Each body of work has its own distinct character in terms of materials and techniques. In many cases the materials are organic, including seaweed, sand, and fungus; and in other cases, they are man-made, including iron, bronze, resin, fabric, photo-emulsion, and synthetic pigment. In spite of this diversity, each group of work is connected in terms of theme and uses forms derived from the human body to address identity. In the context of the work the question of individual identity evolves into more universal existential questions.
The process of my work in the studio focuses on the physical interactions between materials. I gravitate towards materials and methods that do not permit complete control. The works tend to discover their direction during the uncomfortable moments when it is impossible to control the materials. In these moments the materials have the power to reveal unexpected expressive possibilities and to release new layers of content.
Markings is a series of works, beginning in 2001, that offers diverse representations of the human figure and its presence. In the early works, I depicted the human body and its physical currents of life such as cellular structure, blood, lymph, and water.The monumental figures were created from imprints of my body on textured fabric soaked in developer and placed over a matrix of photographic sheets. The developer and fabric responded to the pressure of my form and created figures composed exclusively of movements of fluid and faceted sparks of light.
My current focus has shifted away from the physical to the psychological: the mind and the emotions. As a result the images focus on the head and its physiognomy. Each head is constructed from hundreds of 5 x 7 inch improvised drawings that have been created with shellac, powdered pigment, and water. Pressing, rubbing, pouring, and dripping are the principal methods of “drawing”. These methods permit the diverse materials to interact in unpredictable organic movements and forms. When joined edge to edge to create the image of a head, the organic idiosyncrasies of each drawing combine with the underlying, pixilated grid to suggest dynamic, yet structured, movements of life. In this manner, each head is improvised from chance conjunctions found in the drawings, rather than the dictates of a body impression. Unlike previous projects, this process of improvisation takes full advantage of the structural flexibility inherent in my methodology.
For the past two years I also have been working with a master printer, Yoon Yeo Geul, from Korea to create large-scale woodcuts based on recent figures and heads. I started working with Yoon with the desire to create a more physical and tactile image. His method produces a very highly embossed image resulting from pounding multiple layers of mulberry paper into a deeply carved wood block. Each print has an almost sculptural character.
Koo Kyung Sook