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Fire, Belch an Egg! - Hyungtak Jung (Curator, Dukwon Gallery)

Sons of the Iron Age

There are two ways to Icheon, Kyonggi Province. One is to take Joongbu Highway through the West Icheon tollgate without much fun; the other, as Shim Sang-Dae, a novelist, said, to ‘jump on’ a national highway Route 3. Of course, you can walk or ride a cart rather than taking those roads made by modernized labor. We that live in the Iron Age, however, now go there by car or subway. We go there in an ‘iron car’ ‘made of steel’ with tires through the tollgates built out of ‘steel’, passing by ‘iron-structured’ houses. Yes, as a steel company’s advertisement put it, we still live in the Iron Age.

Commonly, the history of human beings is divided based on the material used for tools: we call the eras the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. According to the conventional classification, we now live in the Iron Age exactly. I do not know when the Iron Age started but take a look at the material for our everyday life tools. 90% of all the structural material is iron. Iron frames are also used for the interior structures of apartments in New Cities, commercial residence in the middle of construction outside the window, the Eiffel Tower far in Paris, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, collapsed and long gone, in New York, and renovated Dukwon Gallery.

Living among the products of the Iron Age, facing iron all the time, we especially invite steel skeleton to the Gallery, a beautiful aesthetic space. Including the nearby daily routine, we again invite iron to the space of the gallery, so iron comes to reveal its aesthetic figure in the space that surrounds it. Once more, that apparently gives an actual proof that we still live in the Iron Age.


Our Era’s Hephaestus

In this Iron Age, at the foot of Mount Seolbong, in a small village called Jangam-ri, Majang-myon, in Icheon City, there is a descendant of Hephaestus living - Hephaestus, in Greek Mythology (Volcanus in Roman, Vulcan in English), god of the blacksmith's fire and metalwork, the son of Zeus and Hera, is Known as a craftsman on Olympus. He was born smart but lame. (The sculptor himself also has a slight limp due to the car accident in summer, the year 2000) He manufactured weapons for the Gods (for instance, Zeus's thunderbolts) and sometimes he made human beings (Achilles and so on) weapons. That is not a simple figure of speech, but the truth. His father hammered iron into door handles, and his son handles fire and creates forests and the universe, so for generations his family, the sons of fire, conceives eggs through fire and the fire gets them pregnant with the world.

Whereas Hephaestus was exiled from Mount Olympus by the others' will, Choi Tae-Hoon unyieldingly deserted the space of Seoul and chose Icheon, a place away from his hometown, of his own free will. Hephaestus made tools by battering and bending; on the other hand, Choi Tae-Hoon produces work by cutting and blowing. His Plasma - a machine for cutting iron or etc. with compressed high-speed, high-temperature jet air/gas- technique is simply to apply a steel cutter to his work in a new way.

He slaughters/slays iron with Plasma. Together with flames chipped/shaped/cut iron vanishes with no trace of it. Iron becomes fire; fire again goes back to the earth with iron. Iron creates light; the light generates shapes. As the Creator creates shapes out of dirt, Choi Tae-Hoon makes shapes out of iron. The artist wholly embraces the exquisite irony of birth and destruction that iron makes fire and fire destroys iron/the latter destroys the former.

Life is panting in the bright light made by/from iron. Iron and fire are rough to the viewers, while they are genial/mild/gentle like frail spores of dandelions to the artist. As Hephaestus might have felt towards iron and fire/As Hephaestus might have put it.


The More Iron Is Cut, the More It Is Added

He is the guy with clear determined eyes. If you just brush by him, you will only feel the warmth in his eyes and on his face with a fresh and bright smile. Beyond his cool smile, however, there is always an impalpable power enshrined. What should I call that, wrath or energy? Is it an exaggeration to say that it is the wrath of the intersecting pleasure and anger seen in that pungent smile of Soon-Yi’s in Hyun Jin-Gun’s novel, Fire? The fire that expresses and take the place of self-suppression and self-anger must be the very love and hatred Soon-Yi had; to the artist Choi Tae-Hoon, fire together with iron that tears and is torn can be the best medium to appease or belch out his anger.

