in the neighborhood | jin young yu’s invisible people sculptures
Elegant, delicate, and haunting. South Korean Jin Young Yu’s (유진영) invisible people strike an awkward chord in your heart, but you can’t take your eyes off them. They are transparent and “invisible” apart from their faces, doll-like in their petite pinched details, but incredibly human in their expression.
According to Jin Young, they are the invisible people of the world. The ones who seem to know everything about everyone, but to others they just plain don’t exist. They blend into the wallpaper – literally.
While we live in a world where we all seek our 15 seconds of fame and search to have some witness to our lives, here is someone sharing with us an unthinkable reality – people not being noticed. And she unnerves us with these life-size figures of young girls, teenagers, or young women. With faces that are wet with tears, that are pouting, or just expressionless yet filled with heavy sadness. One girl swallows back her tears, as an invisible hand with red nails muffles her cries, silencing her into further invisibility. Another stands armless, with a mask of another expressionless face tied around her like a bonnet. Others are thin and emaciated and twisted in shyness or awkwardness. And almost all of them scare us with the maturity of their melancholy, in such blatant youth.
There is little doubt that Young Yu has a real depth and message to her work, which is not just apparent in the detail of her figures but even in the way she exhibits them. Her earlier installations were done in galleries with many corners and columns. She would then hide the transparent sculptures in these spaces, making people assume the gallery is empty. The idea was that they would accidentally discover the pieces as they searched for some hint of art in the room.
Young Yu says the work reflects herself in a way, as she doesn’t enjoy the fake conversations and pleasantries of socialization like parties – she enjoys being in a corner or at home, or on her own.
So she makes her work to be inconspicuous to others, blending it into the background – much like she tries to do with herself.
Young Yu studied sculpture up to graduate level, but her PVC technique is something she experimented with and created on her own. She needed absolute transparency that glass could never give and so she worked with PVC trying to give it a 3D depth.
Her figures are created first in clay, from which is made a plaster cast – a mold. Layers of PVC sheets are then placed in this mold and pressed and heated repeatedly until they melt and perfectly conform to create the shape of her figure.
While Young Yu’s works are being exhibited and causing ripples in the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Hong Kong, Miami (at Art Basel, Miami), and Seattle (at Roq la Rue), she enjoys much less success in her home country of Korea. She believes this may be due to the sadness of her subject, as well as the Korean view that PVC is a cheap “drink bottle” material and are therefore less commercially viable.
But, for her, the important thing is just being able to do her art and perfect her process.
For more In The Neighborhood posts on NeochaEDGE, link here. /// TH
[Editor’s note: Although NeochaEDGE is focused on showcasing leading-edge creative content in China, our In The Neighborhood series allows us to step out of the Middle-Kingdom bubble and give an occasional “hat tip” to inspiring creative works from other Asian countries. If you would like to recommend or contribute content for an In The Neighborhood post on NeochaEDGE, please share it with us at [email protected].]