art we love
Finding balance with Yon Yi’s son
Above all, Yon Yi Sohn’s artistic practice explores the delicate balance between repetitive work and spontaneity. Synthesizing the teachings of Stoicism and Zen Buddhism with mathematical concepts, Yon Yi creates minimalist compositions that delight in the tension between geometric symmetry and natural variation. Likewise, her work is influenced by her childhood in South Korea and reflects a philosophical approach to modern conditions.
Yon Yi currently resides in New Zealand and holds various degrees in various fields including an MA in Painting. She has also taken part in numerous group and jury exhibitions in London and New Zealand.
Tell us who you are and what you do. what is your background
I am originally from South Korea and have lived and worked in different parts of the world. I worked in Hong Kong in Marketing Communications for many years before pursuing my earlier interests in drawing and painting. I have a BA in English from Korea University in Seoul, an MA in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a Diploma in International Advertising, a Certificate in Art and Design from Hong Kong University and a BFA from Massey University Wellington in New Zealand , and most recently an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art in the UK.
What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes you pursue in your work? Can you provide an example of work that demonstrates this?
Equilibrium, mathematical beauty, geometric elegance. deliberation and spontaneity. Freedom within self-imposed rules and systems. I grew up in Korea with Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian teachings and a stoic attitude as a child. I think these principles are coming back to me now as I move towards the later stages of my life, even after spending most of my adult life in Western society. I think of my work more as a daily ritual, akin to Zen meditation practices—mixing colors and applying those colors repeatedly, almost mechanically—or a Zen dialogue. I often find myself taking turns asking and responding to questions about work.
Can you explain to us the process of creating a work from start to finish?
My work usually begins with a concrete plan; However, I leave room for improvisation and react to how the picture develops over the course of the process. I mix primary colors to get a neutral gray and then add the thin layers of gray until certain patterns emerge. I finish the work by enhancing these resulting shapes and lines with subtle colors. It is a way of dividing space through the arrangement of analogous and complementary colors, lines and shapes – a meditation on the angles and resulting colors, an experiment in simplicity. Although my intention is for balance and poise, I sometimes look for an element of instability in the final work. I believe that this delicate tension is also a reflection of our everyday life. In my work I enjoy drawing simple lines and observing and participating in how the lines interact and correspond.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
My biggest influences are Agnes Martin for her gentle, gentle and meditative works and Gerhard Richter for his attitude of continuous reinvention and advancement.
How do you comment on current social and political issues with your work?
I believe that many social and political problems today are partly due to our forgetting to be receptive and open to the problems and situations around us. I would say that my work is more of a philosophical approach to the current issues, based on acceptance, tolerance, patience, understanding – though not necessarily agreement – and acknowledgment of difference.
How do you hope viewers will react to your work? What do you want them to feel?
Rather, my work allows for a relationship between the narrator of the story and the story itself. This process could theoretically never end. The goal could be to reach a state of aesthetic sublime, where process and image are mutual. What is important to me, however, is the way to get there. I hope that my works give the viewers this feeling.
Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?
I love working with music, especially classical music. The system and logic in the composition, harmonies, themes and variations of classical music support the rhythmic interference patterns in my work, resulting in a kind of synaesthetic play of colours. Music is a mathematical algorithm, says Yuval Noah Harari in his 2015 book Homo Deus. I think I can understand that.
Who are your favorite authors?
The book by Nikos Kazantzakis Zorba the Greek talks about freedom, love, happiness and embracing nature and harmony in a positive and participatory way. I’m reading Yuval Noah Hararis right now Homo Deus for the second time: an excellent summary of humanism, individual freedom and autonomy. I think I’m kind of a liberal humanist in that sense.
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