My artistic pursuits suppressed throughout my young adulthood were reignited as a recovery from domestic violence and depression connected to the patriarchal environment where I was raised in Korea. By working with abstraction through large scale oil paintings, Korean silk textiles, and prints/collages, I investigate an inherited traditional culture that subconsciously manipulates and subverts socio-sexual identities.
In this application, I present large scale oil paintings, a series of Korean silk textiles, and monoprint-collages that unfold a coded narrative of subverted female sexuality.
In my paintings, heavily abstracted bodily forms and a palette that mimics the colors of viscera or surface wounds of the body create an atmosphere of tension between the physical body and everyday violence around it. As a result, although the entire image is rooted in abstraction, hints of fingers, breasts, genitals, wounds, and acts of vomiting or penetration create narratives of unsafe bodily experiences.
Each painting holds its own subtext of unjustified guilt, and self-doubt pertaining to female sexuality. This narrative probes ideas of objecthood of the female individual taking in its stride inner confidence to destroy this false nature and leap into the unknown.
Kisaeng is inspired by a photo of Korean courtesan from the 1920s. Kisaeng has existed in different forms since the Koryo dynasty (918-1392) until modern times. They were women from outcast or slave families trained to be courtesans, providing sexual services, entertainment, and conversation to men of the upper class.
Mimicry(moths) is an interpretation of the internal space — mysterious and unknowable — of a female body which is perpetually surrounded by microaggression. Borrowing the idea of one of the defense mechanisms of moths: mimicry; the painting mimics the trick of “to hide and to be extra visible” at the same time.
Slower Time started with a simple idea of “touch”. The body that is being transgressed/pushed that is now pushing back: Frivolity to you is a threat to the other. The body is patched, distressed, by contact, or lack of contact. Yet the body is opening up. It’s moving and spread open. The time is slow.
For the Korean silk textile works, I collect a variety of materials that are related to women’s clothing, such as traditional Korean silk, undergarments, shoulder pads, bra straps, inserts, and so on. Where they came from, these raw materials are seen as debris, worn-out, and limited in value. Relying on intuitive construction, I purpose the textiles to reveal their material fragility and vulnerability. The Intricate, time-consuming sewing process emphasizes the intimacy of the source materials. I reframe them as artifacts of a different culture and time – one of individuality and even hope. Through its deliberately constructed fragility, each textile piece hints at the competing imperatives of ambiguity: fear and trust.
As an added layer to my practice, I then use the textiles and the shapes that unwittingly occur in my paintings, take them apart, and re-envision them in printmaking and collage. Rearranging and reintroducing those elements in another visual format provides an opportunity for me to face the unpredictable dynamic of space-depth and to discover new ways to create subtle power relations between forms and colors.
For many years, I suppressed my creative abilities in a culture where the feminine is subjugated to the masculine and the “role” of the woman is to be servile. Since I moved to the United States 6 years ago, I have created work that explores the universality of gendered ideologies across cultures, focusing on the racialized dimensions of the immigrant-female experience and how societal projections are embedded in our body, mind, and identities.
It has led to this present juncture where I am empowered to express my vulnerability with strength, rejection with acceptance, and to reveal what has been hidden.