Visual Ritualism: Monoprints Dot Korean Artist’s Memory

Minh Nguyen November 20, 2013 0
Eunice Kim, Tessellation, Monoprint © 2013 Eunice Kim

Eunice Kim, Tessellation, Monoprint © 2013 Eunice Kim

At a cursory glance, Eunice Kim’s prints are a convergence of soothing dots, arranged in various patterns. However, the aesthetic interplays in the collagraphs are, according to Kim, both individual and collective—dualisms of “structure and chance.”

The prints were part of Kim’s New Collagraph Monoprints exhibition, which was on display at Davidson Galleries last month. While the exhibit is closed, Kim’s works continue to be available for viewing at the gallery by request.

Kim, a designer and illustrator, said her works are informed by her memories, particularly of a childhood in Korea. Kim’s collagraphs are rhythmic and patient and conjure the ritual and meditation of repetition.

“The work lives in imagery, but the work is abstract in nature,” Kim said.

Within the abstract aesthetic lie concrete and tangible experiences, she explained.

“For example, when I was growing up, nearly every night for the first ten years of my life when my grandmother raised me, I would fall asleep to her Buddhist prayer chants, which I found extremely comforting,” Kim said. “Every night she would say her prayers, and that ritualistic repetition is echoed in the repetitive dot marks that are the building blocks of my nature imagery. … There’s a persistence of memory, whether it be cognitive, sensory, or even visceral, and I think it wants to be expressed. So these dot marks are what come to me most naturally.”

Both the audial and the visual memories of Kim’s grandmother are reflected in Kim’s aesthetic.

“Grandmother’s room, the social center and heart of the home, was furnished entirely with traditional Korean lacquer pieces ornamented with mother-of-pearl inlays that were visual and formalistic references that hearken back to those objects that comprised my physical environment,” Kim said.

Kim recalls her young self studying the ceiling tiles comprised of abstract graphic elements and comparing and contrasting the subtle variations.

Kim discovered a penchant for the technique of collagraph printmaking while in college. She said that the collagraph has historical connections to Washington. The word “collagraph” was coined in the 1950s by an artist named Glen Alps, who taught at the University of Washington, and who Kim attributes responsibility for disseminating the art form.

Construction of collagraph plate begins with clear acrylic sheets and the administration of modeling paste. In Kim’s case, it is the patient administration of a single dot, decided on a whim at a time, using squeeze bottles. The dot marks are then shaped to a height optimal for the printing process that Kim compares to sanding and polishing by achieving on each dot a clean, planar top profile, which Kim tests with her fingertips. The plate is then printed in a technique called intaglio. Ink application is accomplished with a soft dabber rolled out of synthetic felt. For plate wiping, Kim uses smooth newsprint. The process itself requires attentiveness and deliberation.

Kim said she finds resonance in the collagraph process.

“Its strength lies in its physicality and the experimental nature,” Kim said. “Something about the process-oriented nature of the medium sort of aligned me with my intentions, because my desire is to explore processes and materials in depth.”

As for the dot marks, Kim said they are one of the most basic units of visual language to work with and that she likes their neutrality.

A large part of Kim’s work is inspired by methods of non-toxic art-making in a medium that Kim said can be very hazardous.

“With artists in general, we are not very cognizant of the hazards of our practice,” Kim said of Italio techniques, nitric acids, and hydrochloric acids. “For the last 10 years or so I’ve been working in non-toxic techniques, really for myself. I want to keep making art, and also to demonstrate that it can be done. To be clear, there is no such thing as a completely non-toxic process. The goal is to raise awareness to minimize hazard and impact.”

For more information, visit www.davidsongalleries.com.

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