Sculptural Reduction of Constructional Objects
The works in Jeong-ju Jeong’s “Composition” (2021) series, made of stainless steel, share the context of his other series “Sfaçade” (2021) and “Pesfektive” (2021) in terms of material and form. In Jeong’s solo exhibition “Illuminate” (2021), “Composition21-1” and “Composition21-2” used the wall surface as a pedestal, revealing the sculptural depth of their own shapes. Contrary to the usual expectations that make it possible to perceive three-dimensional totality by placing it in the category of relief and resorting to pictorial illusion from one direction, the “Composition” works deconstruct the three-dimensional contour of sculpture and make us focus on (uncertain) movement on the assumption of variability. In Jeong’s previous works, a six-sided distinct geometric structure derived from the conventional architectural frame has served as a surface that determines the sculptural shape. However, in the “Composition” series, the hexahedral structure that contributes to visual three-dimensionality is removed and instead flat surfaces crossing the inside prop each other up, slightly rising from the wall. Such characteristics become more obvious in “Composition21-3.” In this free-standing stainless-steel installation on the floor, two structures composed of stainless-steel plates of different thicknesses are welded and placed vertically, supporting each other. As a result, each side of the structures in the three-dimensional space is raised from the floor, showing the structural logic of form. This, if anything, is what sets Jeong’s “Composition” series apart from “Sfaçade” and “Pesfektive.”
In “Sfaçade,” for example, small and large faces inside a six-sided box whose front face is removed expresses depth in an arbitrarily created three-dimensional space, as if to reflect certain principles of construction. At a glance, although perspectival diagonal lines are repeated inside the cube, it can be assumed that dismantling or additional piling up of perspectival space has been attempted in “Sfaçade.” Countless diagonal lines sticking out of the corners of the space and inclined surfaces, employed to visualize a sense of three-dimensional space, overwhelm the sight. Jeong cuts stainless-steel plates into different shapes and sizes, and builds a three-dimensional structure in space, showing light and shade resulting from differences in intensity in a painterly way by adding colors to the respective surfaces of the structure. The effect of coloring, which looks like a (conventional) shading method, was employed to deliver the visual illusion of three-dimensionality, imperceptibly clashes with the actual effect of light and shade inside the shallow three-dimensional space, thus continuing to obstruct and deconstruct the single contour line of shapes in relation with the existing constructional relationship. As such, what is recognizable in “Sfaçade” is not mass as a general and reasonable sense of volume, but a potential and virtual form inside the three-dimensional space unceasingly growing bigger and smaller and becoming darker and lighter.
In the “Pesfesktive” series, color is replaced with light. Based on a unique architectural space model made of stainless-steel, Jeong designed a three-dimensional geometrical abstract space resembling “Sfaçade” and added color to light and shade by inserting colored LED lights in the corners of the interior. The viewer can hence sense the existence of light as if it was coming in from the outside through tiny cracks in the architecture. Interestingly, the very existence of light brings the viewer to face an invisible sense of mass due to the movement of light coming from the outside instead of giving a visually clear sight of the interior structure of the space. The sense of mass in the interior that changes by the movement of light gives prominence to materiality that is caused by the effect of color. For example, similar to “Sfaçade,” the “Pesfesktive” series shows bent, spilt, and abruptly rising faces forming certain solid forces that support one another in the internal space of the cubic structure, and lights coming through from the outside attest to a sense of volume inside the space using each side as a fluid covering. Conceptually, it resembles looking at the inside of a sculpture. In terms of material, it calls attention to the classical conceptual scope of sculpture which assumes that a sculptural work is filled inside with the same material as the surface. At the same time, it evokes the paradox of the inside of a sculpture which readjusts the surface/contours, as explored in modern sculpture.
“Turning Light Coming Through the Window at a Given Time into a Wooden Structure” (1998) is an earlier work by Jeong that marks the artist’s inauguration of serious exploration on the relationship between architecture and light. The artist experienced the dynamic movement of light and its intense materiality inside an architectural space surrounded by glass windows in all directions, and he installed a frame designed to envelop forms of light coming through the window at a given time with a wooden structure. As a result, the diagonal wooden structure connected from the window to the floor constructs a third space inside. This newly built three-dimensional space shows the characteristic of time and space when the inside and outside overlap. By creating a wooden structure, the artist built a constructive sculptural object that can define the riddle-like non-material space as a visible sense of volume. Meanwhile, this architectural structure has a door that a person can pass through. Thus, when the door is open, the sight of the inside brimming with bright, hot rays of sunlight at a particular time used to come into view. The solid frame of the hexahedron, created by capturing the form of light coming in from outside at a certain time, makes the viewer aware of the existence of “something potential” that overwhelms the covering/surface/contour of the cubical structure when rays of delicately moving light crash with each of its corners.
On the other hand, “Grand Figure” (2019) is a vertical freestanding architectural structure made of foam boards, acrylic, and LED lights that are hollow inside. It is not hard to recognize a rhetorical representation indicating the sculptural shape of the human body in the title of the work “Grand Figure.” For example, in the existentialist sculptures of Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor, traces of his grand figure could be detected. Jeong calls attention to the referential point of a sculptural origin in his architectural model works in terms of their shape and size. In his latest works titled “(Old) Gwangju Army Hospital” (2019) and “Sangmugwan” (Commercial Attaché) (2019), architectural models based on real plans generally realize the scale of sculptural objects corresponding to the viewer’s body. Given the artist’s firsthand experience of the May 18 Democratic Uprising, which Jeong mentioned himself, he seems to have experienced the existence of space in the memories of strangers intruding into his personal space from the outside and architectural structures along the street that are neglected like the corpses of the dead who died within the suspended landscape of everyday life. Within the sculptural forms seeking abstract constructional principles and constructive sculptural objects created based on real building plans, it would be possible to assume a certain point where Jeong-ju Jeong’s work continues to be reduced to sculptural artworks.