Find the value of “how much” in the question, “How much do you love me?” This is the question An Min-jeong asks people through her work titled, “Answer the Following Questions.”
Couples frequently demand from each other expressions of love, but it is not easy to come up with an answer that satisfies their significant other. An expresses the degree of love by suggesting the answer, “As much as the gap between the earth and the sky.” To embody this abstract answer, she calculated the circumference of the earth and the sky and added up the numbers. She made the subjective feeling of “love” visible by processing it into an objective numerical figure that people can understand through a calculation of their own.
As such, she makes sentiments and reminiscences, which are valuable but ambiguous, visible, but with scientific figures. The Argus met recently with An Min-jeong, whose works seem superficially dry and rational, but which in fact deal with soft and sensitive feelings.
The Argus: Please introduce yourself.
An Min-jeong (An): I am An Min-jeong, an artist who works on visualizing intangible objects by using mathematical and scientific symbols that people generally trust and recognize. I graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Seoul National University of Science and Technology in 2005, and finished the same graduate school in 2008.
I participated in numerous group exhibitions, and have had solo exhibitions: “Memory Engineering” at Cheongju Art Studio in 2014 and “Private Pictograph” at Opsis Art in 2015. I am currently creating art and at the same time giving lectures at my alma mater.
The Argus: Why did you decide to become an artist?
An: I had never thought of anything else other than drawing since I was very young. I liked to scribble and paint. I became interested in web design when I was in high school. Working in the fashion industry or being a painter came naturally to me.
At first, I did not go to college and started to study web design by myself. However, the design that I had done on my own felt too abstract and imitative. I thought that if I wanted to learn art properly, I had better go to university; there, I fell deeply into the world of arts, especially contemporary arts.
The Argus: What is the subject you most frequently utilize?
An: Family, especially my mother’s love is usually the main theme. The long-titled work, “Six-Membered Family Portrait: Mother Distributed Aloes of Her Own Cultivation among Her Family,” seems too difficult and esoteric at first glance because it has a lot of complicated fine lines in it. However, the theme is simple ? a mother’s unconditional love for her family. I want to express the blind love of mothers, who want to give their family members whatever is good for them.
Around my mother’s face, I drew a concentric circle, showing her warm aura. The yellow lines, like rays spurting from her forehead, represent “the light of love.” The oldest sister’s love for the youngest is described with oxytocin, a hormone associated with maternal love.
The Argus: What is the most meaningful work for you?
An: “The Power of a Kiss” is the most valuable. I have firm belief in the power of my mother’s kiss. The impression of it is still fresh as a living memory in me. When I was a child, it was very tough for me to go to elementary school alone. Only after the kiss from my mother had I gathered the courage to joyfully go to school.
The great power of a morning kiss obviously existed. Nonetheless, others do not count on it unless they have similar experiences. I was sad that people take it as ridiculous only because it is invisible. Therefore, I used “F-ma,” a formula people generally believe in, to improve the power of a kiss.
The Argus: How do you convey your ideas?
An: I always concentrate on “making invisible things visible.” The materials of the “invisible” are mainly based on my personal feelings and memories. Abstract concepts such as love and attention are not seen, yet are deemed very important. I wanted to make them tangible so that many others can grasp their significance.
Therefore, I work on computer with mathematical and scientific languages like lines and formulas that are used in a practical manner in real life. Most people usually believe in academic measures and results because in those fields; accurate answers and clear facts exist that are undeniable. My personal emotions implied in my work pieces have objective persuasiveness in this way.
The Argus: Why did you adopt an objective method for expressing abstract ideas?
An: While I was working as a web designer, I came across an architectural floor plan on the web. I found the complicated lines and signs both beautiful and compelling. At that moment, I captured the beauty of the drawing’s dots, lines, and labeling as neither decorative nor auxiliary, but important carriers of information. The blueprint’s complexity, that every element on the drawing has their own meaning, was deeply impressive.
After several years, when I was studying at the university, I accidentally thought about measuring each part of my face and body and putting it on a paper. I wanted to include objective information, such as the length of my eyes and nose, not just the way they looked. It would be fun to draw a blueprint with my face, make my teeth appear as stairs, and nostrils as doorways. I also exhibited unseen things like how I got a scar or how far my aura can reach. Since then, I have become more and more interested in visualizing and quantifying abstract notions and energies.
The Argus: Do you study mathematical and scientific subjects or areas for your work?
An: I study when I start new pieces. When a work is completed, my knowledge usually become faint, but at the moment I work, I learn hard enough that others mistake me for an engineering student. I read medical books at the library, and search Google for original books in English. It is especially hard to become familiar with vocabulary words like neuron, cerebellum, and mesencephalon, but I try hard for the perfection of my works.
The Argus: How should the audience appreciate your works?
An: I recommend that people enjoy my works in three steps. First, look at the title. Second, look at the work, and third, just laugh! That is enough. To add one more thing, I want people to look back their daily lives.
Some people stare at my works trying to understand every single line and symbol and they even interpret tiny little English text to fully grasp the deep meaning inside the work. On the other hand, some just assume that my work is too intricate, and simply pass by. In fact, my work is not that difficult to comprehend. The way it is expressed is just unfamiliar to many people, but the subject itself that my works deal with is not heavy.
The Argus: How do you want to be remembered?
An: Someone told me, “You are not like an artist.” I was pleased to hear that. Not all artists are philosophical and live on a different planet. I just want others to remember me as a funny friend next door. I hope to remain a person who makes the public truly sympathize with my works.
I do not want them to think, ‘Oh, this artist’s works are so pedantic that I have no idea what she says!’ I like entertaining people. The pleasure that the audience feels is my sole driving force. I will try hard to be a friendly person who uses serious scientific formulas, but whose real hidden purpose is to make people laugh.
The Argus: What are your future plans?
An: I am preparing a solo exhibition, and I want to showcase new works. I hope for my works to be shown to more people. I always spent time agonizing about some type of challenge. It seems interesting to make my works in a three-dimensional way or manner.
The subject matters are likely to change, as has been evidenced so far. When I was a kid, the material was mainly about my family. When I was dating, it was about my boyfriend. Now, after marriage, housework and living are the primary subject matter. I expect that the topic will be centered on babies after giving birth.
The Argus: What are your last words for our readers?
An: Since modern art is no longer the exclusive property of specific persons, I hope that more people enjoy art. There are surprisingly many young college students who do not show a favorable attitude toward and are even hostile to contemporary art. Even if they go to an art museum, accompanied by their girlfriend or boyfriend, the young visit only the big, well-known galleries and take some photos to show off on their social media, and swiftly leave.
There is no need for students to be uncomfortable with modern art pieces. Especially, because my works’ expressive technique is unconventional, many say, “How can such a thing can be an art!” People need not burden themselves with an obsession in that every element has to be understood. Instead, I suggest they try to find something meaningful on their own out of my works. There are no right answers when it comes to appreciating my artwork.
The woman The Argus met laughed a lot and was very cheerful, unlike a typical artist who does serious work using various mathematical and scientific tools. People are attracted to the unexpected charm in her works. The subjects contain warm memories and soft sentiments, which are not seen upon first glance or inspection.
Daniel Pink, a futurologist, anticipates the era of “high concept,” in which not only the intellect and technology, but also human’s creativity and emotion, have a central meaning. Accordingly, young people need to make diverse attempts to keep the balance between sense and sensibility by thinking and being exposed to elements outside the typical art box. As a first step, why not try to express your invisible and abstract feelings of everyday life, in a rather scientific way, like An Min-jeong?
By Jeon Nu-ri
Associate Editor of Culture Section