Walking into world of numerals

Artist Yoo Hyun-mi, right, in her installation piece “Mathematician’s Eyes” / Courtesy of the artist and Savina Museum

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Artist Yoo Hyun-mi is like a magician who blends 2D and 3D perspectives by combining sculpture, painting and photographs. At a solo exhibition titled “Number’s Eyes” at the Savina Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Yoo expands her world to a more symbolic phase.

Yoo is mostly well known for making sculptures, painting the sculptures and taking photographs of the painted works. At first, these works look like oil paintings. However, when examined closely, these are photographs printed on canvas.

“I have been taking pictures of painted reality for 10 years now. I first make sculptures and paint them to give shade. Then I take pictures of the painted sculpture,” Yoo said. “By doing this, I gain the merits of the formativeness of sculpture, the sensitivity of painting and the documentability of photograph altogether.”

This exhibition centers on numerals, which has been a recurring theme in Yoo’s works. While the previous works featured colored numbers, Yoo removed colors to concentrate on the symbolism of numerals.

“Numbers existed even before letters and I wanted to explore the beauty of numerals seen through imagination. As a sculptor, I think of the numbers in three dimensions. Considering the symbolic aspects of numbers, I thought I could speak through numerals,” Yoo said. “Numbers are prevalent in modern society. We are defined by our social security numbers and telephone numbers. Even money is just a number.”

The highlight of this exhibit is “Mathematician’s Eyes” on the first floor. The installation inspired by Japanese novelist Yoko Ogawa’s “The Professor’s Beloved Equation” is Yoo’s interpretation of the world seen through a mathematician’s eyes.

The installation is oddly unrealistic, distorting the sense of space. The hall is painted white and the artist placed sculptures of numbers and black line tape to create the symbolic world. Visitors can finally take a step into Yoo’s world converting physical space and objects into painting.

“1984” by Yoo Hyun-mi / Courtesy of the artist and Savina Museum

Installation “1984” consists of sculptures of the four numbers scattered around the museum and warns of a world controlled by numbers in the digital world of binary numbers.

On the basement floor is her latest video drawing series. In these videos, Yoo and her collaborator improvise and place black line tapes based on the symbolic image of each number. Instead of using continuous images, Yoo stitched some 500 photos using stop motion technique. It is like a living drawing, freely sketched and sometimes erased.

Some of the video drawings describe the image of each number, while others focus on iconic numbers such as 365 and 1984. “Drawing for 433” is inspired by John Cage’s “4’33,” the composition that changed the concept of music.

The exhibit runs through April 7. For more information, visit or call (02) 736-4371.

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