April is the time for college students to get used to their busy and regular life, away from the relaxed and carefree time of vacation. In life, students may be harmed either physically or mentally, and they may have already been hurt. It does not matter whether it is by a big incident or a trivial emotional clash.
Everyone feels solitude and loneliness. When alone in the darkness, most people have felt riddling desolation, which was hidden in the daylight, when people meet someone and have a conversation. There is an artist who talks about these kinds of unknown feelings not easily recognized by people. She likes to draw in the dark, when she can open up and pay attention to her personal feelings, and eventually put them down on paper. The Argus met the artist Yang Yoo-yun, who draws paintings that can be seen with the heart.
The Argus: Please introduce yourself.
Yang Yoo-yun (Yang): Hello, I am Yang Yoo-yun, who paint paintings. I majored in Oriental Painting at Sungshin Women’s University and took graduate courses at the same college. Starting from “Scar” in 2010, I held several solo exhibitions including “Desolation” at OCI Museum of Art in 2014, and “Distrust and Overtrust” at Gallery Lux in 2016. I have also participated in numerous group exhibitions. Although I studied oriental painting, it is difficult to clearly distinguish my paintings’ genre because it has mixed features of both the Orient and the Occident.
The Argus: What made you dream of being an artist?
Yang: Painting came to me naturally. I had been exposed to paintings by attending an art institute after school since I was a kindergartner. I never thought of doing anything else but painting because it was the only thing I kept doing from childhood. It was fun to draw pictures, and I assumed that I had some special gift for the arts. I was so lost in my own world of painting that I believed I was meant to do art. I do not think I could do anything other than art and make it a profession.
The Argus: Are there any particular reasons for your studying oriental painting?
Yang: When I drew pictures at arts high school, although I used the same water colors as my friends, only my paintings were murky as if I had used Indian ink. They always said to me jokingly, that I had no choice but to draw oriental paintings.
Then one day, I was not satisfied with the results with the supplies commonly used for western painting. So I tried various materials and found Jangji, which is a paper made by multiple layers of mulberry skins. I could really paint well on Jangji, as if it was tailor-made for me. I started to feel the charm of oriental painting by falling in love with the unique texture of Jangji. As time went by, I came to sympathize more with the sentiments expressed in oriental paintings.
The Argus: Are there any people or experiences that have influenced your style of painting?
Yang: The atmosphere of my works was formed as I passed through my childhood. I think I felt pressure and frustrations coming from human relationships earlier than my ordinary peers. When I was ten, I moved to a totally different city, and that was the first time I was exposed to whole new characters. It was hard for a little girl to build up new bonds in an unfamiliar place. Going through depressed phases rather than joyful events during puberty, my style of painting naturally became a bit gloomy and dark. I take my inner stories out on the paper and they spontaneously form the tone. However, it is not that I have suffered a seriously bad thing. Everyone must have some memories of childhood that make their heart ache. I seem to have reacted a little more sensitively than others.
The Argus: Which one of your artworks is dearest to you?
Yang: I cannot choose one favorite painting because the works I feel affection for change every year. One of my most recent favored pictures is “Glass fragments.” It is a painting with broken glass pieces on the floor. Honestly, when I look at it, there is no big charm. However, when the light is shown on the painting, I love the energy that spouts out from it.
Moreover, it is a work drawn with a new vision in mind and by a method that I had never tried before. I felt that objects and materials I habitually dealt with were no longer fun. Then one day, I heard others saying, “Your art is always consistent.” Since then, I started to look for fresh materials and this work is the turning point.
“Mark” and “Ad Balloon” are meaningful to me. Both works took a very long time to finish. These paintings brought me the biggest stress and burden while working on them. However, as much as I suffered, the texture, composition, and color of the works are satisfactory. Since I began to deal with social issues in my work, I started to feel more oppressed than before, when I mainly shared my personal experience. Fear of how people would react to my paintings overwhelmed me, but it made these works more meaningful to me.
The Argus: What are specific keywords that encompass your whole paintings?
Yang: For several years, I have been thinking about keywords for my works. The word “alienation” came to mind. In fact, I did not feel that all of my paintings were covered by the word. I could explain my pictures with words like emptiness, loneliness, and depression that are derived from “alienation,” but the word itself could not be my basic keyword.
Therefore, I sought a new word, and “uncertainty” occurred to me. My work always has an unclear image and deals with ambiguous objects using vague colors. I decided to put a negative modifier, such as “un” and “in” with words to come up with my keyword. Words like “incompleteness” and “instability” are representatives of me.
The Argus: Where do you usually get or find the material for your works?
Yang: In the beginning, I focused on getting personal ideas. There were so many stories I want to talk about on paper. So I painted like keeping a diary. I took memories out of my head and made a picture.
However, my style has changed. My point of view has expanded. I became more interested in other things around me, not myself. Various events happen in the world; what people see and hear seems to affect every individual’s life greatly. I thought it would be more worthwhile to draw paintings about surrounding environments, going further than just telling my personal stories.
The Argus: What do you think of these days, when you look around?
Yang: It seems that simplicity has largely vanished. When I attended arts high school, I just had to draw pictures, but there are too many other things for students to consider these days. When I look at human relationships, it is very different from the old days. There is a clear difference between talking to someone face to face and communicating through the digital screen. Getting accustomed to such tendencies can be a scar on our society. When I was a child, I simply thought that ‘People are just falling into individualism, and these are just the harmful effects of the Internet.’ The absence of direct conversation in society is on another level. Now it seems that people are just reluctant to have a word with each other.
The Argus: How do you relieve stress caused by the difficulties of living as an artist?
Yang: All the worries and anxieties arise because I draw for a living. Ironically, I get rid of my stress by painting. Although there is pressure from the beginning to the end of a single work, I like the sense of accomplishment. In addition to paintings, writing and talking with friends can relieve my stress. I need some sort of channel for venting my emotions to be free of strain. Moving the body also helps me. I enjoy playing badminton and table tennis, sports that I play with someone else.
The Argus: Please tell us about your plans for the future.
Yang: For the past year, I mainly painted pictures that matched the characteristics of each exhibition. This year, I will set up my own motto and intensively work on it. My goal is to draw the most “alien” image. It is actually very hard to find images that are unfamiliar and that people have never seen before because painting is the oldest medium in the field of arts. However, I believe I will be able to find room for novelty if I look everywhere, among the familiar images. I plan to find new stories and views never told or seen before. Sceneries and pictures that people have not focused on in the past could be my materials for the new work.
The Argus: Could you send out a last few words for our readers?
Yang: College students are given a decent environment where they can do whatever they want, I think. Once you think that you should do something just because everyone else does it, you will be swayed by others and stressed out. Therefore, do as you like, study when you feel like studying, and rest when you want to rest. When I was younger, I was burdened by the results and thought I should be first in class no matter what I did. However, now I know that I do not have to be overly desperate for anything. It is fine to just try one’s best. It is good enough to enjoy doing something.
Loneliness is difficult to share with others, but people always feel like opening up about it with others. Yang has constantly observed this particular feeling and ultimately expressed it by her own color and style. How about being honest with various feelings to be felt in life just like her? Disclose and expose it, whether it is a painting or writing. There is no need to pretend to be fine. Taking care of your own feelings is the first step of the healing process and this will be a foothold to give you time for looking after others.
By Jeon Nu-ri
Associate Editor of Culture Section