Exhibition Statement


The Korean word ‘목욕재계 (Mok-yok-jaegye)’ translates to the English word ablution, which historically refers to the action of cleaning the body and calming the mind, usually completed in conjunction with memorial or holy ceremonies. Today, the term is used more commonly as an expression for taking a bath, and clearing the mind before taking the next step in one’s life. As my time in college and life in America nears completion, I find myself thinking about the next stage of my life = my ablution. Using this, I have created a body of work that combines aspects of the human figure with that of specific animals.

         Each animal symbolizes a specific part of my Korean heritage. For example, my main artwork named ‘Ablution’ has two animals. The tiger represents my future self as an artist and means the king, the creator, and the destroyer. The fox represents my present self as an artist and means the trickster, the change, and the cleverness. The Chinese characters ‘虎’ means a tiger and ‘狐means a fox. The meanings are different but they have the same pronunciation ‘hoe’. This relates to the Korean proverb that the mountain without a tiger, the fox is going to reign. In conclusion, the tiger and the fox have same name ‘hoe’ and they can be the king, but the meaning is totally different. I made the Ablution to hope that now I’m the fox who reign my body(mountain) but in the future, I’m getting better and better as an artist, I will be tiger. The Chinese characters and the proverb are interesting to me, that is why I represent myself as a tiger and a fox.

         I use the female figure as a metaphor for mother of nature, and ‘Woong-nyeo’. Woong-nyeo is one of the main characters in the birth myth of the ancient Korea. She has the same context as “mother nature”. She was a bear, but she wanted to be a human. She prayed to the son of god named ‘Hwan-woong’ and he set the challenge for her. She succeeded and became a human. Hwan-woong and Woong-nyeo married after her ordeal, and gave birth to a baby who would be the first king of the Gojoseon ‘Dangun’. Some historians think the myth is the story about the totemic tribe and the agriculture tribe merged together. Woong-nyeo was the bear totemic tribe and kind of representative such as the daughter of the chief. Hwan-woong was also in the same position as Woong-nyeo. This is also very interesting to me. I think that Woong-nyeo probably wore the bearskin or the bear like mask to represent her self where she belonged, just like my artwork.

         My work is monochromatic, usually white. The absence of color is for clarity of figure, I expect the viewer to see the beauty of line and shape without the distortion by multiple colors. Sometime, I put the luster or decal on the piece that is for symbolism. For example, the gold luster on the Ablution means purification and holiness.

         Ultimately, the finished pieces create a sense of pureness and calm that I hope to take with me as I move forward

Kiyun Eom