When I was a child, my mother routinely pointed out small details and encouraged me to be attentive to the colors, shapes, and textures nearby, whether a pot of flowers tucked into a corner or a ray of sunlight peeking out from behind ragged clouds. This practice of being fully aware is a critical part of my Korean heritage and integral to my art-making process. I paint to honor the liveliness and richness that surrounds me – in nature and the man-made, as a visual homage to the bounty in my life.
I am mostly a self-taught artist, working primarily "en plein air", when the weather permits. I also work from sketches and photos, but only of places where I've actually been. Based in Brooklyn, NY, I usually look for subjects in my backyard. I select scenes to paint, whether a gritty industrial street next to the Gowanus Canal or a neighborhood sidewalk with its mom-and-pop shops, where the man-made intersects and interacts with Nature. Escapes from the city offer greater stillness and clearer air, but “architectural” views always interest me. The sun’s effects enthrall me as its rays are absorbed and reflected by buildings, bridges, the sky, trees, and water, creating glimmers of beauty. I am attracted to views that might not have obvious aesthetic appeal, but where the commonplace seems to have a special patina at the moment I am there. When it's all working well, painting can be a form of highly active meditation.
Painting on-site from life comes with its challenges (wind, heat, cold, overly chatty passers-by, bugs flying into wet paint on the canvas), thrills (light hitting a brick wall a special way, gorgeous water reflections), and joys (connecting with a location's unique features and being able to capture that moment). But mostly it requires an intense focus.
Whether painting from life or reference photos, I don't try to replicate precisely what I see with every detail specified accurately. I am more interested in looking carefully to discern what might be new or different in this particular scene that makes it stand out in some special way. In the act of looking and then creating my distilled version onto a canvas, my mind becomes very focused and involved deeply on that act. When I feel that I successfully manifested what I discovered onto canvas, it brings me a sense of fulfillment, that I am able to share what I learned with others.
My goal is to find a simple way to capture the spirit of a scene at a particular instance. Inevitably the paintings become infused with my own wonder and delight at having discovered something – a pattern, a gesture, an angle of light – that is inherently pleasing. At best my paintings pay tribute to the abundant benefits of attentiveness.