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Kimsooja transforms historic chapel with an enthralling new installation at #yorkshire Sculpture Park
22 Nov 2018
Kimsooja: To Breathe
As part of #yorkshire Sculpture International
30 March–29 September 2019
Kimsooja transforms #yorkshire Sculpture Park’s historic chapel with To Breathe, an enthralling installation using light and mirrors and the latest in a series of projects exploring meditative qualities of space. The exhibition forms part of the inaugural #yorkshire Sculpture International, produced in partnership with the Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield, and Leeds Art Gallery.
Yorkshire Sculpture International comprises a number of exhibitions exploring artist Phyllida Barlow’s statement that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the arts”. With Yorkshire’s rich history as the birthplace and inspiration for sculptors including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, our collaboration considers the human impulse to connect with objects, investigating both the physical diversity and the political agency of sculpture in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Kimsooja's practice references and takes inspiration from traditional forms of female labour and craft, such as sewing and weaving, to investigate the role of women. Making quilts with her mother was the initial stimulus to adopting needlework as part of her practice, and since then (1983) the artist has travelled extensively, exploring the cultural importance of clothing, textiles and the associated acts of making.
For over 25 years the artist has used the form and idea of 'bottari' – the South Korean word for a bundle wrapped in fabric, which #kimsooja identifies as "a self-contained world – but one which, like a vessel, can contain everything materially and conceptually". Traditionally used for moving possessions from place to place, the bottari references the displacement of people. #kimsooja has extended the idea to incorporate larger spaces and even architecture, meaning that whole buildings could also be wrapped to alter, contain and re-shape what was within.
To Breathe in the Chapel is such a treatment of architecture. With a lightness of touch, #kimsooja transforms the entire space and blurs expected boundaries. The floor, covered with a mirrored surface, provides an entirely new way of seeing, seeming to open up and unfold the space, making solid surfaces and confining structures appear fluid and expansive. By placing diffraction film on all the windows, the light that enters forms a myriad of rainbow spectrums across the space, which are reflected infinitely via the mirrored floor.
Responsive to the natural environment, the installation changes according to the light quality and intensity, making every experience different and unique. A soundtrack of the artist breathing accompanies the visually spectacular and meditative installation, creating an intimate and shared encounter. What the artist describes as the “‘void' within the skin of architecture" becomes the body of the work, and a site of communal contemplation for all who encounter it.
Kimsooja says: “For me, making space means creating a different space, rather than making a new one. The space is always there in a certain form and fluidity, which can be transformed into a completely different substance (…). My interest in void lies in the relationship between Yin and Yang, as a way of inhaling and exhaling, which is the natural process of breathing, as a law of living.”
In addition to the physical act of sewing and its various cultural associations, #kimsooja also considers the concept metaphorically, seeing the body as a needle that weaves together the fabric of lives, cultures and cities, celebrating a shared humanity regardless of geographical borders. She is perhaps best known for her video work A Needle Woman, in which she stands still in a busy city centre, holds her space as people pass by around her, and creates a place of intense calm. Related to this, Kimsooja’s 14-metre-high sculpture A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir, recently shown at Frieze Sculpture curated by YSP Director of Programme, Clare Lilley, will also be sited in the open air. This elegant spire was developed with scientists at Cornell University, New York, who formulated a nanotechnology film applied to the acrylic windowpanes that most closely mimics the iridescence of butterfly wings. With a mirrored floor, the environment within the spire is remarkable and its space appears to extend deep into the earth and to reach into the cosmos. It is a profoundly stilling, meditative experience, whilst from without, the spire is an extraordinarily graceful and uplifting sculpture. This is only the third time that A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir has been shown in public.
 Interview with #kimsooja by Francesca Pasini, on the occasion of To Breathe/Respirare, 2006 at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Notes to the Editor
The exhibition is supported by Axel Vervoordt Gallery.
