Contemporary works of two Korean artists—painter Chae Sung Pil and sculptor Lee Gil Rae—are on view at the Opera Gallery now till Dec. 5th.
Chae’s collection entitled The History of Blue, and Lee’s Pine Trees coexist almost symbiotically at the three-floor Opera Gallery in the Upper East Side. The exhibition strikes as a product of an initial collaboration by the two artists—such an artistic harmony is largely founded on the fact that both collections are highly evocative of the natural world. Chae’s insistent use of soil and the color blue reminds us of the earth, sky and sea; while Lee’s copper sculptures of pine trees give us a refreshing sense of being surrounded by tiny trees. The artworks’ unanimous, organic/natural forms create a strong theme around Nature.
An artist’s choice of medium reveals much about the artist’s philosophy; Chae’s unrelenting use of soil as his sole medium certainly speaks to his own intentions. I had a chance to speak with Chae about his background and his artistic process at the opening reception Tuesday evening. When he speaks to you, he gives you the impression that he is disclosing information exclusively to you, as if you were his only audience. Chae became preoccupied with the idea of using soil as paint in his early 20s. His fixation grew from the philosophy that while the world around us constantly changes, the fundamental elements of this earth, such as soil, endure. We walk the same earth as our ancestors, and our future generations will continue to walk the same earth. It is the idea of “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” All of time and history is embedded in our soil—it is symbolic of continuity, universality, and permanency. This is the truth that drives Chae’s vision.
Lee’s pine tree sculptures are made exclusively of copper; he molds thousands of small copper rings to create a single sculpture that resembles something of our natural world. Each small, individual part is molded together to form a whole—mirroring cells that of any living organism. Despite its medium of copper, Lee’s sculptures appear tender, alive even, perhaps the combined effects of its hollowness, its organic structure, and its many visible components. Lee captures so well, the strange, sinuous forms of living trees.