top of page



’ Reality that penetrates highly civilized times'

Ko Chunghwan _ critic, 2006

A British artist Tony Crack shows works that lends garbage such as plastic fragments, bottles, dies, rubbers, metal pieces from the Thames as materials. Another artist, Ursula Stard in Luzern collects natural and ordinary objects from seaside and river side and reproduces them by displaying like one in the museum with archeological excavation concept in it. Cesar Baldaccini suggested pressed sculpture using a pile of discarded cars and a pop artist Robert Rauschenberg awarded at Venice Biennale as the first American honor with his installation work by organizing his own smudged beddings. Edward Kienholz is fearless in attacking human trusts about civilization with various discarded objects.


On the other hand, in the neo realism supported by a theory of Pierre Restany the reality that penetrates highly civilized times is shown from the garbage of industrial products. This chain of works that contacts to the junk art suggests familiarity rather than heterogeneous sense and demonstrates a boundary between art and life which is extremely obscure. It is certainly originated in the material. In contemporary art, these materials escaped from subordinate existence (ordinary and functional existence) that performs given significance from one’s external but obtain self-sufficient existence (aesthetic existence).


The cigarette butts work. Wonsuk Han concentrates on objects which are lost their function, discarded, scrapped material, and waste from industry and civilization. He perceives that the rubbish produced from the ordinary life is a reality to penetrate contemporary world and it is an icon to speak for the age. In addition, he collects the cigarette butt which is the smallest, largely spread and most ordinary waste. He creates a picture by assembling numerous pieces of cigarettes on one canvas. A flower comes into bloom from it like a mosaic. The one we should consider is how important the backside of his work is as much as the front side. There are burned out cigarette ends exposing their naked shape on the back of a flower. The flower frequently symbolizes ephemeral life, and occasionally represents the evil. The reason that this beauty establishes that the reality is based on the deficiency (reality is not beautiful). Consequently, the work of picture contrasting a flower and cigarette butts is looking a comparison of good and evil. It demonstrates that the foulness is a shadow of beauty, and the evil is the other self of the good. This is somewhat connotative concept rather than mutually antipodal idea. This concept leads the work over a common environmentally educational message, alternatively moral self-awareness. Additionally, it brings out an idea ontological self-awareness in collusion with the ‘Flower of Evil’ by Baudelaire that considers the evil equal to the good as one of our existence.


The work with discarded headlights. Wonsuk Han, like other neo realistic artists, regards that all of the waste of industrial products are the reality of highly civilized contemporary world. It understands the reality as undecided and open idea that could be re-defined depends on the age-circumstance rather than a closed idea. He finally, concentrates on the headlights which is most common, broad and popular. As we already know, headlights are a part of a car. The places that artist Wonsuk Han searched about for them are auto junkyards, in other words, it is a grave of the cars. The junkyard is a place where a car ends its life. However, at the same time, at least for Han, it is a delivery room where a new life begins. In other words, when it is discarded in losing its own function, it gains a new life as an object. In brief, the existing method has moved from the ordinary context to the aesthetic context and from the sane context to the insane context. What a simple car revives as a sculpture by Cesar, and what a simple used- headlights become an installation piece by Wonsuk Han are realized in connection with a process of decontextualizion and recontextualizion. 


In fact, Wonsuk Han has revived the true sized <Chumsungdae> with collected used headlight. That is the same quantity of 1,374 as 1,374 years of the <Chumsungdae> history. To realize this, the processes are expanded from a simple installation to the architectural technology with an engineering method of piling up headlights like bricks and building iron frames to enhance durability. Additionally, it pulls electronic technology into his work with a way of putting LED lights into the headlights. Accordingly, it is a realization of educational inter-system and a team work (differ from traditional method) of experts in each field. 

Each one of the headlights is a smallest unit, the minimum element, monad and a terminal to make the whole piece and it implies organic relation between part and whole. The lights which are turn on throughout the night imply the stars; it has a same context as its own traditional role to observe the stars. The artist adjusted the light power courteously to make an effect of natural lights as much as possible, therefore regard it as the same light with stars. People living in current age truly lost the nature; the stars that often project a dream and ideal, alternatively, gives a poetic idea not truly exist as it. The grey sky not only deprived the star lights, but took a right to depart from the reality and a right to dream. The feeling of loss is not different from loosing one’s home and loosing one’s existence. The lost home implies the ontological origin such as the Idea by Platon and the prototype theory by Carl Jung as geopolitical place.

To sum up, the <Chumsungdae> by Wonsuk Han returns us a star light, the nature that we lost, and a right to dream. At this point, the installation of discarded headlights is a kind of home where the stars live. The idea of rebirth and restoration adapts on the backside. It communicates with the issue of environmental restoration of the Chunggyechun where the artwork is standing.


