Statement

I work with drawing, printmaking, video, installation, and combinations of media to investigate time and our emotional relationships within it. I am interested in combining stasis and movement and comparing decay, distortion, and generation of images to the similar mechanism of memory.


I use a photocopier to make images that become distorted as small accidental changes are picked up and amplified over time. The semi-automatic process is repeated until photographs and drawings become a sticky, dark, dusty, beautiful abstraction. The mindless and quiet movement, surrounded by the dull but occasionally sharp mechanical noise, provides a meditation on disintegration of memory and fading away of the emotional impact of loss. I like to combine etching and drawing, which share fluid, expressive, and delicate linework. When etching, which is traditionally a slow, static, and labor intensive process, becomes the ground for an immediate, spontaneous, and almost reckless way of working like life drawing, the piece offers a dialogue between permanence and ephemerality. Crochet stitches become a materialization of time and frustration from repeated, failed, attempts at an action and a change.

October 21, 2015

1.

I would lie by the windows, reading in the warm afternoon light.

 

I would stay up all night in my room, listening to some sappy songs or late night radio shows, drawing. Drawings on notebooks, sketchbooks, computer paper, hand-outs, scrap paper.

 

Words were too little. Thoughts were too much and feelings elusive. I wrote always: there’s a fog in my head. I felt for the entirety of my childhood and most of my young adulthood a cloud of uncertain thoughts yet to bud.

 

I liked making things, and I wanted to be better at it. I thought it would be fun to learn how to make all kinds of stuff with my own hands. In school, when we got to do some woodworking, going into carpentry sounded ok. I would pester my dad to teach me basic mechanical and electrical work. I was the top of my class in home economics class. I liked taking care of plants, rescuing and fostering animals, and growing vegetables, which I would attend to diligently when my family had a little backyard. Small-scale farming still sounds appealing to me. Working, working with hands, crafting, labor, physical work, making, creating.

 

What drove me to the art world (Let’s say, an area of high concentration of people who care about art)? I had only a vague idea what I was looking for, and whether it would actually bring me there. I knew that I wanted to see, to find, and to learn lots of unspecified things--all things social, philosophical, psychological, historical, political, creative, poetic, or other--and to continue to make something better. Still, I had little idea how all that would neatly tie in. How surprised was I to find actual people saying things like “art knows us better than we know ourselves”? Did I ever think that being submerged in art could possibly help me figure it out?

 

2.

Stories: Workers of Hanjin, Daewoo, big ship building companies, coal mines, alleyways, villages on hills, soot, microchip factories, working overtime, immigrant workers, poor working conditions, systemem of violence, economic polarization, discrimination, poverty, starving, chewing on paper, fingers caught under a press, needles under eyes, needles traveling through bloodstream, being cooked alive trapped inside, metal sheets dropping on your head, lungs dark with coal dust, dark fingernails, dry, cracked hands. “Dad, when are you coming home?” Mass layoffs, hunger strikes, crane-top protests, self-immolations.

 

With parents: Strikes, protests, marches, moonhwaje, samboilbae. Freedom of press, democracy, remnants of dictatorship, of colonization. Social-historical responsibility, perpetual helplessness, guilty by absence, ideal-reality disparity.

 

More, to take away: Writings by workers, everyday people, simple words, soonoorimal, talking, sharing meals, sharing songs, persimmons. Unions, reading groups, education programs, writing workshops. Community, sense of unity, sense of justice, sense of hope.

 

3.

We talk about transcendence in art. The easiest way for me to internalize it is in relation to art’s potential to envelope and invoke overwhelming, impactful experiences: like those that come from aesthetic and poetic sensibilities, intellectual endeavors and accomplishments, awe-inspiring natural phenomena, or the ritualistic elements of social protests. In the last case, the grand sense of justice, social and historical responsibility, solidarity, and connectedness.

 

I guess what keeps me in the art community is the sense of trying together, collectively striving for something beyond the everyday life--whatever form it might be for each of us. What I think and hope we are trying to do is to merge our aesthetic interests and emotional, maybe social, maybe spiritual, needs.

