CSM student creates Ophelia's Skull
In an era where artists and designers are more attracted to virtual and experimental forms of arts, Owen Woonyung Lee, a 32-year-old MA Communication Design student at Central Saint Martins (CSM), decided to remain quite old-school in the realization of his project on Shakespeare.
Ophelia's Skull, for which he combined sculpture, music and text, took around three weeks to complete and is presented on the myShakespeare website and stands out for originality and attention to detail.
“Rather than making something in digital, like in a screen, I preferred making something physical, in a three dimension, because it fits the sense of play,” Owen explains.
He found the skull when he went to the Shakespeare's Globe last year before Christmas, among props used in the play: “I found a skull which doesn't have jaw, I just bought it for nothing, just because I loved it. I then started thinking of using the prop in this project, it was a spontaneous choice.”
The work is a combination of different forms of art. He created a music box inside the skull that can be played by hand, so that people can directly interact with it. He worked on the melody itself.
“When I compose music, I generally use two types of methods, one is very spontaneous, I play and then I write down what I played,” Owen says. “For the other method I plan from the beginning the scale’s development with chords and melodies.”
When writing the melody he wanted to express the melancholia of 16th and 17th century music. He was inspired by the music of John Dowland.
“After I created the melody,” says Owen,“I picked some parts and tried to compose just one short piece. I really wanted to use the minor chords but I couldn't because the music box inside the skull doesn't have the semi chords.
"To make a very melancholic sound I needed semi notes, and it was a very hard work to make a melancholic sound with only major notes. I focused on the sadness of the sound because Hamlet is focused on the sadness and it ends with death.”
The decoration of the skull
The skull is decorated with the script of the scene of Ophelia’s death. “It is a very famous sentence, it sounds like lyrics rather than just script,” says Owen. “I printed it on paper, cut it and stuck it on the skull.
“The skull is a symbol between life and death,” he adds. “I think that life and death are both the path of our lives and are part of us as human beings, but we don't think about death, we only think about life.
"Shakespeare really wanted to talk about death, about how important death is. In the 16th and 17th centuries, death was kind of a symbol of beauty, and it was more familiar than now.”
Discovering a new vocation
Owen used to be a graphic designer, and worked with computers. Thanks to this project, he discovered a new talent; drawing and creating something with physical materials.
“It was kind of a tipping point in my life,” he reveals. “I spent time and I made a lot of effort for this skull, it is like part of myself. This work is very important in my life because it helped me to shift my perspectives toward design and art. As soon as I finished this work, I started to be interested in sculpture and in making something by hand.
“It helped me to discover a new passion and a new talent, it was not very easy but while I was making the skull, I found it very interesting and I enjoyed it rather than using computer. Nowadays many designers tend to only use computer with the risk of limiting their talent and prospective.”