Jewyo Rhii: The Day 3, Walls and Barbed at Amanda Wilkinson, London

By Edward Ball

Jewyo Rhii, The Day 3, Walls and Barbed, 2017 (installation view). Photo: Ari King. Courtesy the artist and Amanda Wilkinson, London

Jewyo Rhii doesn’t stay put for long. The inaugural exhibition at Amanda Wilkinson gallery presents a selection of the Korean artist’s enigmatic, provisional sculptures and installations comprising found objects, quickly realised drawings and makeshift devices for writing. Rhii’s purposely nomadic, restless life – never settling in any city or apartment – informs her work and process.

The exhibition evolves from Rhii’s project Night Studio (2013), in which the artist briefly opened her Seoul studio to visitors, collapsing her own perception of public and private space. The resulting compositions – extemporary sculptures and installations adapted from its interior – informed Rhii’s exhibition Walls to Talk to at the Van Abbemuseum in 2013, to which the artist invited writer Irene Veenstra to respond in diaristic, experiential style. Veenstra’s journal entry for day three focused on the metaphorical resonance of a barrierlike sculpture consisting of scraps of wood and barbed wire. Rhii, in turn, configured her show at Amanda Wilkinson around Veenstra’s narrated encounter.

The Day 3, Walls and Barbed evokes hostile architecture: the subtle recon guration of public spaces through architectural elements to deter unlawful occupiers. The horizontal sculpture DRAWING TABLE – outside the comfort zone, day 3 (2016) recalls a battered fence or temporary blockade. The aluminium support structure, intersected by a curve of spiked metal wire, cradles textual works and scraps of wood spraypainted graffitilike. The aggression of each component sits curiously within the fragile frame. The work, in its distorted scale – occupying much of the Soho gallery’s small footprint – itches to escape its confines.

The ramshackle appearance of Stone typing machine (2017) also betrays the violence it encodes. Four rudimentary pendular devices, fashioned from stones, wood and string, function as a typewriter, printing words and slogans onto the wall. The resulting smudged markings reveal the force of contact. Thrown Stones (2017) utilises the same technique, but instead of text, leaves an abstract mark produced by the action of throwing a rock at a wall. Rhii’s conception of the body as a ‘third language’ – beyond visual or verbal means – is more potently staged by this gesture of distress than by text itself. 

Concurrent with this exhibition, Rhii presents a collaborative project with Jihyun Jung at London’s The Showroom. Rhii’s writing devices now have performative potential: the two artists worked with local participants to construct objects and machines for use as storytelling devices. Rhii and Jung have since entrusted the participants with the care of these objects, allowing further significations to develop outside of their control. Rhii’s exhibitions mutate and drift as response builds upon response, action upon action. Yet this accumulation of experience remains conditional and incomplete. Like her life, Rhii subjects her work to constant relocations and displacements. Coupled with the poetic fragility of her display methods, meanings have no time to gather dust.

Jewyo Rhii: The Day 3, Walls and Barbed at Amanda Wilkinson, London, 21 November – 21 January  

From the Spring 2018 issue of ArtReview Asia