Crystal Method | Swarovski, Kim Jong-Sook & Elaine Yan Ling Ng

Published in Art Radar on March 14, 2016

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Art Central, Hong Kong, 2015. Image courtesy Art Central.

Kim Jongsook and Elaine Yan Ling Ng will present their Swarovski studded works at Art Central in Hong Kong. Art Central will present some of Asia’s most celebrated contemporary art galleries from across Asia and the globe and will take place from 23 to 26 March 2016 at Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront.

Swarovski, as the official partner of the fair, will be presenting a crystal installation by British-Chinese designer Elaine Ng at the entrance of Art Central, while UNC Gallery will feature South Korean artist Kim Jongsook‘s Swarovski artwork at Booth E16. The partnership, in its second year, aims to get artists to use the trademark crystals in a unique way that combines cutting edge design and a novel contemporary aesthetic. The two chosen artists have created resultant works that pulsate with life, gleaming and illuminating when they catch the light.

A Swarovski sundew

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Elaine Yan Ling Ng, ‘Sundew’ for Swarovski at Art Central, Hong Kong, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Art Central.

Inspired by the natural world, Ng transforms the crystal into a glistening drop with a jewelled allure. Her previous practice has fused together manmade materials alongside natural inspirations to enhance modern design. Her works are designed to respond to change in environmental factors and become immersive, eco-conscious designs that focus on hybrid materialisation of nature and technology.

Ng received her BA in Textile Design and MA in Design for Textile Futures from Central Saint Martins, University of Art London. Her designs have been displayed at Sackler Center, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Dana Center, Science Museum, London; Harbor Front Center, Toronto, Canada and Design Days Dubai.

Swarovski Designers of the Future Elaine Yan Ling Ng, Nadja Swarovski, Rodman Primack (1)
Elaine Yan Ling Ng, ‘Sundew’ for Swarovski at Art Central, Hong Kong, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Art Central.

The installation Sundew was born when Ng was commissioned to create a new work as the winner of the 2015 Designers of the Future Award. The work first revealed at Design Miami/Basel in 2015 is a multisensory installation that amalgamates light, movement and fragrance to produce an immersive experience inspired by Biomimicry. Recognising the sensorial allure of crystal as a material for her works, Ng states:

I now regard crystal as an ingredient for making new material, texture and surfaces and for this project it’s exciting to be combining craft and technology to explore new functions.

Elaine Yan Ling Ng close up (2)
Elaine Yan Ling Ng, ‘Sundew’ for Swarovski at Art Central, Hong Kong, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Art Central.

The work Sundew consists of crystal-studded strands that respond to movement and lithely curl and intertwine. Ng uses Techno-Naturology, a self- developed concept that uses technology in order to stimulate and mimic natural reactions in order to make the work dynamic.

Resembling the carnivorous sundew plant that sinuously closes in on its prey, these forms mimic the resplendent, jewelled appearance of the plant. Like the flower, the bejewelled installation manages to inveigle and entrap viewers. The designer has also incorporated two complementary fragrances to entice visitors, working at the intersection between seduction – represented by the Entice scent and death – represented by The Kill scent.

Swarovski landscapes

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Kim Jongsook, ‘Artificial Landscape – Iridescence 2 (부분)’, 2015, 140 × 140 cm (110호 정방), mixed media on canvas, made with Swarovski ® Elements. Image courtesy the artist | Provided by UNC Gallery, Seoul.

South Korea-born artist Kim Jongsook (presented by UNC Gallery, Seoul) received her BFA, MFA and PhD from Hongik University in South Korea. The internationally acclaimed artist has been exhibited at the Zaha Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China; the Huangcheng Art Museum, Beijing, China; the Saga Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan; and White Box Gallery, Los Angeles, USA. Her works are housed in the permanent collections at the Mogam Museum of Art and The Hoseo National Museum of Contemporary Art.

