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Yang Hae-gue’s hanji collage ‘Mesmerizing Mesh’ series shown at Kukje Gallery's new space

Sept. 29, 2022 - 19:45 By Park Yuna

An installation view of "Mesmerizing Mesh" at Kukje Gallery in Seoul (Kukje Gallery)

Yang Hae-gue has immersed herself in holding and cutting “hanji,” or Korean traditional mulberry paper, for a new paper collage series. The artist began presenting her works last year, continuously evolving an artistic world of her own.

Kukje Gallery has shown 18 works of her hanji collages in Seoul, the second exhibit of the artist’s latest series at the gallery. The paper collage series, named “Mesmerizing Mesh,” is based on her research on the Korean shamanistic ritual tradition known as “gut.”

“Shamanism exists across cultures around the world. In most cases, they accompany both regional specificity and universality. They are all different, but at the same time share common factors—the spiritual act of breathing a soul into materiality is a common thing,” Yang told The Korea Herald.


An installation view of "Mesmerizing Mesh" at Kukje Gallery in Seoul (Kukje Gallery)

The tradition of making shamanistic objects out of hanji in particular has been developed in Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, where shamans decorate the ritual site with sacred paper cuttings and recite shamanistic sutras. Sacred paper cutting comes not only in two-dimensional forms such as soul sheets, but also in three-dimensional objects that include sacred flowers.

“Sacred paper cutting can be similarly witnessed in other paper-cutting folk art traditions of discrete cultures all over the globe, despite their aesthetic differences,” she said.

In South Korea, the tradition of making shamanistic objects required for rituals are also seen in Jeju Island, which is referred to “gime.”

Yang used a cutter knife to create the "Mesmerizing Mesh" series, a process which she likened to a "fight" with the paper. She recalled that when she was not skilled in cutting with the knife at the beginning, she got stab wounds on her fingers.

“I used a cutter knife for the ‘Mesmerizing Mesh’ series, rather than scissors—in fact, 99 percent of these works were made with a cutter knife. I stab the paper with a cutter knife, then cut out the paper,” Yang said. “The cutting requires a lot of strength. It’s almost like I’m fighting against the paper.”

Yang Hae-gue (Kukje Gallery)

The exhibit, which runs through Sunday, is on display at the gallery’s newly opened Hanok Viewing Room in Seoul. At the Busan venue, another presentation called “Quasi-Legit” featuring the artist’s blind installation series “Sol LeWitt Upside Down” is ongoing. She plans to keep exhibiting different works simultaneously, featuring new and existing series that will constantly evolve.

Yang is set to hold a solo show titled “Mesmerizing Mesh – Paper Leap and Resonating Habitat” at Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris featuring her paper collage series. The show will be held from Oct.18 to Dec.3.

Born in 1971, Yang went to Germany after graduating with a bachelor's in fine arts from Seoul National University. She has explored various mediums, including installations, two-dimensional works and video, which cross regional, generational and time boundaries.

“Sometimes I feel like I am a typhoon. You never ask the typhoon why it is a typhoon. The typhoon does not know the reason why it was created. There are many things that artists simply do not know,” Yang said.

“Whatever I do, it largely depends on the audience. And this is not an area I have any control over. As an artist, I only focus on the making of, rather than asking the reason for.”

By Park Yuna (