Mark Yang (b.1994 in Seoul, South Korea) is a Brooklyn-based painter. Yang received a BFA from the Art Center College of Design (2017) and an MFA from Columbia University (2020). He has presented solo exhibitions at Various Small Fires in Los Angeles; Dallas Art Fair; Korea International Art Fair; and Steve Turner, LA. His work is included in the public collection of the Mint Museum, Charlotte; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.
THAT: Tell us about your practice.
MY: I am a painter. I consider myself a traditional painter in the sense that I paint with oil paint on canvas with a brush. I also have a deep drawing practice. I separate sketches and drawings as sketches are draughting down rough ideas where drawing exists on its own
THAT: Can you talk a little bit about your connection between wrestling and your art practice today? Beyond the works themselves, how has the sport influenced how you approach art?
MY: Being a painter is kind of like being a sportsman. It could get lonely as we are primarily in solitude. Still, we need to stay motivated and dedicated and become the best we can be by showing up and practicing every day, even if my colleagues might not.
There is also the physicalness of painting. Staying straight on my feet with a brush in my hand, and translating colors on a palette to the canvas with the appropriate sensitivity. I relish making paintings bigger than I am as painting becomes a physical activity. There is a thrill in wrestling with an object larger than I am. Flipping the canvas, laying them on the floor, hanging them on the wall, etc. Standing in front of something big as me could be intimidating and frightening but it simultaneously gives me satisfaction
THAT: Looking at your work and reading your interviews, the art history seems to run deep in your practice. Do you find yourself going back to certain artists/time periods or has that changed over time?
MY: It's crucial for any artist to continue studying art history. I inevitably carry and wrestle with the bag of art history when I am in the studio and continue to meditate on them.
I adore Mannerist, especially Jacopo Pontormo. I am in awe of how they "mannered" the human forms with such strangeness with elegance. I am humbled by the usage of light and shadow (chiaroscuro) found in Baroque paintings, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's color and distorted perspective, as well as Modernism, like Fauvists, Surrealists, Abstract Expressionists, and so on. Art history is an irresistible diet for my studio practice.
THAT: A unique aspect of your work is the prominence of lower limbs and feet in your works. How did you come to use that as part of your visual language?
MY: There are many reasons, but looking at art history, I felt that feet, compared to head and hands, never received much love from artists. Feet are not as flexible as the hands, but like the Mannerist, I wanted to make the impossible possible by drawing convincing feet dancing like the hands. I also enjoy drawing the genitals for movement and gravity, and big round butts as they bring a sense of tranquility and equilibrium.
THAT: Color is another element that feels unique to your work, although it varies from work to work. How do you approach color in your practice?
MY: Colors are difficult to talk about since it's the most intuitive factor in my practice. The approach is similar but vastly different from painting to painting. Sometimes it's as simple as buying a set of colors I've never used before or using four different types of yellows in a single painting. I also think a lot about the light source, space, and mood, but I also get very geeky with color theory - my favorite being simultaneous contrast.
THAT: What has been inspiring you lately?
MY: There are too many things in life I am inspired by! Nevertheless, my wife has been my biggest inspiration. Living with someone I love and respect has influenced my practice and thinking about life and art.
THAT: What's next for you?
MY: I will be cooking paintings in my studio.
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