EK Interview: The Rainbow Never Ends – A Mi Ju Interview

Mi Ju (previously featured September 2012 and April 2010) does not do drugs, but she is definitely high off of life, which is a very blessed thing to be. Her Gaia show is wrapping up in NY and if you got the time you should check it out. And remember, art is smack, but crack is wack, yo. There’s a reason why there’s a million stoner movies and not one single funny crack comedy.

Hi Mi Ju, how are you? Who are you? Where you from?

Hi, I’ve been busy because of my first solo exhibition in New York City. Finally, I’m relaxed now. I’m an artist living and working in Brooklyn. I was born in South Korea.

What kind of art do you practice?

I paint with acrylic and layer cut out papers on top. I enjoy fast-drying, thin layers, and I like my canvas to have a fluid, flat surface. I also transform the images of my paintings into fiber sculptures.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

During my childhood, I spent a lot of time at my father’s textile factory, and a Buddhist temple where my mother worked as a florist. The factory was filled with loud machines, and trucks loading and unloading colorful rolls of fabrics. My father would investigate the surface of the fabric samples with a magnifying glass before they went to the markets. I often played with his magnifying glass, and obsessed over the intricate patterns on fabrics.

The temple my mother and I used to go to was located on top of a low mountain. Everything in nature was quiet and slow compared with the factory. My mother would decorate the temple, surrounding it with lotus lanterns and wild flowers. Statues and paintings of creatures and Buddhas were illuminated at night by her creativity. They looked lively, cheerful and vigorous. These memories and experiences inspired me.

How old where you when you decided that you would be an artist forever, no matter what?

Well, I don’t remember how, where and when I decided to be an artist forever. The decision didn’t happen at a certain time and place. It was more about a growing seriousness and obsession with my art in the long term.

What are some common themes and symbols behind your work?

My subject matter is broad and diverse, influenced by an interest for the personification of nature and the dynamic web of life. My imagery theoretically evolves from mythology and biology, visually expands through micro and macro, and emotionally reflects my inner and outer world. Symbolizing nature as both a mysterious deity and a cosmos in my work, I create complexity on the surface and space.

How has your Korean ancestry influenced your work?

My painting techniques and compositions stem from Korean folk art. Specifically, the bold lines, complementary colors, flat surfaces and exaggerated features in my paintings are influenced by Korean shaman paintings. Intricate natural patterns and elaborate ornamentation in Buddhist temple art also helped me to create meticulous details and complex layers in my work.

What is the meaning behind your current exhibition?

My exhibition’s title Gaia refers to the Greek earth mother goddess as well as the scientific Gaia Principle, proposing that “all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, to maintain the conditions for life on our planet” (James Lovelock). I explore the significance of Gaia pictorially, as it relates to today’s ecological challenges.

Tell us about how you came to be signed with your gallery?

I met Nick Lawrence director of Freight and Volume Gallery, during my MFA program at Pratt Institute. We had a studio visit and then he started to show my paintings in the Pulse Art Fairs in LA, Miami, and NY. Things happened so fast within a year. Now, I’m having my first solo exhibition at Freight and Volume gallery, New York City.

What are the benefits?

Exposure to opportunities.

What did you learn during the creation of this new set of work compared to your last?

I used to paint front images first and then fill out background colors later. Since I moved to New York I changed my whole painting process. I started to paint background first and then create images later. Engaging with background, I developed my details, colors and surface.  I also stopped sketching out the whole painting in order to open more possibility for improvisation. The composition became more dynamic and started to convey fluidity.

Did you get nervous for the new show at all?

I was between excitement and nervousness.

What do you hope people will take away from viewing your work?

I hope people are aware of nature as their home and as a spiritual being through my work.

Nature could be seen as controllable, appealing, and delightful, yet from a different perspective, natural elements can become overwhelming and destructive.

What is some common feedback you’ve received for your work?

The viewers who are drawn by psychedelic art and complexity usually say that my work is so beautiful, while viewers who are more into minimalism and simplicity say that my work is too pretty. The feedback always has been between “so beautiful” and “too pretty” – depends on the audience. Very interesting.

What are the different benefits between working on sculpture vs paintings?

Making sculptures help me to experience space and depth. Painting helps me to understand surface and density. Both the paintings and sculptures are closely interconnected in my art making process and influence each other. For example, my sculptures are made with any detritus produced by my painting process – I dye the sculptures with leftover paint and then decorate them with my old palettes. My sculptures are developed from the idea of recycling and it also contains my painting history. While constructing the sculptures with different kind of materials, I experience various textures and volumes. These sculptural experiences directly influence my painting process.

What do you tell the hundreds of people who ask if you do drugs after looking at your work?

Hahaha! Honestly I don’t have hundreds of people asking if I do drugs after looking at my work in New York. People here are more interested in my cultural influences, major themes and the technical process in my work. Though, if there is an audience asking about drugs, I say that I get my high from looking at colorful pigments, mixing them and creating something on canvas.

What is your favorite song and book?

My favorite song is The Body of Your Dreams by JacobTV. I just finished the novel, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. This book is my new favorite now.

Where does the rainbow end? What’s at the end?

The rainbow never ends.

Jolly good, thank you Miju!