Wood, as the major substance of my works, has fascinated me for more than 10 years in two paradoxical points; freedom and strain.
Since trained under the Korean artisans of traditional Buddhism woodcraft who could carve hard wood freely as if they could mold clay-thing, I could glimpse infinite possibility of wood as an art material and enjoy freedom to make anything that I wanted. Moreover, wood, as an organic substance unlike stone and metal, have its own incomparable characteristic including warm touch and feeling like life form.
However, as I continued to work with wood, I could find out its completely different story. Every wood bears its own history in itself, mainly a record of scars like knots ravaged by external forces. Whenever digging into every chunk of wood piece, I can feel deep sympathy like strains I have experienced in various roles or positions in my life including that of the daughter, the wife and the mother of someone.
Based on these two conflicting characteristics of wood, my main theme is to reveal behind forces to frame all individuals as victims under suppressing structure of a society. As if excavating forgotten traces, I tried to uncover my or someone’s scars concealed in wood.
From these two conflicting perspectives, my works have in common; indefinable but incessant flows full of natural energy like Yin and Yang that derives from organic forms of wood, and beings oppressed by invisible inner or external forces that comes from history of each tree.
Then, in the United States, I got a bit shocked at spectacles of Home Depot, where ‘manufactured-in-factory’ wood piece was being sold as if shopping groceries in marts. Because in my country, Korea, wood usually means natural one and I also work with it, those scenes altered my perspective towards wood.
Besides, while looking for work materials in NYC, I got to know that various reclaimed wood were being sold. They had been used in severe condition as building scaffolding or factory flooring. Some of them were thrown away as broken, washed-out and sometimes nearly rotten. Those too broken parts were being given away literally ‘pricelessly.’ So, the staffs in recycling centers even asked me why I bought mainly ‘deadwood’ which others generally cut and throw away. Every reclaimed wood has its own spectacular stories; they had been overlapped again and again, when growing as a tree, when cut down and in a sawmill, when used among people, and when thrown away.
Wood ‘produced in factorized mills’ and ‘forsaken after becoming useless’ reminded me of figures of my contemporaries, who have been suppressed by a colossal structure of the modern society and an inhumane market. Therefore, instead of carving materials, I lumbered reclaimed wood scaffolding into simple cuboids with trying to not miss all damage like fracture, decay, erosion and so on, every piece bore in itself for their service.
In addition, especially in my new work, I make new attempts to utilize cutting-edge technology, 3D printing. 'Printed' Plastic shows a distinctive characteristics against wood, as an artificial material with fancy color, precise measurement, and even laminated fake 'annual rings.' So I made empty space with 3D printing. It is a kind of ‘casket’ for 'deceased' wood which lost its social function as support materials; in the same time, it is ‘a monument stage’ to honor and memorize their service. Simultaneously, those empty space also made inner 'scars' of each element and hidden structural axis of the form disclosed.
Finally, mixing those features, this work embraces both of two opposing forces, organic v. mechanical, natural v. artificial, explosive v. abstained, and so forth. For example, the form how reclaimed wood regularly were reconstructed emphasized two opposing things. It resembles that of DNA, a blue print to organize life-forms; whereas, it also reminds of a complex structural power to suppress individuals who had been already cut into standardized forms. Besides, those elements with straight lines made soft curve in the entire form, and inner fractures of reclaimed wood are explicitly exposed in wire frame made of plastic against formulated structure.
About Eunjin Kim
My life, as an artist, changed completely when I started working with wood; it has warm touch and feeling unlike stone, metal, etc, and every wood piece bears its own distinctive story in itself, mainly a record of scars like knots and fractures ravaged by external forces. However, my schools in Korea could not satisfy my thirst of wood working. Consequently, even after finishing Master of Fine Arts, I decided to train under artisans of Korean traditional Buddhism wood sculpture. Through about five years, I started again from the bottom-up like making my own carving knives and honing them. Those experiences had affected me a lot in points of both techniques and attitudes towards wood as a material. Then, in NYC, US, where I can buy buying ‘manufactured’ wood pieces like shopping groceries in markets and face cutting-edge technologies like 3D printing, I am now trying to change my wood sculpture again.