“Ghost Stories,” my first solo exhibition at Gallery IMA, explores a number of themes centered around cross-cultural identity, family history, memories and loss. In the exhibition, five bodies of work explore these themes through motifs derived from nature such as clouds, mountains and flowers. These motifs have been widely used in Korean art and design. I have adopted them as symbols that translate into personal narratives. The notion of “ghost” in the exhibition title refers to some entity that has been lost or transformed. These entities range from cultural origins, family members, and even one’s sense of identity. Since my father’s passing two years ago, I have been more reflective on family history, cultural identity and existential questions. As in most people’s lives, these ghosts have a stronger presence the older I get. While my approach to the work exhibits a variety of interpretations, I still use the vessel as the common denominator that references “self” and a point of origin. As a second-generation Korean-American, I have had longstanding questions about the notion of “belonging” in relation to cultural identity. The representation of traditional Korean pottery forms serve as a historical and cultural foundation, the ghosts from which the different stories are told.
Cloud series The cloud motif has been a recurring symbol in my work, originating from its centuries-old presence in Asian Art. While clouds are an auspicious symbol representing immortality and longevity, I have adopted them as a metaphor for my own floating sense of identity between Korean and American cultures. The clouds are painted onto traditional Korean pottery forms with graphic, stylized lines referencing both traditional and contemporary iterations of the design. There is a reverence for the past with a desire to move into the future.
Revival Cloudscape 13”H x 24”W x 9”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: blac /orange china paint
Reviewal Cloud Pear Bottle 16.5”H x 9”W x 9”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black/blue china paint
Cloud Moon Jar 17.5”H x 15.5”W x 17.5”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint
Cloud Flask 18”H x 17”W x 8.5”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black/orange china paint
Cloud Bowl [Red/Orange/Yellow] 4.5”H x 18”W x 10.5”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint with red/orange/yellow suns
Cloud Flask [Green] 10.5”H x 10.5”W x 7”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black/apple green china paint
Revival Clou 18”H x 10 Porce Color: black/g
ud Gourd Bottle 0.5”W x 8”D elain, 2019 green china paint
Flared Cloud Bottle 14”H x 6”W x 6”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black/green china paint
JinSaeng’s Janggun series These pots were inspired by my late grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. from Busan, South Korea in the early 80’s. My grandfather was an avid fisherman and calligrapher. When I committed to being an art major in college, I traded him a teapot for one of his calligraphic scrolls. The scroll was a poem he rewrote by Chinese poet, Zhang Ji written during the T’ang Dynasty. While I could not understand the text, I admired his deft brush skills in writing these Chinese characters. My grandfather was also a big fan of Schmidt beer made by a local Minnesota-based brewery. I’ve used the form of the traditional, Korean Janggun bottle which was used for storing alcohol, and transposed his calligraphy of this poem onto these forms. These pieces are a tribute to my grandfather’s assimilation to American life.
Jin Saeng’s Fish Janggun 7.5”H x 9”W x 6” d Stoneware, 2019 Color: white china paint
Jin Saeng’s Scroll Janggun 8.5”D x 24”W x 6.5”D Stoneware, 2019 Color: white slip, sgraffito, red china paint
Under Water Seance by Kathleen Skeels ceramic 27 by 22 by 7 in.
Jin Saeng’s Scroll Bottle 12”H x 6.5”W x 6.5”D Stoneware, 2019 Color: white slip, sgraffito, red
Bubble Cloud series This series is another exploration of the cloud motif that originated from my experience in Jingdezhen, China in 2018. The “bubble” forms evolved from realizing the limitations of my art practice based on my geographic, cultural and physical space. The work I made in China had to be redefined because of limitations of process and materials. These limitations ironically brought about a freedom to express the cloud shapes more abstractly. I became enamored with these bulbous cloud interpretations, as if one was viewing them with blurred vision. My work transformed with new parameters in the same way one’s perception of self can transform with a new environment.