Kimsooja was born in Daegu, Korea in 1957 and now lives and works in New York and Seoul. She has exhibited in major museums and institutions around the world including Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (2018); Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (2017); MMCA Seoul (2016); Centre Pompidou Metz (2015); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2015); Collection Lambert en Avignon (2014); Vancouver Art Gallery (2013); Museum of Modern Art St. Etienne (2012); Kunsthal 44 Møen, Askeby (2012); Perm Museum of #contemporaryart (2012); Miami Art Museum (2012); Feldkirch Church and Kunstmuseum Lichtenstein (2010); National Museum of #contemporaryart Korea for the Yeong Gwang Nuclear Power Plant, Seoul (2010); Atelier Hermès, Seoul (2009); Baltic Centre for #contemporaryart, Gateshead (2009); Hirshhorn Museum, Washington (2008); Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa & La Fenice Theatre, Venice (2006); Crystal Palace of Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid (2006); EMST National Museum of #contemporaryart, Athens (2005); Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (2004); #contemporaryart Museum Lyon (2003); PAC Milan (2003); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2002); Kunsthalle Bern (2002); MoMA PS1, New York (2001). #kimsooja participated in Kassel Documenta 14: ANTIDORON – The EMST Collection (2017) and has taken part in a number of biennials: Busan (2016), Venice (2013, 2007, 2005, 2001, 1999), Gwangju (2012, 2001, 1995), Thessaloniki (2010), Moscow (2009) Whitney Biennial (2002), Lyon (2000), Sa~o Paulo (1997), Istanbul (1997) and Manifesta 1 (1995).
About #yorkshire Sculpture Park
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is the leading international centre for modern and contemporary sculpture. Welcoming around 500,000 visitors every year, YSP is an independent charitable trust and registered museum situated in the 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate in West #yorkshire.
Founded in 1977 by Executive Director Peter Murray, YSP was the first sculpture park in the UK, and is the largest of its kind in Europe. It is the only place in Europe to see Barbara Hepworth’s recently restored The Family of Man in its entirety alongside a significant collection of sculpture, including bronzes by Henry Moore and Joan Miró, important pieces by Phyllida Barlow, Roger Hiorns and Ai Weiwei, and site-specific works by Katrina Palmer, Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and James Turrell.
YSP mounts a year-round temporary exhibitions programme including some of the world’s leading artists across six indoor galleries and the open air. Recent highlights include exhibitions by Sean Scully, Giuseppe Penone, Chiharu Shiota, Alfredo Jaar, Tony Cragg, KAWS, Bill Viola, Anthony Caro, Fiona Banner, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Amar Kanwar, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Jaume Plensa.
Across its 41-year history, YSP has worked with over 1,000 artists from more than 40 countries, on varied projects from short-term residencies to major surveys. YSP supports artists at vital stages in their careers and is rare in having the facilities and expertise to enable open-ended and risk-taking practice, as well as the space and time to think and develop new ideas.
Over this time, YSP has sought to ignite, nurture and sustain interest in and debate around #contemporaryart and sculpture, especially with those for whom art participation is not habitual or familiar. It enables open access to art, situations and ideas, and continues to re-evaluate and expand the approach to considering art’s role and relevance in society. Supporting 45,000 people each year through YSP’s learning programme, this innovative work develops ability, confidence and life aspiration in participants.
YSP's core work is made possible by investment from Arts Council England, Wakefield Council, Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation and Sakurako and William Fisher through the Sakana Foundation. YSP was named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2014.
About the Chapel
The documented history of the Bretton Estate dates back to 1261, when it belonged to the Dronsfield family. It passed by marriage to the Wentworths in 1407, who owned the estate until 1792 and made many significant additions, including the chapel. Commissioned in 1744, it is constructed in the classical style, with Tuscan pilasters and a cylindrical bell chamber. The chapel was in use until the early 1990s when it was deconsecrated. YSP took ownership of the building and it opened as a unique art space in 2009 and was successfully refurbished in 2014. Previous artists who have shown in this space include James Lee Byars, Bill Viola, Chiharu Shiota, and Ai Weiwei.
About #yorkshire Sculpture International
A festival of sculpture across Leeds and Wakefield
22 June–29 September 2019
Yorkshire Sculpture International will be a free 100-day festival with a series of exhibitions, international commissions, events and learning programmes. Sculpture in its broadest form will be on display across four major venues and in unexpected places within the public realm.
The festival is produced by #yorkshire Sculpture Triangle and builds on the profile, strengths and collections of four partner venues: Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield, #yorkshiresculpturepark.
Yorkshire Sculpture International has raised more than £1.4 million, including a National Lottery funded Ambition for Excellence grant from Arts Council England and regional investment from Leeds 2023, Wakefield Council, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds. yorkshire-sculpture.org
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