SEM Art Magazine

[SEM Art Magazine] Yoon Hee, The Open Mold in Accordance with the Style of the 21st. c.

30 May 2022
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Yoon Hee artist
Exhibition view at Indang museum, Daegu Health College

Yoon Hee,  'non finito'

  •  Indang museum, Daegu Health College
  • from April 6 2022 to july 10 2022

“The Open Mold” in Accordance with the Style of the 21st Century

Until “Attendu (Waiting)” Transforms into “Inattendu (Fortuity)”

SIM Eunlog / Director of SimEunlog MetaLab & Art critic

     We often hear the expression saying, ”The two things look like a mold. “  This tries to say that the “casting” made by the “mold” resembles it with accuracy. However, the works of Yoon Hee make us wonder if they come from the same mold. It is because the form of mold is simply multifarious. While expanding the concept of a “closed” mold that has been maintained invariable from the ancient time, she opens a new dimension of sculpture in accordance with the stream of the 21st century.

     In general, viewers show interest in casting, the result of a work, while art-related professionals put emphasis on “external intervention” or “Inattendu (fortuity),” which is today’s key word of aesthetics. This text intends to focus on causes rather than results and preparatory processes (artist’s continuous intention) rather than fortuity, based on “the open mold” pioneered by Yoon Hee, in light of art history and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  


Until “rainwater” transforms into “fossil” 

     For Yoon Hee, the period where the long and tough “Attendu (waiting)” transforms into ” Inattendu (fortuity)” is the same as the period where rainwater turns into fossil. The titles of her serial works such as “Inattendu (fortuity)” or “Rain-fossil” precisely portray such arduous and difficult processes. Metaphorically speaking, “Attendu” refers to “the artist’s intention,” “Inevitability” and “mold” while “Inattendu” is equal to “external intervention,” “fortuity” and “casting.” Thus, her works are performed in the tension of this polarity.

     Her current work has developed while going through constant adventure and trial and error. In the 1980s, she carried out metal-based works. In 1999 in Bretagne, she put a variety of works into practice using various metal materials, including the work covering the entire building floor by using “lead” that melts in a relatively low temperature that a welding machine can fuse.

     The works of Yoon Hee remind us of the serial work of Richard Serra (1938-  ), Splash (Splashing; Splash Piece: Casting) of the late 1960s. Heavily armed, Richard Serra puts lead plates in a big container and starts to melt it using a flamethrower. After taking this solution using a ladle, he repeatedly sprays it to the corners that touch the walls and floor. Since the lead solution splashes towards the artist, this action looks dangerous. When the solution splashed along the wall hardens, several sturdy men begin to remove the lead from the floor. The huge work created after undergoing this process is significant in the sense that the existing building itself (here, the walls and floor) was used as a mold, and the shape of the casting as a result is also different. Richard Serra must have placed more importance on the tense and extremely intense work process than on the formative beauty of casting.  

     As mentioned earlier, Yoon Hee also used the floor as a mold. From the 2000s onward, she presents an open mold. Since then, the works of Richard Sera and Yoon Hee start to take a different phase. By using a single “open mold,”[1] Yoon Hee allows for more diverse and aesthetic castings using a single mold. The mold weighs approximately 150-300 kg and the shape presents as a cone, a cylinder and a sphere. Then, in order to splash boiling molten metal into this mold, and roll the mold, she depends on the force of foundry engineers. For instance, Yoon Hee’s work takes about four hours to melt 250 kg of bronze (the amount that is normally put in one crucible). By taking the molten metal with about 1200 degrees using a ladle, she pours it into the mold. About 10 kg of molten iron is contained in a ladle with a long and enormous handle. A heavy ladle is added to the heavier molten metal are thrown into the mold while the mold is rolled at the same time. Since the molten metal must be used up the same day, it is vital to keep the heat for 2-3 hours to prevent the molten metal from hardening. Moreover, it is required to secure a broad space to spread the finished work separately.[2]  

     Even for experienced foundry engineers, it always entails a risk of splashing the solution. Their tendencies vary from person to person. Even though Yoon Hee does not define their dissimilar temperaments, potentials and personalities, she maintains the unfamiliarity with the work. This is because getting used to something is obtained by the price of fortuity and uniqueness. Like this, being a complicated task, the solution can harden while trying to persuade the engineer in charge and this situation can quickly make moments of anticipation and tension evaporate. Even if the artist declares, several times, that the artist is responsible for the result, regardless of the state of the result, good or bad, the engineers are well aware that even a slight change in the speed or posture of pouring molten metal can alter the achievement of the desired result. Therefore, artists sometimes hesitate to try new adventures and attempts called “an art work.” The result can change even by the slightest difference in various factors such as the engineer's hesitation and doubt, strength and weakness of force, type and composition of metal[3], temperature of molten metal, weather, speed of mold rolling, floor condition and friction, and molten metal that is thrown again. When it comes to color, for example, in bronze, the part that does not touch the mold is oxidized turning black, while the part that touches it remains red, which is close to the primary color of the material. Some works based on aluminum (see Rainwater- Fossil) are light and even clear, as if to be sublimated into sunlight, due to the slightly different components and environment, while others are and somber and gloomy. In each new imperfect environment, we find that many unexpected fortuities overlap. Consequently, the artist ought to make improvised judgments and decisions depending on how the work reacts after first pouring a ladle into the sculpture. Thus, she plays “improvisation music” at every creation of work.            


