Myungja Anna Koh
Art is a prayer
Last week, I had severe shoulder pain, one of my occupational diseases. Sometimes, when I had chronic pain in my shoulder and couldn't lift anything, it was hard to wake up. I felt the pain and found that I need to take some rest for further creative activities.
My artistic activities can be such an enlivening work that it's worth the efforts, but it also follows physical pain and sometimes emotional struggles.
When I suffered from the pain, my daughter, Celina came to me and told me, "You go see a dentist," and I asked her, "Why should I go to a dental office instead of going to a family doctor's office."
My Celina answered me thoughtfully, " Because the dentist has lots of ice bags."
I realized that children think very creatively and with different aspects, and then I always learn about my four-year-old daughter's artistic attitude.
Here is the collection of her artworks; enjoy her fantasy world.
A Small Bird is an adaptation of the traditional Korean pottery style Goryeo Celadon on mulberry paper. Its clear, delicate blue-green glaze characterizes Goryeo Celadon pottery. Its distinctive pattern attributes itself to Sangam, a unique technique of inlaying patterns on the surface of the celadon, which was developed in the mid-12th century Goryeo.
I depicted surface crack by crumpling a piece of thin mulberry paper. Then, I made the grounding using white acrylic paint. When drawing my bird, I carefully added pressure to the paper, paying close attention to the forces between my finger and the brush. Mistakes in balancing these forces could make the painting have a cartoon-like aesthetic which I wanted to avoid. Lastly, I populated the background with dried flowers and leaves and poured resin on the surface.
Balance is the fundamental of meditation, so in essence, I paint through meditation. A Small Bird challenged me as I had to pay special attention to the forces between my fingers, the brush, and the paper. Ultimately, exploring these forces helped me express Goryeo Celadon pottery’s inlaying painting through acrylic techniques.
(Special Thanks to my son, Minseob, for helping me with editing this post).
Once when I was a child, I happened to stop by my town’s Atelier by chance. I saw a picture of a rabbit hung on the wall. It looked like it wanted to tell me ‘Hi! Little girl! Welcome tell me more to my world!”. I cannot forget that moment, even today.
Later, I knew that the rabbit was the work of Alfred Duerer. Later on, I met a young women artist there. I was lucky to meet her. She kindly allowed me to come any time to her Atelier and taught me from time to time how to draw a rabbit. This was my first drawing. I decided to be an artist like her and did my best to go to an art school.
However, I faced opposition from my mother. She strongly opposed my dream. At that time, it was impossible to get entrance to a school without approval from a parent. She did not give me this approval, and instead she pushed me to enter a medical school. I learned the Science of Nursing, became a nurse, and worked at the Intensive Care Unit of a general hospital in Seoul for 3 years. Fortunately, I was satisfied with my job. Taking care of patients was meaningful for me and that healed myself too. One day I met the patient in a difficult situation because of his lack of medical information from medical staff. That motivated me to study medical informatics and I have got a master’s degree on medical informatics, two years later. I worked as a researcher for 6 years and designed medical contents based on my medical knowledge. Meanwhile, I got married and gave birth to my son.
In 2006, I relocated to Germany for my husband’s job. That was a turning point in my life. In the early year, I got homesickness and loneliness. Living in a foreign country was not easy. I tried to draw a picture in order to overcome depression. The German climate provided me artistic impression and art, painting more precisely, became a hobby for me to survive. I went to the art class in a museum while my son stayed in a kindergarten. Someday, the teacher asked me, “What is art for you?”. “It is just a hobby for me,” I answered him. He seriously advised me “I heard that it’s a really negative feeling. You’d better be an artist”, and he told, “Go to your way as an artist!”. Despite his strong recommendation, I still hesitated to change my direction because I supposed that Art is far away from my life like a paradise.
It did not take too much time to change my mind. When I walked through the underground parking lot, I found some people had an exhibition on the dark wall. That place did not have enough light and even passengers could not see their feet. However, the passion of artists made that dark place is a gallery. They used duct tapes instead of a frame and wrote their name on name cards truly. I realized that art is not far from me and it is always with me despite hardships. After the experience, I devoted myself to painting not as a hobby but as a destiny. One day, I met a Chinese sculpture artist, Wei Yang who lived the next door. She became a friend of mine because she and I share a similar enthusiasm for art. When she visited my home, I showed my paintings to her. She introduces me to the director of Poly gallery, which is a named local gallery in Karlsruhe, Germany. I could have an opportunity to take an interview. After passing the interview, I had finally my first exhibition in Poly gallery, 2011.
Since 2011, I have held many exhibitions around my place, Karlsruhe, Germany, and France. The exhibition in Speisehaus Gurke was the most memorable at that time. I exhibited 20 pieces of my artworks about Korea, invited talented musicians, and gave a small concert with a poetry reading. We showed Korean arts and music to German audiences. From that experience, I found that art is a bridge to connect to different cultures. In 2013, I moved again to New York and continued to work as an artist after moving. I will be with art everywhere in my life.
At the early stage, I did a dessin with a watercolored pencil. And then used with Acrylic paints. I’m pleased to express the impact of color and lines, and Acrylic is the best material to show a strong contrast. I feel to get healing from covering many wrong drawn sketch lines. Acrylic medium helps to show me how many hurts and mistakes can be healed and gives me a good message, “Nobody is perfect.”
Also, watercolor is a good material to paint without any restrictions. If I have limited time and I would like to paint it quickly, I would paint it with watercolor or water colored pencils. Nowadays I have explored making a digital painting using Photoshops in a tablet. This experiment is important for me because I have a plan to combine art and medical content. I have also a passion to make high qualified medical contents with an artistic aspect. When I was in Germany, I have worked with an international team, who developed medical educational content. After the development, I could get a great chance to present our project in the European Informatics Society. I found the possibility of collaboration between art and the medical filed. That is my next goal.
In my life, art is a mother, teacher, counselor, and friend, and sometimes gives me humor. Speaking of my personality, I am introverted and reserved. During my exhibition, some people considered me as a photographer and asked me to take a picture. They supposed my husband was the artist and asked him to explain my pictures. My family, husband, son, daughter is one team with my career. My husband helps to hang my artworks. My son, who can speak four languages, is a translator, and he reviews and edits my English document. My daughter gives me motivations, ideas, and inspiration with a funny smile.
I know that art may not make me rich but can give me the way how can I share my passion and inspiration with others. Sometimes my art customer shared with me their experiences how they were healed by my paints. It is a reason that I’m working hard and feel my mission firmly.