Eunice Kim on Shades of Light

Eunice Kim (Korean-American, active United States, born 1971), Tessellation (16-3) #21, 2011. Collagraph monoprint on paper; image/sheet: 12 × 12 in. Museum Purchase: Asian Art Acquisition Fund, 2018.12.1 © Eunice Kim

“Eunice Kim’s collagraph monoprints are intimate, meticulous constructions. Works in the Tessellations series are created from three-inch square monoprints—each individually inked and printed—which are then assembled to create a composite whole.  She deposits tiny dots of modeling paste upon her printing matrix, then hand-polishes each dot to her desired height and contour.  Kim has called the resulting surface of her plates ‘akin to miniature sculptures.’

Her process is rigorous and intentional, balancing an organic evolution of form within the restraints of a systematic, repetitive structure. She deliberately prioritizes nontoxic materials in her printmaking practice. Now based in the Seattle area, Kim also draws upon personal memory to inform her work, particularly childhood experiences growing up in Korea.

Kim says, ‘This ritualistic repetition harkens back to my grandmother’s nightly Buddhist prayer chants I grew up listening to, and touches on larger themes, such as making as meditation and the interplay between individual and collective.'”

—Jeannie Kenmotsu, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art

Seattle-based Eunice Kim’s Tessellation (16-3) #21 is currently on exhibit in Shades of Light: Korean Art from the Collection (on view through December 31, 2022).  In this exclusive to PAM post, she shares some of her thoughts and observations on what makes the exhibition so special:

One of the great joys for me—both as a maker and viewer, is discovering the why’s and how’s behind an artwork. My own creative practice, for instance, is deeply informed by my early years growing up in South Korea. Recurring visual motifs of dots, circles, and grids, as well as thematic explorations of interplay between individual and collective, all find their origins in that formative time.

(left) My grandmother and me, circa 1974.
(right) Image of bodhisattva my grandmother would face during prayer and her prayer beads.  On my visit to childhood home in 2004, I found the print hanging precisely on the same spot as it always has while I was growing up.

Likewise, mindful repetition mirrors and echoes the Buddhist prayer chants my maternal grandmother, who raised me for the first ten years of my life, recited nightly. Holding these memories close to heart and guided by desire to transcend the prosaic, I employ lyrical iteration in what has become making as meditation.

(left) Positioning tiny modeling paste dot marks on plate surface.
(right) Dot marks–each shaped and polished by hand, inked, and ready to print.  I rely heavily on my sense of touch, as physicality and dimensional differences of miniature forms are nearly impossible to discern by sight alone.

Despite the immense and profound influence of culture, it’s not very often my work has the opportunity to be showcased in the context of “Korean Art.” It has been an absolute pleasure to be exhibited in such illustrious company and what I find particularly delightful about Shades of Light is, although the objects shown span nearly a millennium of time, there is a shared thread of aesthetic and sensibility running through them. We find a wonderful simplicity and clarity of form, which light, true to the premise of our installation, brings to the forefront and illuminates.

Another striking thing about the artworks on view as a group is the duality and coexistence of sparse austerity and rigorousness, both at once. These are qualities I find ever-present in my work as well, and perhaps quintessentially, and unmistakably, Korean.

—Eunice Kim

To learn more about influence of Korean culture on artist’s work:

To learn more about artist’s process:

From Tessellation series:
Tessellation (144-3) #5, collagraph monoprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches, 2011
(left) Tessellation (144-3) #10, collagraph monoprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches, 2012
(right) Tessellation (144-3) #9, collagraph monoprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches, 2012
Courtesy of artist and Davidson Galleries, Seattle

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