     From ancient times to the first half of the 20th century, auxiliaries or assistants carried out the long preparation process, while the artists themselves enjoyed the decisive finale moment. However, Yoon Hee completely reverses this tradition and opens it up to external intervention even more at the moment of the finale, considering the importance of the finale. Could it be because of this that leaves something to be desired? Yoon Hee’s drawings faithfully capture this dramatic moment. Her drawings vividly depict the dynamic and tense situations as well as thrills at the time exposed to the outside and fortuity. Her drawings are like “sheet music for improvisation.”

Three missions of the 21st century, and presentation of the possibility of freedom of casting from molds

     Any artist living in the 21st century cannot escape from the following three missions. Firstly, it is about art in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. One of the big debates addresses the relationship between “the original and fortuity (external intervention).” Giving a well-known example, when it comes to Rodin's works, posthumous molding is allowed and the artist himself agreed to this. Even works from the same mold have a sharply different price depending on their respective provenance. Post-edition Drawing Rights (Droit de tirage post mortem) established in each country creates an ironic problem where it is required to define a certain number of works as art work while the rest works are considered crafts. Along with this phenomenon, it seems that it is rather natural to develop not only “Multiple Art” that is the multiple original copies without the original one, but also “NFT art-style originals” that own the code only. On the other hand, when it comes to Yoon Hee's works, she herself cannot reproduce the same works. One of the products that can be compared to an “open mold” from the NFT circle can be called “CryptoKitties (a new kitty comes into being by crossbreeding a product that has already left the hands of the producer).” It is a fortuity using “random value.” Despite the difference between an artwork and a product, these two types of comparative research raise an issue in contemporary art[4] displaying another phase at the same time.     

     Secondly, with respect to “environmental art,” there are artists who actively participate through their works, such as Olafur Eliasson, and passive artists who partake in the form of “minimizing artist intervention or matière” as is the case of Lee Ufan. Since various types of castings can be made with a single mold, Yoon Hee repetitively uses (recycles) the mold. This can minimize the production of molds, it is considered that she is taking part in the “RE (Renewable Energy) 100” campaign, even in a passive manner. In case this “open mold” technique can widely spread inviting participation of many young artists, we see a possibility of which this transforms into an active environmental movement.

     The third mission is about an issue of our own. The modern subject was like a casting trapped in an invisible mold. Humans who awoke from the myth of free will live like castings produced in the same way from a variety of pre-established molds such as the DNA structure, social systems, and prejudice. Even though the matière (from the idea to the modern subject) of the casting (subject) itself could be changed, the produced form was the same. The work entitled Pieta-Self-death of Lee Yong-baek evidently demonstrates this. In this work, a white cyborg-style mold is hugging a pink casting that comes from its body. As if it had just died, the color of life (pink) did not even change to the color of death. The mold is silently staring at the death of the kernel (human) [5], as if to have predicted it. This reflects what contemporary humans look like. Nevertheless, Yoon Hee proposes a new possibility of the subject in the “age of human death” [6] by displaying the dynamism of a casting that is free to some extent in the mold. This makes his work necessary today highlighting his aesthetics. Her works “start from the outside” and actively accept “fortuity” and “external intervention” while enhancing creative passion with boiling molten metal, and presenting new possibilities for the subject.◆


[1] From ancient times until now, sculptures have counted on “closed molds” where materials such as metal, plaster and resin are put and two molds are pressed against each other. On the other hand, Yoon Hee’s mold is an “open mold.” It is because one side of the mold with the shape of a cone, a cylinder, or a sphere is opened while the mold is not closed even after the material is put inside. 



[2] Even though Yoon Hee's Saisie instant (Instant grasp) is obtained by spraying a ladle of molten metal only once in the same mold, it presents a variety of shapes, and this makes us think outside the box based on “the same mold produces the same casting.” There are other works allowing us to guess the shape of the mold in an easier manner, but the shape of the casting is far from being the same.



[3] The artist is personally adjusting the type, composition and proportion of the metal, since she became familiar with the metal composition based on her abundant experience and trials. 


[4] SIM, Eunlog, “Contemporary art is a diagnostics of the present (diagnostique du present)” and is a process of “problematization” for the world.” Future Art and Healing Art: From caos again, Education and Science Publisher, 2021, p. 4


[5] Ibid.


[6] FOUCAULT, Michel, Les mots et les choses, une archéologie des sciences humaines, NRF Gallimard, 1966, p. 15, p. 398. “As soon as the recent invention with only about two centuries called humans, the simple folds of our knowledge and the knowledge discover a new form, they will immediately disappear […] It will be erased like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.”