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Artist Statement on Artistbooks
I have been producing handmade books since 1991. Many people have asked me how and why I started to make artist books. One of the reasons is a memory from my childhood. I had watched that my father, who was a music composer, always wrote music scores and bound them. At that time, there was no copy machine in Korea so my father had to write each score for each instrument. I often helped him to bind the scores and sometimes I made my own notebooks. Another reason is that there have been many different forms of books produced in Ancient Asia: sliced bamboo connected together, bound paper, scroll, and prayer wheel in Buddhism and so forth. I grew up under Asian tradition and these diverse book formats in Asia created a foundation for my making art books.
The subject of the books is mostly related to the world that is not visible or tangible but it’s existence is believed by people: the world between the living and the dead. For this reason, my works contain the images from the surreal, dreams, imagination, and religions, especially Buddhism.
The process of making artist book is involved with repetition of the same movement. Similar to Buddhist monks who meditate upon Emptiness, sitting on the same spot and facing the wall for days, months, or years, I repeat the same movement, mostly sewing, for hours and hours in order to complete my books. While doing so, my mind becomes Empty, losing track of time, and eventually, the repetition of the same movement is transfigured as one of the methods for meditation.
While having been making artist books for about 20 years, the forms of my handmade books have been changed. The earliest books showed more traditional book-format that we are familiar with: many pages bound together. Each page is two-dimensional and mostly contains drawn and painted images. Later the forms of the books have been developed from two-dimensional, relief, to three-dimensional types: box shaped books, wrapped sculpture forms using diverse materials, such as paper, wood panel, fabric, and all mixed media. The recent works look more like installation: expended wall-size book. So far, I have produced 50 artist books. Each takes 2-6 months to complete. My books are labor-intensive.
The fascinating effect of book art is that the book-format works do not reveal everything at once. Once the viewer gets closer to the works, and reaches out his/her hands to turn the pages, he/she will experience the intimate stories they contain. This is the way people understand the world. Everything seems ambiguous in the beginning, but the whole picture eventually becomes clear through its progression. It is my way to reach out to the world and to communicate with people though my works of art.
Artist Statement on Drawings
From “NEW DRAWING NEW JERSEY”, DRAWINGROOMS’ catalog, 2016
DRAWING ROOMS INTERVIEW
Please tell me about your work.
My work is inspired by Buddhism and the images in my dreams.
I had the opportunity of studying Tibetan Mandala paintings and I was fascinated by the patterns and symbols found in them. In my drawings, the concept of Karma plays an important role. It appears as the line that constantly meets and separates throughout the entire picture plane. That line represents the path of my life. I move to meet people, to stay, and at some point, to separate from them in many different ways. Often I try to combine this idea with the images in my dreams, my dream images. The most frequently appeared dream image is “Star in the sky.” I have loved stars in the sky since my childhood and had fun with memorizing their names at that time. Very often I dreamed that suddenly stars would come out and dance, like a festival and people would watch them dancing. In my work, my dream images are combined with the images found in the Buddhist Mandala.
What got you interested in drawing?
Drawing is a fundamental form of all other visual arts. I always do drawings before making artist books, sculptures, and paintings.
What is your intention in making these drawings?
I always question the border line between drawing and painting. What it is it? Asians produce Asian paintings using ink with brush and we call them paintings. But in western common sense, when we see pen and ink as a medium, we easily consider it a drawing. My artwork stands between that border line, between drawing and painting. I believe that the artwork itself stands prior to the definition of it.
Where does your exploration with drawing take you?
I don’t think much about that. I keep making art using different images that appear one after the other in my mind. I usually don’t know where I am going and what type of artwork it is going to be when I am through with a piece. It’s like following my Karma. I am guided by my Karma now and I see that these works are heavily influenced by my previous Karma.
How is what you are drawing unique?
As I mentioned earlier, my drawing stands close to the border line between painting and drawing. I wet the paper with water, pour black ink, and let it dry. I add a little bit of intention to create certain shapes on the paper but the result is never same as I intended. Then I start from the shape created by the natural force. I consider it as my Karma. I never wanted to be born as a woman and a Korean. It has been a restriction that I have had to deal with throughout my life. The pen drawing on top is my choice. I control and create anything on top of it. This process is related to my understanding of life. Now I am still a woman but I am a Korean-American.
Do you set up constraints or rules to follow? If so, do you stick to your rules or break them? Why or why not?
I do not set any rules intentionally when I produce art work. But certain processes and orders are always involved in my creating art. The processes are always important especially when I make three-dimensional art work, for example: first make small sections, make a cover, carve, paint, assemble together, paint or draw on the cover, etc. This similar process is found when I make two-dimensional artwork: cover or create background, draw shapes using lines, and add color using markers, etc. I don’t set a rule intentionally but certainly order becomes a part of creating artwork and it’s different in each case.