Ceramics artist shares insight into her craft

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 8:59 AM
Ceramics artist shares insight into her craft  by Nathan Brennan
Photo: Nathan Brennan

“Vulnerability and imperfection.”

For some, these can be difficult subjects, but for this semester’s visiting artist, Gunyoung Kim, they are sources of inspiration.

Selected by the university’s Visiting Artist Committee (VAC), ceramics artist Kim is the newest creative mind in The Visiting Artists and Speakers Series. Kim considers the opportunity an honor — “I’m so happy to be here,” she said. 

While here, she will help to, according to Edinboro’s website, “Critically analyze visual images, develop awareness of artistic assumptions, experience collaborative, interdisciplinary and community-based work, develop an awareness of the local, regional, national and international art/design world, and attain insight regarding the personal discipline required of successful, productive artists, designers, educators and art historians.” 

Kim, originally from South Korea, began her path to artistry after high school when she volunteered to help disabled children for seven years. In order to help them, she had to look carefully to discern their emotions, but described them as “hard to read.” As a result, she developed a critical eye for the most minute details in facial expressions and movement. “The human figure has [always] been fascinating to me,” she explained.

Other than the children she worked with, Kim has also found inspiration from her favorite artists. They include Sergei Isupov, a Russian ceramics artist who she admired for his mastery with “human and animal elements”; Joe Sorren, an American painter she commended for his “dreamlike” use of figures and gestures; and Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter she enjoys for the details he incorporates into his religious depictions.

Not only that, another subject that affected Kim profoundly was the politics of her home country, particularly the tension between North and South Korea. “My physical distance from [South Korea] is pretty far, but my emotional distance is very close,” she said. She added that her home is special to her because all her friends and family still reside there, making her departure to America a great deal more emotional.

However, despite her qualms, she also sought to experience a new culture, which led to her decision to study abroad in America. Her journey took her all the way to Columbus, Ohio to earn her master’s degree from Ohio State University. It was at this time that she took a break from ceramics in order to become more acclimated to American life by taking English language classes.

Learning English can be no easy task. Kim found this to be the case, equating the experience to the children she helped back in South Korea and how helpless they felt. In this vulnerability, she dealt with complicated questions about her own imperfections and complicated emotions; this motivated her to incorporate these feelings into her work. “I’m interested in looking at the side of humanity that’s subtle,” she said. 

In her work from then on, she set up her own galleries in a surreal manner in order to encourage this same line of thought from the viewer. “My work is not fully realistic, because it’s a form of expression with inspiration from my personal life,” she explained, adding that, overall, she sought to examine the complexities of human, intimate relationships. 

She continued to do just that as an artist-in-residence at the Lawrence Arts Center, located in Lawrence, Kansas, where she continued to host exhibitions of her work in a surrealistic atmosphere. This carried over to her next destination, which was the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. While there, she began to observe the natural surroundings, such as animals, and opted to include animals in some of her future works. 

Whether her works include animals or not, Kim has always wanted to capture the subtlety of relationships, and she aims to make the viewer feel it, too. To do this, she stressed that viewers take their time examining and considering her works, instead of just taking a brief look and then moving on to the next piece. 

“I want to make people think about it,” she said.

Future Visiting Artist and Speaker events are free and open to the public.

Nathan Brennan | ae.spectator@gmail.com

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