Bubble Cloud Pear Bottle [Large] 18”H x 14”W x 11”D Porcelain, 2019
Bubble Cloud Moon Jar 14.5”H x 17”W x 16”D Porcelain, 2019
Flared Bubble Cloud Vase 13.5”H x 11”W x 10”D Porcelain, 2019
Bubble Cloud Gourd Bottle 14.5”H x 8.5”W x 5.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Bubble Cloud Pear Bottle [Medium] 13.5”H x 10”W x 9.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Yin and Yang Moon Jar The Yin and Yang motif characterizes duality or complementary forces, which originated in ancient Chinese philosophy. I initially thought of it within the cloud design as another way of perceiving the dualistic nature of living cross-culturally, but I am interested in its broader significance in all aspects of life. In addition, the Chinese phonetic characters within Yin are ideographically combined to denote the “presence of clouds” whereas Yang denotes “rising sun or sunshine.”
Yin and Yang Cloud Moon Jar 16.5”H x 15”W x 13.5”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint
Spinach Cloud Pot This pot was inspired by a collaboration with a Native American friend and ceramic artist from the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. I incorporated his wild spinach plant motif into my work. The plant, called Kwaa Povi, is gathered, boiled and aged to extract the black pigment used for painting pottery. The process to make this pigment requires significant time and labor to transform it into its final, usable state. This idea of transformation resonated with the narrative of my cloud series and I floated them among the clouds.
Wild Spinach Cloud Flask 17”H x 16”W x 9”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint / Wild Spinach motif
Rock Pot – “The Void” installation This installation of mountain pieces is a reflection on the difficulty of grasping the notion of loss. Since my father’s passing two years ago, I still grapple with the reality of his physical absence but the emergence of a growing spiritual presence. This grouping of work is titled “The Void” named after my father’s MFA thesis show in 1971, which focused on the Buddhist concept of The Void. Presence and absence balance each other out and give meaning to each other. Rock Pot series This series of work was inspired by the representation of mountains as a reference to their seemingly endless life-span. Mountains have always carried a spiritual connotation for me, and can be both beautiful and terrifying. Their scale and existence over millions of years also puts my own mortality in perspective. The Korean forms provide a cultural context for this work in relation to ideas of self. I also love the relationship of earthen materials with pottery and mountain rock formations. Rock Moon Jar 18.5”H x 26”W x 11.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Flared Rock Vase 22.5”H x 12.5”W x 12.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Rock Bottle Couple 17”H x 18”W x 8”D Porcelain, 2019
Rock Meabyong [Large] 18.5”H x 18”W x 9.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Rock Meabyong [Medium] 15”H x 10”W x 8”D Porcelain, 2019
Crackled Rock Janggun 12”H x 14”W x 9.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Crackle Flared Rock Vase 14”H x 12”W x 12”D Porcelain, 2019
Crackle Rock Moon Jar 16”H x 12”W x 12”D Porcelain, 2019
Crackle Hanayama Bottle (Flowering Mountain) 13.5”H x 7.5”W x 7.5”D Porcelain, 2019
Flowering Pots The pots with the lustered flowers were intended to be more decorative and were inspired by various floral motifs: Peonies (Korean rose), Lotus and Crysanthemums. I was attracted to their placement amongst the clouds to appear as if they were floating in space. The Flowering Cloud Couple is an homage to my parents’ first date where my father brought my mother chrysanthemums. My mother later shared that she was not impressed with his choice of flowers, but regardless, the rest was history.
Flowering Cloud Couple 21”H x 22”W x 11”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint, platinum luster flowers / chrysanthemum
Flowering Cloud Bowl 4.5”H x 18”W x 10.5”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint, platinum luster flowers
Flowering Cloud Flask 12”H x 12.5”W x 6”D Porcelain, 2019 Color: black china paint, platinum luster flowers / wild chrysanthemum
Stoneware series The raw, dark brown stoneware pieces represent a more turbulent representation of the cloud series. I was seeking a counterpoint to the clean, white porcelain pieces. The brushed white slip was inspired by Buncheong pottery from the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. Also, after a recent visit to Jeolla Province in the southwestern region of Korea, I admired the deep color of the unglazed, black earthenware pots that were prevalent in that area.
Storm Pear Bottle [Small] 11.5” x 8” x 7” Stoneware, 2019 Color: white slip, sgraffito
Storm Flask 2 9” x 9” x 6” Stoneware, 2019 Color: white slip, sgraffito
Storm Bowl 5”H x 18.5”W x 9”D Stoneware, 2019 Color: white slip, sgraffito
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