Jewyo Rhii is intrigued by that certain moment when a narrative is generated, the movement that occurs to make a story begin. Her art is infused by the experiences of her peripatetic life and her engagement with the particularity of the places and situations in which she finds herself. Rhii’s drawings and installations capture some of the resonance of these places, often using words to evoke aspects of both a physical and emotional landscape. She has spoken of the idea of ‘sculpting words’ and has at times constructed machines and devices that generate text through an interaction with bodily movement. Her installations are directly related to her physical presence in the world and she views the body as a ‘third language’, augmenting the verbal and the visual, one whose potential is all too often untapped. More recently she has developed makeshift machines for collaborative performances with other artists.
This exhibition has evolved from a collaboration of a different kind. Its story begins with a project called ‘Night Studio’ where Rhii briefly opened her house/studio in Seoul to visitors and adapted its interior to facilitate this crossover between private and public. The resulting sculpture and objects became compositional elements in a solo exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in 2013 called ‘Walls to Talk to’. Rhii then asked the writer Irene Veenstra to respond to the exhibition. Veenstra made a book about the show written in the form of a journal: ‘I wanted to describe the direct effect of her work and its presentation on my vision, my thoughts and my body and put into words my thoughts while watching, my vision while thinking and my experience while walking.’ Now Rhii has responded in turn by making this new exhibition based on Day 3 of Veenstra’s journal (1).
In that chapter Veenstra focused on a particular work in the Van Abbemuseum show, which originated in the ‘Night Studio’ project. This was a makeshift wooden structure incorporating scraps of barbed wire, plants and other elements gleaned from Rhii’s studio and forming a screen or fence. As Veenstra notes, Rhii’s work has often invoked borders, boundaries and walls that divide: the Palestinian Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall and ‘long graffiti-covered walls in cities’. Veenstra also ponders the power of museum or gallery walls to delineate and contain an ‘insular field of aesthetics’, arguing that the provisional and precarious quality of Rhii’s structures suggest rather a dissolution of the barrier between art and non-art.
In this inaugural exhibition at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery Rhii presents a similar but different installation, a horizontal sculpture that echoes the shape of the vertical fence in ‘Walls to Talk to’, and is here used to display a series of drawings made in response to Veenstra’s commentary on the earlier work. The objects and images that this structure draws together constitute a physical means of communicating, a response to a response, a nascent conversation trailing memories of that which precedes it. Ever since her earliest projects in the late 1990s Jewyo Rhii has constantly tried to find new ways of displaying her artworks and presenting her performances as well as new ways for viewers to observe and interact with them.
Jewyo Rhii will also present the first UK iteration of her ongoing collaboration with Jihyun Jung – Dawn Breaks - at The Showroom, 63 Penfold Street, London NW8 8PQ ( 7 December 2017 - 27 January 2018). The exhibition is a collaboration between The Showroom and the Korean Cultural Centre UK, as part of the Korea-UK season 2017-2018.
1. Irene Veenstra, Buiten de Comfort Zone/ Outside the Comfort Zone, 2013.