Creation From Destruction: Jukhee Kwon’s Book Sculpture

Photo of Culture Trip
28 January 2016

South Korean artist Jukhee Kwon, who is currently based in Italy, is known for her stunning ‘book sculptures’ which use abandoned and disused books in innovative and surprising ways. Her works will be on display at London’s October Gallery from 5 December 2013 until 1 February 2014.

Left, Jukhee Kwon, Vertical, Reference book in english, ca. 700 cm, 2013 / Right, Jukhee Kwon, Falling Book, Book in french, ca. 150 x 50 x 20 cm, 2013 | Courtesy Jukhee Kwon and October Gallery London

After completing her MA in Book Art at Camberwell College of Arts, London, Jukhee Kwon has exhibited a series of installations across Europe. The series of works entitled /fromthebooktothespace/ reveals various interpretations of ‘book sculpture’, many of which make it seem as if the pages are literally trying to escape from the book into space. In her works, the fragments of papers, breaking through the book covers, pouring out of a water tap and flowing out from a book hung from the ceiling like a waterfall, are transformed into dynamic yet delicate sculptures which occupy the space in beguiling ways.

Kwon’s creations embody the book’s circle of life, in which tree becomes book and book aims to return to its original form as a tree. In making ‘book sculptures’, she meticulously shreds each page of a book by hand and transforms it into another object of a different form. It is as if the books were dismantled in order to be given a new life through Kwon’s process of spatial transformation. In other words, Kwon’s creation is a deconstruction of the object and recreation of its new existence at the same time.

Jukhee Kwon, fromthebooktothespace, Paper and book case, dimensions variable, 2012 | Courtesy Jukhee Kwon and October Gallery London

Although the viewer cannot see the actual making of her works, it is a performative process that requires proficient technique in cutting and slicing the pages. The delicate and complex entanglement of papers in her works is result of an intricate and meticulous action.

In contrast to such a painstaking process which demands a lot of attention to detail, the finished work embraces vigorous forms that represent a feeling of freedom and movement. The act of disassembling the book releases each page from the thing that binds them together into a free space. Furthermore, not only does it physically disengage the pages from the book, it also emancipates the book from its original purpose. Besides the cultural significance of this liberating act for Kwon’s creative process, it also represents a personal narrative of the artist who has lived through a migratory experience. Moving from Seoul to London and to Italy, Kwon projects the feeling of nomadic life in her works which manifests itself as freedom from restraint.

Jukhee Kwon, Carnival, Book paper and acrylic, 100 x 100 x 15 cm, 2013 | Photo by Cosimo Trimboli/ Courtesy Jukhee Kwon

The transformation of the book is a transformation of an everyday object for the viewer. It is, in other words, a transformation of the relationship between the viewer and the object. By transforming the pages of the book that used to be flat, almost two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional ‘book sculpture’, Kwon challenges the viewer’s perception of this everyday object.

In her 2013 work Red Presence, Kwon employs acrylic paint to colour the whole piece in red. The vividness of colour is a reference to her own life including her first memory, which she remembers very clearly. By cutting the printed pages line by line, she retraces her early memory and creates an object with a new life as she assembles the fragments of paper into the sculpture. The surface of the work is inflamed by the colour that reflects her memories and the book’s imagined memory.

Jukhee Kwon, Red Presence(detail), Magazine paper and acrylic paint, 190 x 140 x 140cm, 2013, Private Collection | Courtesy Jukhee Kwon and October Gallery London

In her exhibition at October Gallery, held from December 5, 2013 through February 1, 2014, which will be the first solo exhibition for Kwon at the gallery, the artist’s latest creations are on view. Not only giving an object new life, Kwon employs colours to bring out the essence in the original object and its owner. The books are given new life in a new form but still remain the past narratives that originally dwelled in the objects. As Kwon states, ‘each book has individual personality and it has narrative and history like a human being.’

Jukhee Kwon

5 December 2013 – 1 February 2014

October Gallery

24 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3AL

020 7242 7367

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