Friday, July 11, 2014

One Artist, Five Questions: Sun Young Kang

Engage with new and returning artists before visiting the Cathedral Square venue to see their amazing array of work. Learn about the artists' personal stories and creative ambitions through five enticing art-related questions.

This week: Sun Young Kang.

New Cathedral Square artist Sun Young makes book and installation arts using paper to create physical and conceptual space. Kang has incorporated traditional Korean door designs into her 2014 entry, “Memories Unfolded”. The Korean rice paper door does not isolate inside from out, but rather creates a concept of two sides that are connected. Kang’s entry resembles an accordion-style hand-cut book, which illustrates the memories and connections shared with those who are on the “opposite side”.

Sun Young Kang, Memories Unfolded, 2012, book arts, 2.5 x 20 x 3.25 inches

What is your background?
I started to be trained in the traditional Korean Painting since I was 12 years old. I received BFA in Korean Painting from Ewha Womans University in Korea. After briefly working as an illustrator for children’s book, I moved to the U.S. where I studied Book Arts and received MFA in Book Arts/ Printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.
What themes do you pursue?
I see our world is composed of two antithetical ideas: presence and absence, life and death. These ideas can be understood in the Buddhist philosophy of “Emptiness”—every existence, every single moment that has ever existed, can only be conceived as between the past and the future. The abstract nature of this concept is often difficult to grasp, but my work is an attempt to secularize this fundamental idea. I use an ironical working process, which is visualizing non-visuals to approach this concept: the continual parallels of presence and absence, the inseparability of life and death to question the boundaries of all antithetical ideas in life.
What is your preferred medium and why?
Paper and the effect of light and shadow are my most preferred mediums. Light and shadow and the delicacy yet strength of thin paper are metaphors for the inseparability of life and death. They are also installation devices creating two conceptual spaces in a gallery or in a book structure. In installations the translucency of paper can also function metaphorically to suggest one’s ability to glimpse at what is on the other side or what is beyond presence.
What style/genre do you most identify with and why?
I would say Book Arts and Paper Installation. As I started making books, I was so attracted to the physical and conceptual space of a book. While physically a page of a book is a 2 dimensional space of paper, its contents can be structured into 3 dimensional spaces.  The space that a book contains never gets limited by its physical size. Holding a tiny book can mean holding the whole world.
I also love the idea of a book as an art.  This intimate art form can be touched and held by people and gives unique experiences to viewers. Books can multiply with more editions which allow even more people to share the work. Most of all, since people are already so familiar with books, they can be an art form for anyone to enjoy.
Paper installation is an extension of my practice of making books. Most of my installation pieces were inspired by the idea of the book and its structure. I like to create a physical or metaphorical space within an actual space of the gallery that people can be part of and participate in. Like how a book invites a reader into its story, I enjoy creating a space as a more active way of bringing viewers into my work.
What memorable responses have you received for your work?
Being an artist especially outside of my own culture is a privilege because art is the best way to connect to and communicate with people who are total strangers.  The most memorable response that I have had was someone’s tears. My work evoked her own memories and this person who I had never met before started talking about her experiences and how they related to my experiences. I have had quite a few people open up themselves while they were viewing my work, and these experiences have made me realize that despite differences in culture or professional backgrounds, we still hold a very deep and fundamental origin that is connected to everyone else.

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