In the mountains of South Korea, it’s common to find doltaps—or stone stacks—all along the trails. The closer you get to a temple, the more you find. Some think these piles of stones can ward off bad fortune; for others, they’re makeshift altars of prayer; still others believe that building a doltap can make a wish come true.
In 2016, on a visit to a Buddhist temple in the mountains of Yangsan, Seoul-based artist Ok Kim saw doltaps for the first time. She marveled at their beautiful simplicity and found herself fascinated by the spirituality behind the practice. “People pile up each piece of stone with a wish or prayer in mind,” she says. “They have to pay close attention when balancing them so the stack doesn’t collapse.” These fragile pillars led her to create Merge, an ongoing series of works designed in their likeness.
2016 年，首尔艺术家 Ok Kim 前往梁山区一座佛教寺庙参观时，第一次看到了这些石塔。她折服于这些石塔的简单之美，也对其背后的精神意义十分着迷。她说：“人们在堆砌石头时，内心都会许愿或祈祷，每放一块石头，他们都得专心致志，小心维持石头的平衡，否则整个石堆就会崩塌。”这些小心翼翼保持平衡的石堆，启发了她目前还在创作中的《Merge》项目，这是一系列参照石塔造型打造的雕塑作品。
Merge was originally envisioned to be more expressive than functional, but given Kim’s background in furniture design, practicality was never far from her mind. Her steel sculptures aren’t simply meant to be gazed at—the majority of them are designed to be used as tables and side stools.
最初创作《Merge》时，她主要注重其表现力而非功能性，但因为 Ok Kim 家具设计方面的背景，所以不由自主就会在设计中融入实用性的考量——这些钢材雕塑不纯粹是供人欣赏的艺术品，大多数还能用作桌子和凳子。
Like doltaps, Kim’s sculptures are lopsided, staggered arrangements, but instead of a lifeless gray, she coats hers in a palette of radiant colors. In one sculpture, earthen yellows melt into a swath of pine green, calling to mind the changing leaves of autumn; in another, shades of teal swirl with darker blues on a rippled finish, conjuring imagery of a lake’s shimmering surface on a warm summer day. The colors and textures she incorporates on her sculptures are all inspired by South Korea’s idyllic mountains, where she first came across doltaps. It’s also Kim’s way of paying tribute to the painterly charm of the outdoors.
正如叠石塔那样，Ok Kim 的雕塑有着倾斜的外形，参差交错，但在她作品上，石塔原本的沉闷灰色被鲜艳的色彩涂覆。一件雕塑中，土黄与松绿相交融，让人联想到秋日岑林尽染之景；另一件雕塑，蓝绿与墨兰交织成漩涡般的波纹状，仿佛温暖夏日里波光粼粼的湖面。这些雕塑的色彩设计灵感源自韩国的田园山间风景，那里也是她第一次看到叠石塔的地方，因此这样的用色，也是 Ok Kim 对大自然绝妙配色的致敬。
These colorful sculptures are all varnished by layer after layer of ott-chil, a lacquer made from the sap of ott trees. It’s a traditional technique that’s become increasingly obsolete in modern times. Only a handful of Korean artisans still work with the material, and for good reason: aside from the amount of time required when working with ott-chil, skin contact with the liquid sap can result in severe rashes.
Kim insists on the painstaking technique, even though it can take her up to five months to finish a sculpture. In fact, she’s grown to cherish the difficulty, viewing meaningful parallels between the challenging creation process of each piece and her own struggles in life. “When I was in my late 20s, I didn’t like the way I lived,” she recalls. “I felt like a failure, but looking back, those years were formative. It helped me find my identity and purpose. I’ve had to go through the bad to get to the good. That process is like how I make art now—there are different stages to go through before a new sculpture can become polished and refined.”
虽然每一个雕塑往往要花上五个月的时间，但 Ok Kim 一向坚持使用这种繁复的工艺。事实上，极富挑战的创作过程、与她个人生活的挣扎困厄有着不少相似之处，Ok Kim 已经学着把这样的挑战当做一种财富。她回忆说：“20 多岁的时候，我很不喜欢自己的生活，总觉得自己像一个失败者。但回看过去，那几年我真的成长了很多，也找到了自己的身份和生命的意义。一个人必须经历过不幸才能变得更好。这个过程就像我现在的艺术创作一样，要成就一件精妙绝伦的雕塑，必先要经历几个不同的阶段。”
Just like when building doltaps, Kim makes a wish with the completion of each sculpture. “My wishes have been broad, but they’re things people usually wish for: things related to love, happiness, and family,” she laughs. “My favorite wishes were about achieving my dream of creating art, to be myself no matter what, and to stand firm even in the most difficult of situations. I think they’ve all come true.”
就像在叠石塔时一样，Ok Kim 每完成一件雕塑都会默默许下愿望。她笑着说：“我的愿望很多，但都是很普通的愿望，和爱情、幸福和家庭有关的愿望。我许过最有意义的愿望就是实现艺术创作的梦想，坚持做自己，哪怕在最困难的情况下也要坚定不移，我觉得这些愿望都实现了。”