"My work is related to life, expectations, and escape from the routine."
Living in New York city, the center of art, business, entertainment, media and culture, my life as a foreigner leads me to think about the lives of many immigrants. I am also very concerned about the relationship between North and South Korea from my new perspective outside of the country as well as anxiety about my identity here.
Because Korea is a homogenous country, the barriers of culture, language, and race are new to me. I am trying to solve these issues in my daily life, and I chose the ‘manhole’ as a metaphor for my journey in life.
The manhole is an escape route or connection to the new world of my imagination. I see the manhole cover as a gate. Thus, I create inter-dimensional portals in my lithographs, in so far as I use the image of the manhole as a symbolic gateway between cultures, nations, and identities. Manhole covers are a reflection of a town’s civic pride, as they are produced by foundries and local authorities. They are also the doors which guide me to an unknown, dark world. It is a pitch-black underground path which is neither romantic nor attractive. Therefore, I imply that hardships and storms of life are prerequisites to the new world of escape or freedom. However, there is always anticipation and hope because the manhole is not a cave. Instead, it is connected to other places like a tunnel. Also, it functions not only as a means of escape or transition, but also as a means of infiltration, as when a cadre of western comic book heroes can be seen penetrating the sexualized socio-cultural homogeneity of North Korea, represented here by endless penetrating ranks of female soldiers wearing the traditional Korean Hahoetal mask. Rubbings function as an anchor, tethering the ethereal yearnings and anxieties of my pictorial practice to the concrete experience of living in New York, and all the harsh yet beautiful particularities that go along with that. I am trying to resolve these issues in my daily life, and I choose the ‘manhole’ as a metaphor for my journey. I imagine using a manhole to bridge the gap between my different selves with different lives: Korean, American.
Based on these ideas, I reinterpret the manhole covers from an aesthetic viewpoint. Also, I raise questions about the escape from many things: a routine, daily life and, by extension, nations, ethnicities and disputes. These escapes lead to freedom and the hope of a better life.