Picasso or Michelangelo. I think I got some help in finding artistic direction from the college or my professors, but it was not that much. I think that I am a hardworking person who explores and finds its own way.

You have made your first group exhibition in 1983. Tell us more about your beginnings, was it hard? Who or what inspired your artistic path?

I graduated in 1983. I wanted to become an artist soon, so I remember participating in the exhibition. I studied contemporary art at the university, and I was inspired by Jackson Pollock, Sam Francis, David Hockney, David Salle and minimalism.

Your first solo exhibition was in 1989. What do you think about it now? Did you get the press coverage at that time? Did you sell your sculptures?

The 1989 exhibition was my first solo exhibition. At the time, I was so motivated that I remember making the thickest catalog possible containing every minute detail. At that time, I exhibited both two- and three-dimensional work, which I think was the beginning of my path to sculpture. It was a time in my life where I had overflowing energy, and I directed it all towards becoming an artist. It cost me a lot of money for the exhibition but I got some sales. It was an exhibition that many people were interested in.

First Gallery invitation arrived in 2001. From then till now 17 years passed. How did you change in time? Did you have phases in themes and in the material you use?  For example, in The Winner’s Face “phase”, The Pipe Innovation “phase”? What is the material you use to make your sculptures and why? How much time does it take you to prepare one, like the Horse? And how much time to make it? How do you feel while making it? What are your relation to the material and your creation that is born from it?

The artist has to embrace change. And I think that change is an artist’s ultimate fate. I think that we should constantly twist, turn, change, and even break what is old. Through this, I have explored new approaches and new materials.

My motivation for ‘Winner’s face’ was a desire for success. I was poor at the time but I was always thinking of success. I worked on the subject of success and successful people and I was also interested in mass media.

Now, I work with pipes. That was the result of a coincidence. A few years ago, after getting a needle in the hospital, I was so sick that I was laying at rest in the physical therapy room. Suddenly, visions of that painful needle tip (a tube) swung through my mind, and that came to the surface. Like the needle pierces the skin, could I cut pipes in any way I designed? How would it feel to make a shape like that? I thought about that a lot. I studied various techniques from that point and started experimenting.
After a lengthy trial and error process, starting from PVC pipe to stainless steel pipe, I finally created a custom pipe cutting system. That was how ‘Pipe innovation’ was born. Of course, I am continuing my research and efforts to create more innovative works to this day.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Looking on your site and on the web I have met your last works with tubes and it was fascinating, but digging more and more, I have arrived at faces. You call them “Winner’s face”, and they have in some cases the connection to musical instruments. Observing it I can see your philosophical line coming out when you propose us some faces, like Obama’s on One dollar big coin, and we discover that every face may have a different background that we don’t know about. Like secret nature of the people. Especially famous people. You help us to discover them different than they are. And that’s why you are not like in Pop Art, that is beautiful, but you give us much deeper perspective! Tell us more about Winner’s face.

“Winner’s g face”, as I said earlier, started from a constant desire for success even during my difficult times. The work was motivated by viewing successful people. To put it in other words, in these artistic works the face represents a story behind success. Coin works are of course symbols of capitalism and the economy. I constantly use the nameless or named winner that I yearn to be in my works.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

I think of what winners are, what the winner I want to be, look like and that is represented in several works. It’s like the first black American President Obama winning with the overwhelming hope of change and ‘Yes, We can.’

When it comes to the tubes, I can see that your sculptures are not only monumental and impressive the first moment you see them, but they are dynamic too.  You can move around them and you find that the light is giving us totally new perception in movement. The environment where you place your sculpture also gives another perspective. Everything changes in a new environment. New perception, new discoveries. You are the first artist that managed this “play” between the sculpture, light and the environment and the inner light that has who observes your sculpture. More you have inside, more you see! It’s brilliant! We know that one opera is big as much as it can give to everybody one different level of “reading” it! Please, tell us about your thoughts. Tell us more about “Pipe innovation”.

A pipe is a kind of cylinder with a small space. These small spaces stack up and this space has a lump of space with a honeycomb pattern. Just as there is a cellular tissue with water, the cells holding the space (pipes) gather together to have a large mass or shape. This shape is a combination of pipes characterized by physical properties and space pieces.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Thousands of steel pipes feature simple and regular combinations giving a feeling of formative artistic stability and represent the order and rhythmic sense based on precise calculation and cutting works to form the shape. The rhythmic sense gives the surface sense that varies, depending on the watching angle, a degree of bending, cutting angle of pipe, creating a 3-dimensional kaleidoscopic rhythmic sense, not the 2-dimensional pattern rhythm.
That provides an extension of eye line to the surrounding space, allowing the viewers to experience the expansion into multifarious space. At this time, the repetitive elements become a pattern and are seen continuously, forming the whole rather than the parts. Each of the thousands of pipes becomes the pixels particle and has different shapes, filling the hearts of viewers with anticipation of watching something mysterious.

It is the fluidity within the space using the light. The light gives tension and vividness inside the space, depending on the changing angles. Also, the light plays an important role in highlighting the structure or liveliness of sculpture.

Do you have sculptures you love more than others, and if yes, why?

This is a face sculpture ‘Winner`s face-Happy ‘. The bright and smiling lips are a representation of Audrey Hepburn’s mouth. A sculpture based on laughter is not common, and it gives a message of hope and affirmation when viewed. I feel this presents a positive message.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Is it possible to live off of your art? What can you say to the artists that are starting now in the world? What should they do or think about before starting?

First, I think that artistic direction is more important than physical skill. Secondly, the artist must have a sense of the times that we must do work that matches the contemporary trends. Thirdly, we must have economic sense. Most artists develop their skills while working hard. But I would like to say that I am more focused on artistic direction than skill.
I am always enthusiastic to find new ways to create. New skills and new techniques, even if only differentiated artistically in a small way have value, but these must be partnered with a direction. A desire and enthusiasm for newness are very important. In other words, you have to be creative.
Another important thing that artists need is the sense of the times. It is necessary to ask the person who is doing now what work the age needs and what work will represent the age. I think we should start by asking ourselves whether we can fascinate people with the work we do now. Because creating a work that is unwanted is a waste.
Finally, we must have economic sense. Artists are also cultural producers in the economy. But, production without consumption is a burden on producers and makes life difficult. I think that it is necessary to know the flow of the market economy and have the mind to produce what is needed in the market. We need to find out how our artistic knowledge and emotions can be the light and salt in the world. The art industry brightens the world and makes ourselves and the people happy.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Is there any place where you would like to exhibit your sculptures in the near future?

I personally like this question. I would like to make a plan for Europe or America. My heart beats, still full of passion, to show the world some wonderful works. Like the actor lives to be on the Hollywood stage, I too want to meet the greatest art directors of the world.

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

I always ask artists where do they see themselves in five years from now? I do believe artists may know their path in advance! The role of time is different in art than it is in a common life.

In five years, I think I’ll be much better off. I’m planning an arts village and an arts theme park. I won’t just be there as a sculptor, but as an artist that develops new landmarks, new urban brands, or even creates theme parks like large pipe lands.
It’s just a blissful thought at the moment. I am dreaming about pipes, buildings, chairs, gates, facilities, and pipe theme parks from the beginning to the end (Think: Tubeland).

Yi Chul Hee

Yi Chul Hee

Contact info

Click to visit personal website YI CHUL HEE
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