Areum Yang

Areum Yang (b. 1994 Seoul, South Korea; lives and works in New York) graduated from Hongik University, Seoul, South Korea in 2017 and from the Hunter MFA program, New York, NY in 2021. She has been included in group shows; We Were Already Gone at Hauser & Wirth, New York, NY, and Family Portrait, UUU Art Collective, New York, NY. Yang was selected as the winner of the Silver Award for AHL T&W Foundation Contemporary Visual Art Awards and the KCC Young Artist Awards in 2021.
March 2, 2022
Tell us about your practice.
My works stem from the idea that ‘Anxiety and fear engender imagination and imagination engender images.’ Especially in my recent body of works made during the pandemic, I visualize my anxious emotional state through paintings, with dry and wet materials creating an expressionistic inner landscape. Painting is a means of recording my current psychology and a window through which I can visualize and grasp my inner self.
Can you tell us how you approach the figures in your work? You’ve mentioned how you don’t see them as self-portraits.
Often, I think of the human figures in my paintings as personified emotions and feelings. 
I share the emotions that figures are experiencing in the scene while I’m painting them, but they are not necessarily my self-portrait. When I put a person in a painting, I mainly paint an anatomically inaccurate shape, and in many cases, I paint a posture as if the shape of the body is collapsing like a liquid. The figure in a crouched posture is a figure that appears frequently in my paintings when I start trying to depict anxiety. The figure is constructed to convey emotion rather than be physiologically accurate.
Nature, in particular trees, is a motif that shows up in your work. Can you tell us
a little about its significance?
My mom and I like to explain things through analogy. From the time when I started to be able to discuss my concerns with her, whenever we could share our inner story a little more deeply, we referred to the troubles in us as trees. When one person talked about her worries, the other answered, ‘You must have a lot of trees in you right now.’ So the tree images in my paintings visualize fear and worries. However, the forest images in my paintings do not exist only as a negative presence to me. The forest in my paintings has an ambivalent aspect: the space of accumulated trees harbors fear and anxiety about the future. But as the result of expressing and sublimating these dark emotions, it is also a means of resolving them, ultimately signifies a place that gives stability and comfort.
Perhaps one of the most striking elements is the explosion of emotion that you are able to capture in your paintings through color and gesture. What is your process like when it comes to figuring out color and composition?
At the top of the painting ‘To Remember My Forest’, which is over 6 ft wide, there are trees that were created through an automatic process that does not reveal specific iconic images. While moving my arms wide to make arbitrary brush strokes, and sharply scraping the canvas with charcoal or a hard 4H pencil, the residues of tension and anxiety that cannot be expressed in verbal language appear on the surface through colors, marks, and shapes. I don’t usually have a very specific and clear sketch before I paint, instead when I have a flash of an image that I want to paint, I will make quick black-and-white line drawings in my sketchbook.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I love nature and going on trips to see national parks. To me, nature is always the best inspiration. Being immersed in nature feels surreal but at the same time allows me to understand my current status. Recently I went to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon with my sister and I’m curious how that trip will affect my new work.
What’s next for you?
I happily got back to my usual studio routine. I’ve been working on new works in my new studio space preparing several upcoming group shows.

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