"It satisfies my voyeuristic desires..."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your back ground? Where did you study?
I was born and raised in South Korea. I came to London in 2016 and I lived in Korea before. I received my BA and MFA in Korea, and I am currently studying MA at Royal College of Art in the painting department.
I chose the Art as a major since I was 10 years old. I graduated from art-specific secondary school. But since I came to college, I have tried to quit painting many times because sometimes it was so painful. Even after graduating from MFA in Korea, I stopped painting for a while and received the art psychotherapy certificate and taught children. But I could not stop painting and wanted to start it again in new environment. That’s why I came to London.
Your more recent works depict objects and furniture in a home environment. Could you tell us about these works?
Moving to London was my first time to live alone without family, so I have experienced some very ordinary stuff that I have never done before. I had to choose all things from toothbrush to wardrobe, and I encountered “everyday objects” while filling up the very common elements of my life. I realized that my space was bursting with objects and filling the house with household items is significant as much as making my life. I have constantly contemplated between emptying and filling, function and aesthetic, and universality and personal taste in order to fill my ordinary life. It is not easy to set my domestic space and everyday living. As such, the home environment and objects have become interesting to me.
The space and objects in my paintings are mostly based on my actual life, but also I refer to magazines and personal media that people present their home environment. It satisfies my voyeuristic desires and helps me understand what people enjoy at home, what they hide and what they want to reveal. What I have found from comparing my home with the space in those media is that the house space contains intimate details about personal taste, so its objects allude a person living in it without his or her existence, but it is also a socially reflective space. In other words, the space of the house and objects depicted in my paintings are the intersection of my personal mythology and collective identity.
Do you feel by painting these inanimate everyday objects, you in turn give them meaning? Bringing them to life, so to speak?
There are two kinds of objects in my painting. One is based on reality and the other suggest the impossible existence. The former encompasses all the objects around me from functional mundane to aesthetical items. In my painting, they are rendered variously based on the actual shape. The latter is represented by lines, planes and expressionistic gesture. It is displayed on shelves with other real objects, or placed on the top layer in a whole paining, and it has a shadow like an actual object. The reason I juxtapose these two different kinds of elements in the same space is to create a vague situation that is close to reality but not real. I want the space and objects in the painting to be taken as pictures, a surface with visual fun. If I draw a cup, it does not mean I give the cup any great meaning. Of course, there is some feeling about the subject, but I do not want it to be directly conveyed or explained. I just want that the subject is revealed as the image. It is an “improper metaphor” that the object is presented like a symbolic iconography, but it wants to hide its meaning or not to be.
I explore the ways in which the objects are being rendered in hopes that they are placed between reality and non-reality. I generally ponder between the abstract expression and the figurative representation when I embody something. I think the blending of the two methodologies makes the actual situation reproduced blurred. Presenting a space with a flat colour face, graphically expressing am object, or emphasizing black outlines is also part of presenting the subjects with distance from reality. Also, It is all my fundamental investigation about the language of painting.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
When I was in Korea, I used the studio alone, but now I am using RCA Painting studio with other artists. It is an exciting opportunity to share the studio with a variety of people from other countries. I try to live like an office worker. It is to prevent me starting the day late and ending the day at dawn. My old tutor advised me to go to studio 9am and leave at 6pm. I cannot keep well, but I deeply understand the reason for his advice if considering the artists usually work late. Anyway, I usually go to studio at 10am and mainly work until late at night. Because my work takes a long time, I have a little obsession with the time I spent in the studio.
I really like having a cup of coffee as soon as I get to the studio in the morning. I like a silent morning with coffee. As soon as I have a sip of coffee, I take a brush and start to paint. In the afternoon, when I work, I usually play news, drama, and a show in Korean. In fact, I do not listen to more than half of the contents, but I seem to feel a sense of stability in listening to my native language. It differs from that I listened to music when I was working in Korea. While one painting is going on, I usually put the work just finished before it on the side. It can sometimes interfere with having the new process, but I have often come up with fresh idea in the conversation between two consecutive paintings. Every day before I leave my studio I take a photo of my work in progress. It has the purpose of documenting, but usually has more reasons to review today’s process and plan the next day’s work, seeing photo in bed before bedtime.
How do you go about naming your work?
When I listen to music, read a book, watch a movie, or even see other media, I make a note of attractive word and phrases. I write down a number of attractive adjectives first, then combine it with the other noun later. Some of them are used as titles if that are well connected with my painting. Most of my paintings with names have got the title in this way. However, overall I find it very difficult to find a great title that work well with my painting, and because I am not good at word and letter, most of my work starts at untitled. Starting with “Untitled” means that it is open until I find a good title.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I have been seeing the Laura Owen’s painting. I was fascinated by her work at her solo exhibition in Sadie Coles. She runs a diverse range of areas from abstraction to figuration and I am impressed by her sensitive awareness of form, colour and line. Also, l learn a lot from her exploring the language that questions nature of painting through joyful experimentations.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I am going to have degree show in a few months. I will spend most of my time preparing for the show. It is not about planning something special for the show, but I just want to make a more satisfying painting before it. Also, I have been thinking about making ceramic objects.
All images courtesy of the artist
Interview publish date: 15/02/2018