For this collaboration with Swarovski, her work follows the Korean tradition of depicting pristine ink-brush landscape paintings. As a young child, Jongsook witnessed her father, who ran a mother-of-pearl workshop, use traditional landscapes and floral paintings as sketches for the objects he made. The shining iridescence of the material and the mastery would become seeped in the imagination of young Jongsook and direct her towards a career in the visual arts.

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Kim Jongsook, ‘Artificial Landscape – Indigo Drawing’, 2012, mixed media on canvas, made with Swarovski ® Elements, 90.9 x 116.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist | Provided by UNC Gallery, Seoul.

Historically, Korean landscape paintings were heavily influenced by the Chinese tradition of painting pastoral, idyllic landscapes. It was only during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897) that the painting tradition took a turn towards realism, portraying geographically specific location with a distinct accuracy.

Jongsook manages to contemporise this age-old tradition, by embellishing the scene with shimmering crystals in her “Artificial Landscapes” series. The works depict mesmerising panoramic landscapes – soaring cliffs and sudden valleys, neatly sheltering trees and flora within their sharp crevices. The studded Swarovski crystals in all their resplendent glory pepper the canvas. The crystals catch the light and sparkle profusely, making the landscape appear fantastical – a sparkling dreamscape.

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Kim Jongsook, ‘Artificial Landscape – White Drawing’, 2012, mixed media on canvas, made with Swarovski ® Elements, 90.9 x 116.8 cm. Image courtesy the artist | Provided by UNC Gallery, Seoul.

Jongsook transfers the image onto the silkscreen and converts it using various different materials and techniques. She incorporates powdered crystalline pigments, transparent silicone, and Crystal Moonlight and Sapphire Satin crystals. Every crystal in the painting is meticulously hand-applied, giving the work an added dimension. The works acquire a bas-relief effect on account of the crystals studded on the screen-printed image.

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Kim Jongsook, ‘Artificial Landscape – White Material’, 2011, 140 x 140 cm (110호 정방), mixed media on canvas, made with Swarovski ® Elements. Image courtesy the artist | Provided by UNC Gallery, Seoul.

Each work is a labour of love, a painstaking effort created over a long period of time. One such work, White Material,took four years (2007–2011) and 220,000 different sized crystals to complete. The work is homage to Kim Yuna, considered to be one of South Korea’s most celebrated figure skaters. From afar the work appears to be a plain white colour field, but up close, the details of the valleys and ravines of Kumkang spring to life. The glistening stones sparkle like sunlight on a snow-clad mountain giving the work radiance and depth.

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Kim Jongsook, ‘Artificial Landscape – Neo-Geo Red’, 2013, 70 x 70 cm, mixed media on canvas, made with Swarovski ® Elements. Image courtesy the artist | Provided by UNC Gallery, Seoul.

Heather S. Russell, the former Senior Specialist of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art at artnet Auctions writes:

The crystals transform the canvas in a singular manner, and at first the sheer opulence of the shimmering surface seduces the viewer. However, the saccharine nature of the materials soon falls away, and one is left mesmerized by the real essence of the work and the intention of the artist. This Zen quality is inherent to Kim Jongsook’s paintings, as the process of applying millions of Swarovski crystals to her paintings over the years has become an equally Zen, meditative and cathartic process for the artist.

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Jongsook’s paintings hold more than just an aesthetic value. Staying true to the tenets of Korean art, her paintings are suffused with layers of psychological meaning and subtle reverence to the rich art historical tradition of the East. Furthermore, her work comments on the traditions of the past and assesses the present; providing a sharp juxtaposition between long-established Korean customs and the modernised consumerist culture prevalent in Korean society.

Ng and Jongsook follow in the tradition of many renowned contemporary artists who have found a place for crystal and crushed glass within their oeuvres. Their works recall the tradition set by Andy Warhol who incorporated diamond in his Diamond Dust paintings. Later, artists like Russell YoungDamien Hirst, Mickalene Thomas and Vik Muniz all included crystal glass or diamonds in their work in some capacity. The two artists Ng and Jongsook seek inspiration from their culture and surroundings to create sensorial works that use colours and crystals to create room for meditation and reflection.

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