We stopped by Jung Eun Park’s apartment/studio in Clinton Hill, which is filled with red accents in an otherwise simply-appointed home: red table legs, red chair, red art materials. Her artwork is similarly stark yet emotive: graphite drawings accented with red embroidery on thick Korean paper that she subtly dyes with coffee or tea.
Her work revolves around her distanced relationship and communication with her mother and grandmother, who live in South Korea. A red yarn ball becomes a home; a tiny house has feet, a doll-size drawing of a skirt is covered with scalloped red embroidery. Jung Eun’s work combines drawing, language, symbolism and handiwork into powerful yet simple tales.
NNNY: Describe your studio practice.
Jung Eun: It’s been seven years that I’ve used paper and thread in my work. My grandmother has this special box for embroidery, like many grandmothers have. It was very special for me – I am an only child, so I spent a lot of time with her making things and fixing clothes together, so thread, fabric and paper were very meaningful to me, When I started making art, these materials came naturally to me, technically and conceptually.
There was a time I couldn’t work at all, when I was preparing my visa after graduation, I couldn’t focus on my work, and I was so depressed at the time. So I felt I should do something else. I started embroidering and studying crocheting. I’m not trying to find special objects; they just came to me naturally. Like the form of the house, and also the ball of red yarn. I went to a store and saw this red yarn ball, it just looked so quiet, it looked like it had the possibility to be something or do something more, and I started drawing it. Now I’m starting to work sculpturally, crocheting with a bigger structure.
The paper I use is Korean. Originally it’s white, then I dye it with coffee or tea to make it slightly colored. The paper is made from mulberry trees. It’s used for everything, like doors, it’s so strong. I didn’t mean to make it stained, it happened accidentally, I dropped some water on it, and I liked what happened. Then I combine my drawing with the stain.
There’s little situations and fairy tales that come out of the drawings, like in the series “Missing Home” – the character of the house is going home, and home meets the red yarn ball, it looks so cozy and warm, so she decides to stay there for a while. And then she got too comfortable, they have a fight, when you are so close the relationship has problems, so the house is in the middle of the red yarn balls, I call that one “No more pushing please”.
I like playing with sentences and combining writing with my drawings. Sometimes the image comes first and sometimes the writing comes first. I don’t know why, but sometimes English is easier for this kind of writing. I mean, I can’t write serious or sophisticated things very easily in English, but for simple thoughts, it an easier way to communicate.
In my early work I often drew blood. I came feet-first when I was born, so my mother almost died. So I use red meaning blood, implying a dangerous moment. Red means caution, it’s a universal meaning regardless of language. So it works on many levels for my art.
NNNY: What was the evolution of you becoming an artist?
Jung Eun: I don’t remember when I started drawing; it’s always been something I do. When I was a child, I was interested in many things, like playing piano, writing, reading, because I was often alone as an only child. I went to a private high school to study art and piano, I thought I might be a mathematics teacher. But I ended up going to art school because it was what I could do best.
My mother was very artistic too; she’s not an artist, but she helped me and encouraged me with art when I was a child. My mother and grandmother are very inspiring to me. Now my mother is a working woman, she works in an office, but when I was young she did a lot of creative activities with me. She is so good as a companion. We don’t talk on the phone a lot, we’re both not very talkative, so I felt very disconnected when I was first away from my family. I started writing letters to my mother using embroidery, and showing the backside of the piece so you can’t read it.
NNNY: What successes and difficulties have you had as a foreign–born artist in New York?
Jung Eun: Being able to stay in the USA was really difficult. For one year after school I had a temporary visa, which ran out - so I decided to apply for an artist’s visa, which is good for three years. They only give this visa to “extraordinary artists”, so I had to prove why I was extraordinary. It was kind of funny having to explain why I am great, why my work is great. So for a year I had to make a lot of work and show as much as possible. I used to work in a very big scale, but I had to make small, experimental art since I had to produce a lot of work in a short time. That was hard, to change my scale and my work. Now I’m satisfied with the small drawings, but at the time I felt bad about not doing what I wanted to do. Plus I had to prove I was a really successful artist, it was emotionally very hard.
Now I’m going back to working in a large scale, I’m embroidering on fabric. I usually plan what I’m going to do in my drawing, but this time, I didn’t plan it out.
NNNY: How has moving to the United States influenced your art?
Jung Eun: Being away from my family gave me a lot of emotional material to work with. One day I was thinking, if I go back to Korea, what would I work on? Because this relationship thing, communication thing, I really felt it strongly because my mother and grandmother are so far.
An artist who really influenced me was one of my professors at Pratt, Cyrlilla Mozenter. She was my model as a women, as an artist, as a teacher. When I was in school, she said, if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. If you want to do it, do it. I wanted to draw something that was outside of my style, and she encouraged me to experiment. She’s always very pure about art. She speaks and works very slowly, methodically; she has a tempo. She doesn’t rush. I’m a very slow person too, so she was perfect for me, I was very lucky to have her.
NNNY: What are your upcoming shows, projects, etc?
Jung Eun: Right now I am in "From the tongue" (June 24 - August 6, 2010, Lotus gallery Space 34 North Moore St, Tribeca NY),
Another show that I’m in is "Irrelevant,” a show of Asian artists who do not make art about being Asian (July 1 - August 6, 2010, Arario Gallery New York, 521 West 25th Street, New York NY)
An upcoming show is “Little World” – its work about little words, all artists from the Vermont Studio Center; the show will be in Williamsburg.
For more information on Jung Eun Park please visit her website:
|© 2010 Non-Native New York