Mi Ju is a native Korean and recent Pratt MFA grad, who uses acrylic, glitter, and lots of water on paper and canvas. She’s been in numerous solo shows and if you have a chance to see it in person…it will take your breathe away. I’m talking about 9 feet tall creations and meticulously painted. Her latest gallery, The Time of Tall Statues, just wrapped at Freight + Volume. Read below for the full interview…
You have a solo exhibition in New York, could you tell us a bit about it?
Mi: Currently, I’m presenting ten paintings, sculptures and three black and white drawings at Freight and Volume Gallery. It’s running September 27 through November 3rd. The exhibition’s theme, Gaia encompasses two different perspectives in nature, Greek Earth-goddess as well as scientific Gaia principle “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). Interpreting nature as both divinity and home. I imagine the world around us and I paint it full of color. I’m excited to share my new work with viewers but a bit nervous too.
You told me you were a bit nervous about it. Is this due to having a greater level of comfort participating in group exhibitions?
Mi: I’m nervous because it’s my first solo exhibition since I moved to New York from San Francisco. I was in transition experiencing different people and culture here. My work has changed because of the diverse art scene in New York City. I haven’t thought that participating in a group exhibition could give me a greater level of comfort. Honestly, I more often get nervous when I’m in a group exhibition than a solo exhibition. There are a lot of artists I admire in New York City. Whenever I find that my painting is displayed among other artists’ art works, I can’t help myself feel so small comparing with them.
Your art is art that I can look at and catch new things every glance I take. In order to better explain your creative process can I ask what percentage of pattern, symmetry, and/or fractal goes into each piece?
Mi: Most elements in nature develop at certain sizes, grow in groups, and expand by organized systems. Studying these aspects through micro to macro, fractals to flocks, and ants to people, I have developed my creative process with meticulous details and complex compositions. Specifically, I start with intricate nature motifs such as fish scales and bird feathers in order to invent creatures. Associating with these structures of patterns and movement of living organisms such as fish schools, and bird flocks, I create dynamic compositions in my paintings. The whole painting is filled with dazzling patterns and intermingling creatures and often appears like a guardian or super organism. The composition in my work evolves from symmetry but there is no focal point. For example, one of my paintings, Hot Hot Hot, started with a circle but it becomes atmospheric.
Why are drawing ‘eyes’ so challenging for you?
Mi: It’s an interesting question. I’m just obsessed by maximum details that I can put into the creatures’ eyes. Painting a miniature world into the ‘eyes’ I plan the whole picture of my painting. Drawing eyes certainly are not challenging for me. They are the most exciting part to work on in my paintings.
Getting back to your solo show, what frame of mind did you get yourself into? How did you prepare?
Mi: I have prepared for this exhibition for two years conceptually and visually. Everyday, I woke up around 10am, went to studio and stayed until midnight. In studio, I mostly spent time painting and reading National Geographic, biology books, science fiction books and Haruki Murakami novels. These sources helped to activate my imagination. Then I visualized the imagery into my work with Acrylic paint and cut out papers. Most people call me a slow painter because I can only make 5 large-scale paintings a year. That doesn’t mean I’m slow in studio. Everyday, I’m creative and productive.
As a symbol of optimism, I think the biggest contrast of your art is the influence between Korea and America. How would you like your art to resonate with each audience of the world? Is there a universal message?
Mi: Moving from the East to the West, I have experienced two different cultures. Now I morph the two different cultures together and then create a hybrid culture in my art. I hope my art is like air to each audience. Air exists everywhere, changes quickly and binds different things all together. A universal message? Unite for peace.
Do you have any favorite Asian films or Anime?
Mi: My favorite Korean film is Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, 2003 directed by Kim Ki-duk.
As we move into electing a new president and our culture shifts in both cultural and political changes, do you feel the rituals of your art will shift as well, looking forward?
Mi: My work has changed constantly, I know it will continue to change as the world changes around me. Yes, I’m looking forward to facing another transition and creating something new as an artist.
Lastly, any advice for any creative out there?
Mi: Lady Gaga once said that “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” Just be yourself and do what you really like.
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