Creating Artwork Between Two Worlds, with Alice Yang
Alice Yaelin Yang is a Korean artist whose life bridges from the East to the West, between South Korea and the United States. Her paintings are delicate and have an air of lightness, but hold deeper meaning about the way that Alice experiences the world.
We asked Alice about the creative approach to her work, and what has been inspiring to her as she develops as an artist.
Tell us about your work! How would you summarise your style and process?
My paintings are not vague or of an abstract state. They are precise creatures that seek to perform definitive and decisive gestures. Their starting point is the tangible world. I collaborate with images and shapes, as if they were living beings.
An essence of reality is taken from the world around me. From here, this essence is pursued until I reach another beginning - my perception transforming into a painting. The figures that appear within spaces are accurate and alive. They’re almost spiritual organisms that have flesh, which bestows life upon them. There’s no shadow in my painting. It is the way to prevent defining only one perspective.
How has living between South Korea and the United States impacted you and your art?
I think of it this way. I start working in a state of blank canvas with minimal pictures or sketches, so the workspace itself affects me very little wherever I am.
However, language is a big influence for me. My behaviour has changed because I spoke Hangul (Korean) natively, so learning English was difficult. In Korea, I enjoyed reading, speaking, and writing whereas in the United States, I spend more time observing, thinking, and drawing.
At first, the relationship between the two was so different, as if I was working as two different people. When I look in the mirror in America, it's like I'm talking to my Korean self. However, as I went back and forth between the two countries, there was a point where the two faced each other, which I expressed through my paintings.
Tell us about your newest work, Fruit Moon (series). You’ve said that this work is an expression of being connected to something tangible and something quite abstract. How do you identify these moments in your daily life?
The Fruit Moon is a metaphor. When we discover something new, we feel conflicting feelings, such as excitement and fear about the unknown. I wanted to express that abstract emotion, like the biblical concept of eating the fruit of good and evil, as a meeting of two completely different substances - fruit and the moon. It involves approaching, reaching out, and picking fruit to feel the emotion.
In the film Everyday a Good Day directed by Tatsushi Omori, a line came to mind: "Even if the same people drink tea many times together, the same day never comes again. Think of it as once in your life."
The repeated new realisations of daily life make me experience moments similar to eating fruits of good and evil, or Fruit Moon. Fruit Moon was my first work in 2022.
What was the first piece of art that you fell in love with?
I want to keep my first love a secret! When I first encountered art, paintings conveyed a lot of emotions to me. It was the work of Tiepolo and Bosch from Italy and Spain that gave me a strong feeling of excitement and awe. The abstract paintings of Rothko and the still life paintings of Morandi that I saw in the US resonated with their homogeneity. The landscape painting of Gyeomjae Jeong-seon and the work of Yang Hye-gyu in Korea also opened up my mind as if it had found the right answer.
Art has always given me new feelings whenever I travel. When in New York, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art almost every week. Wandering around the Met was like reading a really long book of people. In front of a painting, I felt like I was meeting a person. It is hard to express the emotion of love as one.
Why do you think art is so important today?
The way we treat art now creates the human form of the future.
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