 

When an artist talks of their love for making--especially for a particular craft like painting, sculpture, or printmaking--it is revealed that artmaking is so endearingly obsessive and dorky. It’s one of the reasons why the community around art can be as important as, if not more so than, art itself. It’s baffling how people try to make art (this nerdy thing!) seem posh and cool; they actually succeed at fooling the public. I mean, yes, they have been successful throughout history. But in regards to my earlier proposition, whom I find the most rewarding to be around are the art nerds: those who make and talk about art wholeheartedly.

 

“Draw everyday, and draw without fear. It’s only a drawing.”

 

I’ve come to think of lots of things in terms of drawing, something that allows for a carefree attitude. It’s like how accepting your insignificance in the vast universe can be liberating. It’s like how acknowledging your mortality gives you the solemn excitement for life. Let these words give you the courage to make, to write, to go on, to get up in the morning and face the world, and of course, to draw. Sincerity might crush you--big thoughts and responsibility and all. But art has a way of circumventing that anxiety. Uncertainty is fine; so is debilitating fear. Some people say art is a secularized temple, a refuge, after all.

 

September 16, 2015

My friends and I once snuck into an apartment with a terrace and an incredible view. Right by the bed were an entire wall and a ceiling of windows, looking right at the Manhattan skyline. I couldn’t swallow whole the thought of eight million lives clumped into this particular geographic location. I was so sure that I would have been absolutely overwhelmed and depressed if I were to sleep in that room every night.

The lights making out the shape of skyscrapers, every little part placed there by human needs, would be right in front of your eyes as you stay lying on your bed. They would be like stars, only much smaller, measly, and human; but precisely because they are so infinitely more comprehensible. Can you even contain the thought of a blistering ball of flames ninety-three million miles away, yet fueling the entirety of your life, that of each person you know, don’t know, or might have known, all the trees, nectarines, little worms crawling on leaves, our old friends with curved hands named naledi, butterflies in South Africa, midges in Antarctica, viruses the size of your skin cells, the algae blob, shellfish, crocodiles, your dog, birds in the Galapagos and their great great great great great great grandmas we affectionately call dinosaurs, and everything else on this planet you can attempt to imagine? Would you try and pretend to understand ten trillion galaxies with a hundred billion such stars, some of them a thousand times bigger than our Sun? But there is no need to be paralyzed with awe here. I am only talking about a tiny group of people within the distance you can conceivably cover on foot, those who are breathing out air and pumping fresh blood - their simple, insignificant selves like your own.

Yet I said to my friends, I was positive that I would have been crushed by the weight of my own thoughts and anxiety if I were to stare and be stared at by these lights. Driving by the airport at night, the enormous collection of lights lined up along the runways makes me want to cry, somewhat confusingly. As they become distant, isolated from the rest of dimly blinking towns with sleeping people, I imagine hearing them brightly screaming: we are here, we have built this, we have put in our collective thoughts and sweat and knowledge into this to guide our way home. They do this as if protesting that we are not just a speck of dust in the uncaring universe. Did we invent lights to imitate stars?

Art does a lot of things, but one of the wonderful things it does to me is tuning into this kind of "oh my god, I’m going to cry" feeling that probably could qualify as a “spiritual” experience. And I truly believe it can be experienced anywhere, caused by anything, depending on the person and their brain chemistry. If we can all take our time - every person in the neighborhood, regardless of their profession, economic standing, education, cultural background, and so on - to feel these feelings together everyday, I don’t think we would have needed what we call art as much as we have. I think the culture of art is the product of efforts to articulate the feelings we find to be unexplainable, awe-inspiring, or bigger than ourselves (and a good chunk of art history is people assigning them different names that are better than mine.) Philip Guston, in his essay, said he prefers having poets in his studio rather than painters. As a visual artist who also finds poets very pleasant, this makes sense to me. Poets and painters do the same thing, but they can each get caught up with the superficialities of their choice of discipline. On the other hand, I find it a bit wonderful that some people can be so passionate about something that others do not even notice. Who else cares about how Rembrandt understood light and handled paint as a material? Who else spends hours flipping through a Pantone color book just talking about colors? But also, really, how many people get overwhelmed by the metaphor of the construction of city lights as human civilization? What I know is that when I discover there are some who do, it will be heartwarming and humbling. And that’s what art does to me.