Ever since he started to study his major/Ever since he majored in sculpture, fire has been his subject matter. He handled fire and caressed/stroked iron, which started with his early work of expressionism combining wood and iron or welding thick iron rods to depict the pain of existence.

To command a view of his work is as silly as for you to sigh gazing at the peak of a mountain from its ridge. There is much more to expect from his work than to take a view of. Anyhow, if summarize the form and tendency of his work, it can be classified into the periods before and after his solo exhibition in 2000: a group of his early works of expressionism presenting the agony and estrangement about existence; then, a group of his semantic works produced mostly with Plasma and much labor, signifying the universe, the nature of plant, birth and so on.

His work with the images of cracked rice paddies, dry leaves, and seeds is presented by the titles of ... and . Apparently there is a sign of his small wishes for life or birth after the year 2000. In the artist’s recent work received as ‘devotion to excessive labor’ and ‘the nature of plant,’ what he is persistently obsessed with is no other than life, or living.

The metaphor that severely battered and cut iron is born as an image of life exquisitely shows the meaning of iron: the more iron is beaten, the stronger it becomes,’ ‘the more it is cut, the more it becomes meaningful’.


Kim Gwang-Seok, and the Artist

There is a really dirty cassette tape in his white car. It is, ‘Kim Gwang-Seok Sing Again2’, a collection of live recordings of Kim Gwang-Seok's concerts, who died young.

In fact, I personally think the collection is a masterpiece that delivers his aura most deeply and distinctly. For his vivid natural voice and songs arranged by Cho Dong-Ik reveal a universal pain beyond individual sentiments. It is worth listening at the time mountains and fields are in the height of the autumn; I listened to it in my late twenties, or as turning thirty, while traveling along the national highway in the south of Korea with my friends; I, in my late thirties, toward the age of forty, still have it in my car. It is the very Kim Gwang-Seok’s that Choi Tae-Hoon, the Artist has in his car./It is the very Kim Gwang-Seok’s that accompanies Choi Tae-Hoon, the Artist in his car.

The guy with lucid laughter, who had a dream of traveling to Europe through reunited North Korea on a Harley Davidson when he turned 40. The songster that had a passionate heart where one buries a nameless little dream although one lives like a wind and dies like a blade of grass. That is not a false/vain image, which some romanticists had in the eighteenth century, about pure-minded artists. That is a bright and translucent spirit that Choi Tae-Hoon as an artist and ultimately we should at least have as long as we live this short life.

Watching fire, one's heart throbs. Fire is excitement. Fire is love. Sometimes fire is a sharp smile of revenge against the world.

When Choi Tae-Hoon faces fire, he has no reservation. In front of him, iron and fire become a meek sheep. As he touches, fire is born/comes into existence and iron is made. Fire becomes one with the artist as much as he strokes it. It is the moment that fire creates a meaning. Fire gives life to a meaning through iron and vanishes aimlessly. On the day that Choi Tae-Hoon completely integrates Hephaestus's techniques and even that pain of Kim Gwang-Seok's into that disappearing fire, iron will achieve eternity. And I hope it will. Finally, here, I dedicate a poor poem to the artist and eventually to his work.



I’m Just a Sculptor

Hatch the eggs
Savoring the freedom of death
A ceaseless dance to your breath
A sculptor.

The flesh of iron collapses
Down to the ground with no name
Perches on the vein of frozen land
And evaporates like a ball of dead snow
Fire, shit
Thaw the frozen land
You shitty fire.
To the conceived land
My fellow!
Follow roads to dawn
“Your tears are now your river”
To the month of giving birth
Quenching a new life
I’m a still
Still a sculptor.

That embraces fire
And lights up the world
Cut gently your skin
Opening “a road to the dawn of the era”
I, shit!
A sculptor.


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