WPA visits Sijae Byun's studio at Arlington Arts Center this week. Mrs. Byun's work, exhibited by WPA at the (e)merge art fair, caught the attention of The Phillips Collection who awarded her their Emerging Artist Prize. Her piece Wind #7 in Jungle will become part of the museum's permanent collection. We talked with Mrs. Byun about the inspiration for her winning piece and other works as well as her trajectory as an artist.
By Deena O. Hyatt
"People build cities thinking they will last forever, but nature has a way of retaking back land, and it comes in many different forms, such as storms, earthquakes, wars, or possibly from unknown or unperceived sources. We then rebuild and the cycle continues." - Si Jae Byun
WPA: Thanks for taking the time out to visit with us, I know you're busy with upcoming shows. How are you feeling after winning? Can you tell me a bit about the piece they chose?
Byun: Thank you for coming. That piece is Wind #7 in Jungle, part of the construction site series. I used acrylic and ink on silk. It's a multiple layered silk painting. Three, five and seven are my favorite numbers which is why I use them in titles. You don't see one, two, three, four in order. That piece is my favorite piece which is why I made it #7. Seven is a lucky number to me.
WPA: Well it was lucky! That's the one that got chosen. Congratulations again.
WPA: In your statement you explain how you are inspired by the intersection of architecture and nature, how buildings interact with plant life -- was the piece that The Phillips chose, Wind #7 in Jungle, also drawing from this relationship?
Byun: Yes, that is true, but it also has an element of the human body, the drawing has human-like veins and arteries that circulate the architecture and nature together to share a space. The images are nature and architecture mixing, the relationship also connecting to human body functions like circulation and respiration.
WPA: How long have you been painting on silk?
Byun: Five years. I started out drawing and then moved into installation. I was using silk in installation a lot. I like transparent fabrics. When I went back to Korea, I bought really good silk. My painting skill was developing and I wanted to try it on silk. The first silk piece I did was Rice Cooker Man.
WPA: How long did it take you to make Wind #7 in Jungle?
Byun: I think six months. I made it in a series of five paintings, all together they all took about a year to complete.
WPA: I see you also do animation and installation works. Tell me a bit how you choose which medium.
Byun: First I start by sketching my ideas. Then I factor in different things like space, story and the image I have in my head. Then I decide what form would work best. It really depends on the purpose and theme.
WPA: Tell me more about the psychology portion that is influenced by, as your website explains, an Eastern philosophy for the cycle of life. What philosophy is that?
Byun: My recent works are loosely based on taoism. I focused on the living harmoniously portion of taoism. That is why I focus on two specific elements and create balance. Also in one of my stop motion animation, I show nature and the building of the city. People build cities thinking they will last forever, but nature has a way of retaking back land, and it comes in many different forms, such as storms, earthquakes, wars, or possibly from unknown or unperceived sources. We then rebuild and the cycle continues. This is not unlike human life itself from constant birth to constant death. Everything has a circle of life whether it is buildings, people, or nature.
WPA: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Were their early signs growing up?
Byun: Yes, I always wanted to be an artist. In first grade I started to draw in school and found out that I had a talent for it. I kept developing it, but starting in high school I began to realize how difficult art could be. However, I took it one step at a time and eventually I became a professional artist.
WPA: Was your family artistic? Did they encourage you to pursue art?
Byun: Yes! My brother was an opera singer. Many of my relatives have artistic backgrounds. They actually told me not to pursue art because it is too difficult to succeed.
WPA: Looks like you are doing quite well. Thanks again for talking with us today!
Si Jae Byun's solo exhibition Vaginascope is currently on view at Talley Beck Contemporary in New York until November 15, 20113. The opening for her solo exhibition Circulation-Respiration at the Korean Cultural Center is November 1, 2013 at 6:30 pm.
For more information about Mrs. Byun and her work visit http://sijaebyun.com.
October 16, 2013