Three South Korean contemporary artists, Hae-Ryun Jeong, Chung-Ki Park and Ail Hwang have collaborated on a project that is sure to bring a fresh perspective to how we view an essential element of infrastructure in our towns and cities; the pylon. As part of the Art Project of the European Capital of Culture exhibition of 2010, they produced what they describe as a “lighthouse”, consisting of coloured acrylic sheets… and an electricity pylon. The effect is stunning. From every angle the tower’s multicoloured panels emit a translucent light that is reminiscent of the stained glass windows we associate with medieval cathedrals.
Situated alongside a cycle track in Hattingen, Germany, this piece of South Korean contemporary art forces passers-bye to re-examine the visual impact of these ubiquitous structures. Pylons feature on the majority of our landscapes and as such are normally invisible to us; we have simply ceased to recognise them on a conscious level. What these South Korean contemporary artists have done is to reinvent what many consider to be a blot on the landscape as a piece of installation artwork, and thus rehabilitated the humble pylon as a piece of iconic design.
No mean feat.
Recently, we caught up with Ail Hwang to ask about this piece and its origins.
Can you tell me something about your formal training in art? Where did you study, what did you study and how did you find the experience?
I studied Fine Art in Korea and after that I joined a class in the sculpting art at Kunstakademie Münster in Germany. During my studies in Germany I gained a great deal of practical experience.
I notice that you currently live in Germany, is there a particular reason for this? How is installation art regarded in Germany?
Yes, I live in Germany. The contemporary art / installations art scene is much more active and challenging here in Germany than in Korea.
Do you specialise in one particular art form?
No, I don’t. My work is mostly about public art and installations. It’s on the border between architecture and art.
Do you work in other media?
I did work with video and internet art, but I didn’t feel that these enabled me to progress my work.
Do you often in work in collaboration with other artists?
Yes, I do. I find it very inspiring to work with other artists, because in the communication and exchange I have with them, I frequently learn much and achieve more. Working in collaboration can be hard and needs patience, but this is part of the process. At the moment I work alone mostly, but I’m always ready for team work.
Where did the idea for the “Lighthouse” project come from?
We chose the electric tower after considering many other objects. The tower had the best sculptural effect and we wanted to work with the lines and panels of the structure. We wanted to create a new symbol for the “Ruhrgebiet”.
Did you experience any practical difficulties with the “Lighthouse” project? For example, did you seek permission to climb onto the tower?
The construction was beset with many difficulties, for example we had to work in really hot weather on the day of the construction. And at the beginning we were asked if we could put the panels on by ourselves. Of course we declined to do this because it’s much too dangerous. We are not technicians, but artists.
What kind of feedback have you received from those who have seen the “Lighthouse”?
The advantage of public art is you get different reactions from different people. The electric tower stands alongside a cycle track and one cyclist asked if it is used for flight control. Many other cyclists have seen it as art work and loved it. Many think there is no money in art. Also with this reaction I did get the feeling that people noticed the huge electric tower as a structure for the first time.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I work more on interior concepts. I’m still interested in architecture and sculptures and I use simple materials now.
Have you another project that you would really like to tackle in the future?
I´ve got a few ideas, but I have not decided at the moment.