Haneyl Choi creates sculptures with shapes of the body or parts of the body. Most of his works are made in series and each series is connected to each other. Several hand sculptures are abnormal. The pieces have an extremely smooth texture with its industrial plastic material base, which relieves any possible repulsion, yet if one where to actually see a person with such a hand, it would be pretty startling. The hand is the first visible part of the body after the face and can be a decisive hint for judging various forms of deformities or disabilities. With these hand pieces Choi represents bodies that are not appearing 'normal' using immaculate, solid materials.
The works representing whole body shapes are three standing sculptures of the male form. Made of FRP, a kind of plastic, they resemble well-manufactured mannequins but look somewhat strange. The piece with an excessive masculinity that may have been featured in SF movies, has abnormally developed muscles and its blood vessels are about to burst out. It seems to be made to symbolise masculinity. The piece of a relatively short male standing next to a macho one is emphasising his buttocks by pulling them out with his arms cut off. As if personifying the form of masochism, the piece has a distinctively passive posture. Another piece standing by its side alternatively has bulging shoulders and a bragging pose. The relationship between these three pieces seems to create a certain power structure and made me imagine a fiction with them as the main characters.
There is a sculpture with a thick leg riding a skateboard. It is on a skateboard without a shoe on, which is a very dangerous thing to do in reality. Therefore the setting looks helplessly fictitious. When looking at the glossy texture and its abstract shapes attached to the leg part, one may call it a modernist piece at first glance. However the piece, combined with the daily ready-made object, in this case, a skateboard, displays weight emphasises the heaviness in history. However, reducing the weight does not mean it gains speed. The artist's response to the speed can be seen from his series of sculptures sitting on karts. For a while now, Choi has shown sculptures characterised as a body combined with different kinds of machines. However in these works, there are clues that imply it can have speed such as wheels but with no mobility. Objects that are supposed to be mobile lose their original functions for the sake of being sculptures. To reiterate form before, the artist disenables it.
Some of Choi's works do not involve the shape of the body. His orchid sculptures were made by his drawings following the Korean tradition of orchid black ink drawing. The orchid drawing strictly requires to follow the order of each stroke and to have the defining shape, orientation of each stroke and the drawing to be in appropriate speed and weight as guided. The orchid drawing is about drawing perfect strokes at one go, in the right composition, through repeated practice of the same strokes. However the artist's manner toward this series is more automated. The artist did not try the orchid drawing to show perfectly trained strokes but he merely appropriates the Korean painting tradition and mimics its gestures in repetition. He turned a flat drawing into a three-dimensional sculpture by cutting foamed plastic modelled after his own orchid drawing. The work technically realises the orchid drawing idea in three dimension. Similar to this are his works imitating the Korean traditional folding screen. Contrary to the orchid drawing pieces, the artist printed his previous three dimensional works on a flat surface and sets a layer of the printed images up like a series of folding screens. The images are flat but they become a 'three-dimensional installation' from the audience's views in the exhibition. The artist repeatedly shows such gestures. By doing it in an automated way, he seems to mirror his resistance against the standards and stereotypes such as ideas of 'mass' or 'three-dimensional effect', which were overlooked by those who received art education in Korea.
The exhibition opens in two galleries with two separate spaces, GALLERY2 and P21. Choi's oeuvres are unfolded like a binary decalcomania in the forms of normal and abnormal bodies, realistic and surreal, soft and rigid, engraved and embossed. They pair up and divide to reproduce like a fission of cells within a certain binary system. However his works created through such process are surely not to prove the dichotomised thought structure but to constitute allegories intermixed with strange, deformed, and odd shapes. If you stare at each shape, rather than interpreting what each form means, it's possible to see different energy generating from the deformed, flawed shapes. Realistic limitations are replaced with non-realistic forms and sometimes they turn out to be in more exaggerated shapes. When spending a course of time with things made through such a process, it turns out that the limitations become concretely aware and some may be able to overcome. It's not subtracting ruins and or getting rid of their negative meanings but choosing to find a new meaning whilst standing with the ruins.
The moment of encountering the deformed body can be a shocking experience whether it's in fiction or reality. To elaborate it with my personal experience, I recently saw a patience's foot badly swollen when I was in a hospital to visit one of my family members. His pale foot was dry and brittle, also puffy as if the skin had stretched to its maximum. His big toe looked almost twice its normal size. The swollen foot shape was so unfamiliar to me and lingered for a while. Perhaps it was just witnessing a little difference but it was a moment of shock to me. The swollen foot made me think. The precise cause of the swelling of his foot is unknown, but it may have been caused by abnormal cell division or penetration of a virus as such and a visual piece of apparent evidence that the metabolism in his body was disrupted.
When a happening is repeated, it becomes experience and due to that time the body has experienced it bares another body. Choi represents the bodies recreated by experiences as a collection of happenings. The sculptural works polished with soft, kind textures and gentle postures may have destructive meanings, if we get to know what process they were made through. It is even more so, as the crumbled shapes of the works seem to boast about themselves and their abnormality. In particular, Choi gets to choose whether he follows the norms or departs from them in doing his artistic practices—mostly it seems he decided to leave it. Doesn't his accumulated experiences lead him to be able to make the decision to create the experience of the body to have meanings without relying on existing standards? Just as we gradually learn how to exist as ourselves, holding each of our own flawed forms.
– Hyo Gyoung Jeon
Press release courtesy GALLERY2, Seoul.
Presented across GALLERY2 and P21, Seoul
204 Pyeongchang-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul
74 Hoenamu-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul