Sculptor Sunkoo Yuh visited MU to give a set of demonstrations in ceramic sculpting Feb. 25 and 26. The demonstrations were held in the Fine Arts Building and were free and open to the public.
Yuh is a professor of ceramics at the University of Georgia. His sculptures have been shown at museums in South Korea and across America, and his works are currently in the collections of The Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Museum of Art among others. His “Anniversary 2007” piece was shown at MU’s Museum of Art and Archaeology in 2010.
Yuh formatted his demonstration as an open work conversation with the public. People could come and go as they pleased, ask him questions, or just silently watch him work. The only thing that remained constant was Yuh, working on a single sculpture for eight hours.
Though making one of his sculptures can take anywhere from two days to a few months, Yuh thinks his work is an act of improvisation and exploration.
“When it is wet, clay is responsive,” Yuh said. “The expression can change a lot. You become a surgeon in some way.”
Yuh then demonstrated his point by pushing and pulling in the face he was working on, drastically changing the figure's expression.
“Small things make dramatical changes,” Yuh said. Posted on the walls behind Yuh were a set of his black ink drawings displaying a wide variety of human and animal faces. Some faces were mashed together and one paper just had about twenty eyes drawn together. All of the drawings were based on Yuh’s imagination. He says that the drawings take about 20 minutes, and the oldest ones he used were only from a few months back.
Yuh used these as inspiration to make a sculpture that was composed of various cartoon figures. He worked from the base up, adding large amounts of stoneware clay for the torso and then adding thinner and thinner pieces of clay for arms, legs and eventually faces. The figures were supported by an inner clay structure.
On the first day, Yuh worked on forming the clay into figures. He used the second day to finish off the figures before coloring them, as well as give a short presentation on some of his other works. The sculpture Yuh built was roughly two to three feet tall, but some of his previous works stand at about 15 feet tall, Yuh said.
Though he spent most of the time sculpting, Yuh occasionally slouched in a chair to view the work in progress.
“Sometimes you have to view it from afar to get a good understanding,” Yuh said.
Alex Thomure, a Southern Illinois University Evansville Ceramics student, got a good view of the sculpture as he viewed the entire eight hours of the first demonstration. Thomure found the way Yuh surround himself with sketches to be inspiring.
“I want to have my sketches in front of me and see how that could influence my work,” Thomure said.
Thomure’s favorite part of the eight-hour session was watching the last hour of Yuh working.
“It’s the final touches he uses to bring the figures to life,” Thomure said. “It’s funny how unconventional and animated his figures are, like the proportions are all wrong but…one of the eyes caught mine and it’s so human.”
For sophomore Breanna Robinson, Yuh’s demonstration informed her of various new techniques.
“This is the first professional sculptor I’ve seen work in action,” Robinson said. “I like his style of drawing, it’s abstract. I’ll try to implement some of the techniques he does in further projects.”
Edited by Janae McKenzie | email@example.com