Two contexts have invariably existed in almost all of my works despite the recent radical change of appearance of my works from traditional wood sculpture to new 3D printing technology. The one is a continuous study of the inside of a being and the other is a keen interest in relationship; both of the elements, disclosing the inside of beings and unexpected coupling different beings, have been constantly permeating into my works consciously or unconsciously.
The beginning of both of languages dominating my career was my over 5 years’ experience under artisans of Korean traditional Buddhism wood sculpture in my early career. The motive of my decision to train under them was simple; I could not have forgotten the feeling of touch when cutting wood with knives for the first time.
While learning how to handle wood with going along the natural flows of annual rings, I realized my own perspectives towards the world; one individual being is a microcosm itself which is entangled with others. Then, it naturally led me to two themes in my works; the essence lies hidden under the skin and all of beings are connected with others. The former is related with Dhyāna, which means literally ‘inward eyes’ or meditation to penetrate into the inward nature without delusion by outward appearance and the latter means that Pratītyasamutpād, all things arise in dependence upon other things; to put it another way, one being should exist only in the relationship with presences of others.
These new perspectives towards the world and works have naturally pervaded into my language in the works: First, my works have in common to disclose inside or inner structure of beings. In my early works, inner parts of wood like organic flows of irregular annual rings and patterns, natural discoloration, some knots and so on are disclosed as they are. That is because they are deep stories themselves of trees which had grown for a long time with corresponding to subtle changes of surrounding circumstances. Thus, they are kinds of activities to excavate forgotten traces of the growth stories of trees buried under a thick bark. Also in recent works, despite change of the main material, the spotlight shines on inner structures of objects rather than outer appearance. Myriad cracks of solid forms reveal a blurry inner shape locked inside of which a clear image do not show its entire picture at a glance.
In addition, the relationship between different beings is also another core theme in my works. Not only intricate stories hidden in wood but also my experience from childhood play that coincidence emerged from match one thing with others has often led me to an unexpected level of understanding its presence guided me to pay attention to relationship among different beings. In my woodwork, I have steadily being hunted traces of relationship between a tree and its surrounding environment by digging into inside of wood; however, after encountering 3D printing technology, entirely a different approach, fabricating distinctive figures from inside of some objects, is being attempted. As a result, in my recent works, two things cohabit in the same space and at the same time and it creates ambiguous objects that have completely different things, clear outer solid and vague figures, in one body.
All of my career I have faced two turning points; one is when I carved wood by knives for the first time and the other is when I began to live and work in New York City. Multilayered stories hidden in every wood and a monstrous diversity in NYC have inspired me to pay attention to others’ own various stories.
In my early career, I had been fascinated in woodwork; I realized that whenever digging into every piece of wood, infinite stories of irregular annual rings, unexpected knots, etc. in which a tree had corresponded to all of subtle changes of surrounding circumstances were endlessly unfolding. After MFA, I decided to train under artisans of Korean traditional Buddhism woodwork in order to learn how to handle raw wood materials while its own stories unharmed. The five years’ experiences had affected me a lot in points of both techniques and attitudes towards artworks.
After then, my life of NYC since 2013 has become another watershed; my world has begun to revolve in a new direction. Above all, a enormous diversity and a rapid change in NYC that I have never experienced stimulate me constantly to quest a new prospect for my works; especially my experience as an alien or one of minority has changed my perspective towards others a lot. Moreover, the 3D printing technology that I happened to encounter in NYC has broken a new ground for my artworks; it has allowed me to fabricate images in my head directly into a real form.