The work of discarded speakers. Wonsuk Han is preparing another exhibition in Japan made of about 80 thousands of discarded speakers. He will cover all inner space of the gallery and let the audience walk the artificial space that reminds a huge speaker. This series of works suggests an important fact related to the method of displaying and exhibition technology. He has demonstrated an installation painting that has a contrast of front and back side through his cigarette work (compare with most painting which shows one side only)


With the discarded headlights work, he created environmentally friendly installation connected to the open air. It suggests more positive special work, that is, the space is the art work. One can easily notice architectural process that exceeds the boundary of formative work. The speakers set up in the full space make a sound that had captured in ordinary life to enhance the reality and the actuality.


Wonsuk Han brings a scent (a sense of smell) with the cigarette work, lights (a sense of sight) with discarded headlights and a sound (a sense of sound) with old speakers as a part of art work. He demonstrates that independent senses are communicated each other behind the work. The artist expands the glossary of environmental installation and contemporary art with a help of space sense.


’ The Story of Wonsuk Han'

YoungHo KIM  _ a head of supporting creative work at the Seoul Foundation of Art & Culture,  2006

At the foot of the Namsan, a summer day in 2005, I met him at the first time. I remember one of our team were very interested in his artwork and invite him to the office. He turned up holding one of his works named “The flower of devil” which is bigger than his bulky body. The problem was that the artwork slipped down from his hand and suddenly, the room was filled with the terrible scents of cigarette butts. It was certainly enough to assure that a cigarette is very toxic to the human body. I was very impressed by him that he told me “It’s O.K, no problem.” While I thought it was very embarrassed for him.


After that I think I almost completely forgot him for a while until I met him again at the ‘Chunggye Art Festival’ in 2006. The festival had planned to celebrate reopening of the ‘Chunggye Stream’ and it was the first memorial ceremony that needs to be on a global scale. I was hesitated in approaching the work because there were only 2~3months left for the preparing the exhibition and was too adventurous to hold an international open exhibition in a small stream. However, Wonsuk made an impossible work to become a reality. He had running a non-commercial art space at Dashanzi 798 in Beijing at that time, and he had a friendship with many international artists in Dshiazi. Finally my ignorance in art and Wonsuk’s adventurous spirit accelerated the festival. This international open exhibition, the first ‘Chunggye art festival’ named ‘a soaring ugly duckling’, was opened with 18 international and domestic artist’s installation works. It was very successive, but there was a huge aftereffect. I felt as my life were shorten by ten years and Wonsuk had a serious accident. With the teeming seasonal rain, some works installed in the water swept away in the strong current. I thought I should have run into the water, however my body was not under control. It was a nightmare! Also Wonsuk’s famous accident story was there. He had a car accident on a raining highway on the way from the airport for the rushing time schedule. I decide to love this strange, miserable man, when he appeared to me with dressed bandages all over his body.


The more loved, the more suffering. He turned up with a difficult assignment in the autumn of the year. The project he brought to me was an impossible piece, which made people to deny him. His work was a huge installation, which is reinterpreted from a Korean Traditional Treasure. He planned to stand it on the bridge called ‘Guangtong Gyo’, one of the tangible cultural properties. I tried to make his exhibition to be a part of ‘Chunggye Festival’ but the project was rejected because the government cannot permit it. From that moment, I started to make a promotion for his work to assure its cultural value and safety of the installation to every official government part to get an exhibition permit. Finally, God raised our hands and his exhibition gained a spotlight as the first, biggest installation work on the ‘Chunggye Bridge’. The work ‘Rebirth: Pick stars in the Chunggyechun’ showed up to the world. 


I still consider his work seeing how is his capacity developing. Many people say about his particular procedure and try not to surprise. However, I read jitters in their eyes. What the current time is? Nobody can easily take on the current sea of the art. I see Wonsuk Han, who is enjoy the wave on the sea, like a fish swimming in his sweet home.


He cannot be a leadership material, if he prepare for the taste of current mainstream and try to serve them.


The Hyeja told to the Jangja.

“ There is a big tree where I am and people called it a leather tree. Its big branches are too muddy to make an inking line and the small branches are too much twisted to put the ruler on. It stands on the street, but carpenters don’t consider it. Your horse is just too big but useless, so nobody will be interested in your horse.”


The Jangja answered.

“ Have you ever seen a wildcat or raccoon? They lay down on the ground to target small animals and jump high and low to capture them and finally die from the net or trap. However, this big cow is huge as mush as the cloud in the sky to make her to work for a big task, but cannot catch the rat. I think you concerned if the big tree cannot useful for anything. Why don’t you put the tree on the yard where nobody in the yard and enjoy a nap or wandering around the tree? The tree will not hacked with an ax early and nothing will hate the tree. It will not be a suffering that the tree is not useful for the carpenter."


 –From the Free and Easy Wandering-

bottom of page