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Tsunamis and Soap Dreams: Meekyoung Shin's Soluble Sculptures

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By Kiša Lala

© Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view of vases made of soap, on display at Haunch of Venison, London. Photo: Kisa Lala
Made of soap: © Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view of vases made of soap, on display at Haunch of Venison, London. Photo: Kisa Lala

One thing made clear during the recent Japanese deluge was that the earth does not discriminate, and all human-made objects were equally subject to the forces of destruction. The substances we choose to build with are measured in reference to human scale: Objects are hard enough only to withstand our own needs for toughness. They are tall, soft or resilient enough to meet our standards for what is optimum. Though we may build things to last several human lifetimes, they are ephemeral gestures in time as demonstrated by the waves that washed away, with a mere tide-swing of the pendulum, centuries of human toil.

The Korean artist Meekyoung Shin mimics precious Chinese porcelain vases and vaunted classical sculptures - and remodels them out of soap. Her replicas seem to mock the value of the original and their illusion of authenticity. Everything pictured is made of soap...

Sculptures in Greek style made of soap © Meekyoung Shin 2011, 'Translation', installation view, Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala
Sculptures in Greek style made of soap © Meekyoung Shin 2011, 'Translation', installation view, Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala

Ghost Series, © Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view, Soap Vases on display at Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala
Ghost Series, © Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view, Soap Vases on display at Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala

Soaps vases, 'Ghost Series', © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala
Soaps vases, 'Ghost Series', © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala

© Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view, Soap Vases on display at Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala
© Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', installation view, Soap Vases on display at Haunch of Venison, London Photo: Kisa Lala

Kouros, Installation View © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala
Kouros, Installation View © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala

Kouros, Installation View © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala
Kouros, all slightly weathered and dissolved - Installation View © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala

Chinese porcelain vases are fragile to begin with, and this is intrinsic to their value. Porcelain and glass at least have the illusion of stability, giving collectors who covet them a chance to gamble on their potential for eternity. Shin also models Kouros, and other classical Greek sculptures out of soap. The translucent quality of soap can be made to resemble marble or coloured glass. Soap, a substance so commonly used in households, is associated in our minds with catabolism, solubility, breaking down...not as a building tool of permanence.

Buddhas made of soaps © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala
Buddhas made of soaps © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala

Buddhas made of Soaps, Buddhas made of soaps © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala
Buddhas made of Soaps © Meekyoung Shin, Translation, Haunch of Venison, London, photo: Kisa Lala

Meekyoung Shin's Buddha soap statuettes were lent to hotels for use in their washrooms temporarily. Displayed in cabinets, in their semi-dissolved states, they seem to emphasize the precept that all things must pass...as is often symbolized by the Buddhist construction of elaborate mandalas that remain vulnerable to erasure by the wind.

No doubt porcelain is susceptible to earthquakes and soap to tsunamis, but under radiation they probably have more longevity than humans.

Meekyoung Shin, 16 Feb - 2 Apr Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens, London UK.

Text:Kisa Lala

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