"Botanical Iron - Small But Great" - Dae Hyung Lee (2017 Venice Biennale Korean Pavillion Art director)


The scorching sun vomited pieces of black iron on the earth. Respiration of hot and steamy metal filled the exhibition space with old memories about the births of mankind, nature, and universe. What is the origin of life? The answer is beyond the realm of human vocabulary. However, it is sure that unimaginably huge energies were in the center of the origin. Taehoon Choi's art world is about these origin and energies. To find the answer of the origin, Choi regenerates the swirling energies of Genesis that engulfed the sea and the land in his cold steel. These flooding energies are mainly coming from Taehoon Choi's peculiar method called 'plasma technique'. This technique destroys the stereotype about iron and implants a seed of life in the chill metal. It is a seed that will give us a clue to understand the meaning of origin, life, and nature.

Taehoon Choi's iron is wriggling like a living creature. His meticulous employment of plasma creates organic tissues by cloning every single cell of a living creature in his cold material. With the help of plasma technique iron becomes muscle and nerve. While hammered bronze and polished stone become skin and structure respectively. However, everything is still in the middle of change. Right before a life is born into this world, the very moment of the most sublime and blessed change...Taehoon Choi's plasma and hammer fossilize this on-going change, the flow of time, and energies in his medium. <Crack>, <Nest>, and <Egg> are the good examples of this moment of change. <Crack> vividly teaches us that no change or improvement can be obtained without breaking the shell that frames and restricts our body, imagination, and spirit. <Nest> is the result of dedication and love toward the nature. It reminds us of the scene that a mother bird gathers branches and sticks to make a shelter for its babies. Tranquility embraces <Egg>, but we can feel the great energy of life behind the shell.

The possibility of transformation gives birth to imagination. If we can not clearly anticipate the direction of the change, the range of imagination goes beyond the logic of time and space. Distinction between the present, the past, and the future is blurred. Our imagination can travel anywhere and anytime. And finally our imagination enters a territory of absolute freedom that enables us to create another imagination and story. Moreover, if the starting point of imagination originates from the very small but familiar things around us, the intensity and the quality of imagination can't be better. The inspiration of <Eclipse - I> comes from the artist's experience when he fell asleep under the shadow of a tree. Warm and soft sunshine through the cracks of leaves tickled his face and gently led him to old memories when he counted number of stars at night and questioned the origin of life, the earth, and the universe.

After tailoring edges of thick metal plank, sharp torches of 'plasma' diligently move on the surface and leaves unprecedented visual residues that remind the skin of organic creature. Rough but finely designed texture with numerous minute holes allows air and light to permeate through and makes cold steel soft. The worlds he has created are based on the integration of manifest contrasts - the soft and the hard, the organic flexibility and the metallic coldness, life and death. When one materiality covers another materiality and when the element of time is inscribed into the heart of physical material, Taehoon Choi's story provides us with unexpected visual experiences. Layers after layers, his insatiable curiosity about the origin of nature, life, and universe has peeled the solid material. The answer to the query is in the eye of beholders. However, the answer is not that far away. Entangled leaves, cracks on the dry rice field, a lonely leaf on the street, and forgotten stones in river are good sources to appreciate the meaning of 'existence' and 'cosmos'.

The traffic accident last year partly paralyzed his legs but it also granted him meditative time to sharpen his sensibility to catch the importance of life, family and love. Lying on the bed in a hospital, Taehoon Choi drew numerous drawing for his future work. Contrary to his previous heavy themes such as 'existence' and 'cosmos', his drawings started to deal with nature and life. Layers after layers, exploring the traces of life from the crunched steel, Choi welds the symbol of urban civilization, cold steel, and the impatient minds of contemporary society with the touches of warmth. The future he shows us is full of questions and mysteries. Fortunately, his art shows us from where to start. The answer is very close; in a nameless stone, in falling rain, and in your mind.