YoonJee Kwak / 곽윤지
Clay allows me to tell the story of my memories that are left behind from diverse and unpredictable relationships between others and myself. My memories are expressed by using precarious and fragile forms. These memories can be represented in my work through the exploration of the duality between weakness and strength.
The body of work is composed of sculptural vessels. I use this form to represent human beings as iconic symbols of Korean culture. In Korea, when people talk about someone’s personality, we often use “vessel” as a metaphor of one’s spirit of tolerance. For instance, when we talk about someone who is very generous or broad-minded, we say, “His vessel is big”. The structure of the vessel that gradually widens from a narrow base symbolizes human relationships; people can have deep or shallow relationships or have both relationships at the same time.
I explore this theme through forms that are derived from minimalism, nature, and geometry. The work incorporates organic and architectural elements into the structure of my open vessels and uses the shape as a metaphor for people who interact with their external character. I believe when the vessel of a person is open, they can have true connections with their environment. Therefore, my open vessel-shaped pieces indicate various depths of personal relationships. In addition, through employing natural and organic arboreal shapes, I intend to demonstrate relationships with nature. I use these natural occurrences in nature as metaphorical and literal references to represent human relationships. As nature cannot exist without the interaction of its many component parts, man cannot exist alone. In this sense, human relationships resemble the laws of nature.
I usually use hand-building techniques, because the marks left by the fabricating process is very direct and leaves evidence of my physical interactions with clay. When I work with clay, my interactive conversation with the clay is vital to the process. While I slowly build up clay coils from the bottom, my hand marks remain on the surface. It records elements of movement, time, and my feelings. The attractive characteristic of coil-building is that it allows artists to observe progressive growth through the process of the work. The process is very similar to raising a plant from seedling to blossoming. As a plant needs water, sunshine, and time to grow, my works need patience and time. In the process of building up the blocks, memories of patience and time into the pieces, I am able to create a meaningful record of my practice.
Yoonjee Kwak makes sculptural vessels to represent human beings as iconic symbols from the Korean culture. In Korea, when people talk about someone’s personality, they often use “vessel” as a metaphor of one’s spirit of tolerance. Yoonjee’s interactive conversation with the clay is vital to her process—she slowly builds up clay coils from the bottom, allowing her hand marks to remain on the surface. Through this process of building, memories of patience and time come into her pieces, and she is able to create a meaningful record of her practice.
Originally from South Korea, Yoonjee currently is a resident artist at Pottery Northwest in Seattle WA after finishing her long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts in Helena MT (2017-2019). Her works have been shown in a variety of national and international exhibitions including Korea, Turkey, Italy etc. as well as many states in the USA. She earned her MFA in ceramics at the School for American Crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2014 and her BFA in ceramics and glass at Hong-Ik University in Seoul, South Korea in 2012. She was a resident artist and taught ceramics classes at RIT from 2014– 2017. In 2020, she was one of the recipients of the James Renwick Alliance Chrysalis Award for emerging artist in Ceramics as well as the Emerging Artist Award in Ceramics Monthly Magazine in 2016.