The artistic practice of Yeesookyung delves deep into Korean consciousness, uncovering fragments of historical memory that she processes into new manifestations of contemporary life. The series of ceramic sculptures known as Translated Vessels are comprised of broken ceramic pieces that have been reimagined into biomorphic “mutant” sculptures. Collecting discarded shards of ceramics from waste piles of present-day Korean ceramicists, each organically-shaped form emerges from a painstaking jigsaw-puzzle process in which the artist instigates new connections between disparate shards. While each work is unique, the bulbous, undulating forms, off-center and slightly awkward, evoke traditional Korean aesthetics such as the iconic moon jar.
The first Translated Vessel emerged in 2001 when Yeesookyung was invited to submit an artwork for Biennale di Ceramica nell'Arte Contemporanea held in Albisola, Italy. Collaborating with a local Albisolian potter, a translation of the 1947 poem Ode to White Porcelain by Korean poet and antique dealer Kim Sang-ok was used to create 12 jars that comprised a piece entitled Joseon Dynasty White Porcelain Has Been Translated. Reversal—such as transforming “trash” into “art”—and the playful manipulation of linguistic meaning is also central to the translation process explored in the work. While the use of gold lacquer is seemingly related to Japanese traditions of mending ceramics known as kintsugi 金継ぎ for Yeesookyung her choice of gold is based on the Korean homophone of “gold” (geum) and “crack” (geum). She observes, “I wanted to add a sense of humor to my work by filling geums (cracks), which are considered as defects, with a valuable material, such as real geum (gold).”