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The Balance of Visual and Martial Arts: Artist Interview with Soojin Hong

Updated on March 21, 2018
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Thomas Ringheim is a writer and environmentalist currently working for The Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

Straddling between painting and sculpture, Soojin Hong is a visual artist, who builds geometric abstract landscapes using a range of everyday materials, such as, hinges and bolts to collage and wood - which allows her to explore the narrative cues suggested by the interactions of materials and forms. The interdisciplinary nature of Soojin’s work is reflective of her multicultural upbringing and ultimately calls the identity of the piece into focus, inviting viewers to consider the artist’s process and decisions in her geometric compositions that follow their own opaque logic.

Image: Artwork, Soft spot, acrylic and object on canvas, 30 x 30cm, 2018.  Photo: courtesy of artist
Image: Artwork, Soft spot, acrylic and object on canvas, 30 x 30cm, 2018. Photo: courtesy of artist

The playful yet structured spatial compositions of Soojin’s works employ techniques of layering and repetition to visualize fragmentary experience and intangible accounts by uniting ambiguities and certainties. Her paintings allude to organised spaces of balance with flexibility through arrangements of paint and hardware, transparency and opacity, clean lines and gestural marks. Often built up on canvas, she experiments with the contrast and balance of materials, forms and function. In an interview below, Soojin discusses the her studio process, how Jiu Jitsu influences her art, works on view at her upcoming solo show and her artistic influence and development in various geographic locations and the unique perspective of merging cultural influences.

You have pillows and tools all over the floor in your studio. There seems to be a lot happening at once – what’s going on?

I like to work on the floor. I think there is a sense of comfort and closeness on the ground. I start at one area of the studio and I somehow quickly manage to set up temporary stations for each task. I move around the space, more like sliding around and everything looks scattered but I know where everything is. Compartmentalisation and organisation calls for repetition of processes and movements that work systematically.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

My background is a big mix of cultures and time zones. I’m a third-culture-kid and my definition of home changes depending on my current location. The process of packing up and adjusting was and still is normal. I’m South Korean and I grew up in Singapore. I received my BFA in Carnegie Mellon University in America and now London has been my current home since I graduated from Royal College of Art 2 years ago.

Image: Soojin Hong making her own material for her paintings out of pins and screws in ACME Studios in London.
Image: Soojin Hong making her own material for her paintings out of pins and screws in ACME Studios in London.

You use a variety of hardware and industrial materials together with paint as your medium. Can you talk a bit about your experimental process?

We live in a material-focused era with an overflow of instant solutions, DIY and how-to-instructions, where the aesthetic and presence of objects are sometimes more considered than its actual function. Objects are therefore multi-functional with potential to take on different roles depending on perception and interactions with its surroundings. We see things in perspective, which mimics the process of fragmentary collage and visual information is representational of collected data. This is reflective of my studio process where materials and spatial shapes are collected to be arranged in an orderly fashion and built up gradually.

What are some of your influences and inspirations?

Russian constructivists in the 1920s, furniture design, discarded objects, compositions of Asian landscape paintings, customised item packaging, unintentional markings are just to name a few. My passions outside of the studio also affect the process of my work - for example, a martial art called Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu as an art form, which translates to ‘gentle art’ and to me, it allows me to play with the body’s balance and control, distance management and repetitive movements. It keeps me thinking about spatial relationships in relation to the body and similar to executing a beautiful sequence of a technique in Jiu Jitsu, there is an order to the layers of paint. Something I notice and need to practice more of is getting out of my comfort zone. Most of the time, that’s when things happen and possibilities open up.

Image: Artwork, A to B is 108, acrylic and hardware on canvas, 30 x 30cm, 2018.  Photo: courtesy of artist
Image: Artwork, A to B is 108, acrylic and hardware on canvas, 30 x 30cm, 2018. Photo: courtesy of artist

Tell us about current projects you are working on!

I have an upcoming solo show in a newly opened space and restaurant in an industrial area of Singapore in April 2018. It coincides with the the launch of the space and art and food always go well together. The new series of works consist of 19 paintings of variable shapes and sizes as a collaborative interpretation of a Tibetan word, ‘tashi’, which is in Lhasa dialect meaning ‘good fortune’, and in respect to the industrial community around. A few pieces are site-specific, in response to the polished rawness of the space.

There is also an exciting project called Nomadic iD, where artists of various disciplines across the globe share and collaborate to expand on boundaries of artistry and innovation. A friend of mine, Margot Ciccarelli established this unique platform to be an ‘artistic solutions network’ for artists to work on creative projects that merge the arts, music, technology, and education. It’s still quite young, however I’m excited to see the routes we will be taking.

© 2018 thomasringheim


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