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Artist Rahee Yoon’s pursuits of nothing take shape within reticent, acrylic artworks
'Block (Celadon Green)' by Rahee Yoon loosely represents the shape and colour of celadon found in the relics of Korean ancestors found in the deep sea
Image: Sooin Jang

Artist Rahee Yoon’s pursuits of nothing take shape within reticent, acrylic artworks

Yoon's oeuvre consists of ambiguous, subtle objects casting chromatic waves within translucent borders, abandoning the conventional nature of acrylic as a ‘noun.'

by Jincy Iype
Published on : Aug 21, 2023

A steadfast attentiveness and experimental play on translucency perfume the serene works of Seoul-based designer and artist Rahee Yoon, who describes her creative language as “heading towards the pursuit of nothing.” Having majored in extensive crafts of metalwork, textiles, ceramics, woodworking as well as resin-casting, Yoon worked in a company and as a freelance designer for 13 years, before opening her studio in 2017. The artist presents a soulfully geometric and wide array of art pieces that forgo conventional sense, aesthetics, or meaning, expressed, and imbued consequently, by a unique kind of subtlety, casting chromatic waves within translucent borders.

Strong and unfettered, Yoon’s functional and sculptural artworks consistently feature spectral skins, mystic and geometric, with blurred, coloured innards entombed on display, peculiarly suspended and transient in meditative silence.

The transparent acrylic materiality that lends forms to most of her pieces also injects them with an almost stoic consistency and manner, contemplative and welcoming. As she relays to STIR, “The external boundaries of the artwork are clear, yet the inner boundaries are highly ambiguous. I believe the translucent work carries a silent resonance within, while the work observed from the outside remains fixed.”

The Korean artist creates works that are essentially, an experiment with the nature of various materials, particularly, acrylic—blending raw features of chosen materials with ‘serendipitous effects’ that illicit ‘erratic yet straightforward visuals.’ “These boundary-transcending pieces express themselves in a simple and reticent manner, through-composed and intuitive forms,” Yoon relays.

Silent and deep, as if buoyant in a gentle quagmire of dreams, her poignant, suis generis creative practice and artistic interpretations are created by her hands. Through close collaborations with special engineers in Seoul as well as small workshops across South Korea, her works transcend into ‘highly aesthetic objet d’arts.’

Yoon’s minimalist artworks (manifested primarily in an acrylic medium) casts aside the typically perceived nature of acrylic as a ‘noun,’ in her profound research on the material for over eight years. “Her works are manifested based on the image and juxtaposition of the adjective as modifier and verb as a state of being, such as ‘to permeate deeply’, ‘subtly refract’, and ‘simply overlap’,” reads her artist bio.

The Korean designer elaborates on the statement by saying, “For me, the process itself of acting while concentrating my senses is creating. What holds significance is the exploration of the ‘present’ work focused on this material. It is an attitude of closing the aperture to emphasise the ‘now,’ where one becomes distinct while the rest becomes blurred, yet not vanished. In this way, the history of the material and existing images is perceived, but simultaneously, I tend to fade them away.”

Yoon relays to STIR, how she achieves the ghost-like consistency of her translucent artworks, and subsequent material experiments explored—“The transparent material I work with has a history of less than a century, lacking profound studies, yet carrying strong perceived images. Avoiding the pursuit of those conventional images has led to a newfound sense of freedom, allowing me to experiment with the contrasting elements between clarity and blur, transparency and opacity, roughness and smoothness. For the past five years, I have been collaborating with a master artisan in applying a traditional Korean lacquer known as Ottchil, onto acrylic surfaces. Given the inherent transparency of the material I explore, I found it intriguing how the traces of brush applied Ottchil appeared pictorially translucent.”

Her approach too, is as pensive and precise as her objects of art and design: For any series, Yoon begins by nurturing vague images or lingering imageries, that get imperceptibly refined and shaped into tangible forms. The work then passes through five to eight different workshops and craftsmen, undergoing an experiment of “slightly twisting the existing artwork, a period of giving concrete shape, and time dedicated to nurturing what has been created. I sometimes secretly anticipate ‘mistakes’ to unintentionally occur throughout the process,” she reveals.

Yoon’s ongoing Block series finds distinction in its manually dyed colour fragments, which are embedded within transparent blocks referred to as ‘the void,’ indulging to create ‘deeply and silently’ diffused waves. “Through the contrast between vivid external boundaries and ambiguous internal textures, I contemplate the concepts of vague boundaries, diffusion, and empty spaces. The title Block not only refers to the term used for material samples but also embodies the nuance of a series that originates from the simplest form of language and progressively evolves into multi-dimensional works,” the sculptural artist elaborates.

Everyone and everything around her inspires Yoon, even a sentinel tree outside her studio window. She shares with STIR how replicating her own artwork is something she would never indulge in. All the pieces she has birthed or even visualised to date are close to her heart—none take preference, simply because they do not resonate with her heart or creative spirit.

In her creative endeavours, Yoon habitually directs her attention to alternating between sculptural objects and functional designs such as flower vases and table designs. “While I usually create sculptural objects, there are moments that I am even more convinced when crafting functional objects, particularly by the results they yield. This is because, I first try to figure out the narrative I want to convey through the work, rather than initially thinking of a function when creating objects. The exploration of functionality comes afterwards,” she tells STIR, perpetually believing and practising the ‘continuous’ in her creative journey.

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