Critic's Note: The Alchemy of Image
Ⅰ. The works the artist has created are derived from virtual, worldly things. Viewers will be surprised when they realize that his works- a deer, an elephant, an ostrich, a rabbit, a crocodile and so on - are mixed with parts of the human body, and they will be amazed at his lively imagination, wit, and ideas. However, those who look at his works more closely will be surprised that they are similar to shadow puppets from childhood.
Thus, his sculptures are based on 'The Alchemy of Image'. For instance, Spider is composed of eight human legs, and the spider's body is made from two facing heads. In Deer, not only are two spread hands used as horns, but the deer's face is composed of female torsi, and the bulging breasts play the part of eyes. He has painted with 'powder coated' techniques, using emerald green in Spider and light yellow-green in Deer.
What is the crocodile doing? The gaping mouth is composed of held hands. A torso with bulging breasts takes the place of the nape of the neck. Four human legs extend from the sides of a body which has more than ten mounds supporting the sharp body of the crocodile. All these things are creatures from Shin Chi Hyun's adroit imagination.
The sculptures, which are made out of resin, have common points on smooth surfaces. That is how he communicates the feeling of virtual images created by computers in a true manner. The images of animals are lacking in realism, like mannequins with slick surfaces.
The background of his works takes place during a virtual era where computers have taken the lead. There are the characteristics and peculiar esthetic sense of the digital age we could not have imagined in the analog era. His sculptures look like the surfaces of a great many virtual images created on monitors. According to the artist, the surfaces are no more than a series of points manipulated by numerical data. 'The alchemy of images' mentioned earlier signifies the role of artists in a world managed by computers. In other words, with the change of the times, sulptors in the digital era have come to create qualitatively different 'monsters'with computer programs while sculptors in the analog era represented objects with marble, bronze, metal, woods, and others. That difference is as significant as the conversion of a whole paradigm. Today, sculptors have been absorbed in making inherent shapes of things transmuted by 'alchemy' in the secret site of the computer monitors against the mystery of nature based on an austere proportion. The oddly-shaped things Shin Chi Hyun creates are only possible in an environment controlled by computers, which means new circumstances for creation, a period advent of image composition where everything seems possible.
Ⅱ. Before his latest works, which have the characteristic of smooth surfaces, Shin Chi Hyun was addicted to the beauty of a set unit as a result of the constant module. Modeled figures of objects were his major work with piles of acrylic, or form boards, and a square bar with uniform thickness. His works were designed by processing elaborate scans on the computer monitor, and finally assembled by piling boards into a spherical shape. His works, The Faces Made in the Past, Bukhansan, Venus, Caryatid, etc. are accumulations by mechanical repetition. However, the repeated aesthetic eventually produces images similar with matter, and it has a limit which causes a mechanical impression and extreme artificiality. But, as far as the digital creatures controlled by computer reveal a new aesthetic value and criterion, the limitation can be justified. In art, experiment is either a struggle or a cooperation with technology. In that sense, Shin Chi Hyun's work stands on the side of expanding and converting the concept of sculpture.
Shin's works, such as Spider or Ostrich, are conceptual conversions of sculptures in the high-tech computer era. His recent works, which were to turn pieces of the human body into models of animals, show the aesthetic value of mechanical combination. This is a result of absolute measurement and the product of planning. This visual antinomy from Shin's imagination that could be both animal and human body is the source of an image game through visual tricks. It is as if someone could imagine a dog from a shadow puppet on the wall. In making shadow puppets, thumbs could be a dog's ear and two outstretched fingers could be a dog's mouth. What we can see depends on what we focus on. Someone who focuses on the hands sees hands, and someone who concentrates on the shadow on the wall could see a barking dog. This visual antinomy is the ultimate conceptual cardinal point and the core, as seen in Shin's works.
In respect to Gestalt psychology, his works indicate that there is a problem with our perceptions, association of ideas, and habitual practice that comes from perception and association of ideas. It also confirms that the problem comes from the alchemy of images.
Artist's Education: Hongik University. Seoul, Korea. M.F.A., Sculpture.