An Interview with Yesuk Seo
Beyond the pleasing wordplay of screenprinting onto actual screens, the material that Yesuk Seo has made her signature substrate has many satisfying qualities. It can support the surface of an image while retaining its transparency, it can be draped and layered. It behaves like a cinematic crossfade that has been paused mid-frame. Yesuk talks about her background in print and how she uses window screens to move beyond the page.
When did you start printing?
I began making prints - specifically my method of silkscreen printing on window screens - while I was studying sculpture and printmaking at Pratt Institute (MFA 2016). I wanted to create something portable, something foldable, something familiar, something whimsical. I wanted a material that somehow related to the theme of invisible memory, and a material that could occupy architectural spaces with subtle illusions drawn from Eastern and Western cultures.
At first I struggled with how to present my work. I decided to use specific colors and photographic images that metaphorically represented the content that interested me. Silkscreen printing seemed like it would be the best method to accomplish my goal. While at Pratt, I took the class “Project Print” taught by Grayson Cox and Anne Gilman. Their synergy helped me develop a thoughtful way to develop my ideas through the processes of printmaking and sculpture. This led me to silkscreen printing ghostly patterns on to rolls of window screen and displaying the work sculpturally. I discovered that multiple layers of hand-pulled and pushed ink created afterimages on the window screen. Every result was different and I relished the unexpected errors. Printmaking on window screen enabled me to explore how moiré patterns and ghostly images shift and change depending on light, color, and pattern. The screen material, which does not wrinkle, is not heavy to move, and is semi- transparent, proved to be perfect. In addition, it could be recycled and upcycled.
I would also note that I had the good fortune during my studies at Pratt to share productive critiques with invited guests Stephen Maine, Analia Segal, Beverly Semmes, and John Monti, which all had a great influence on my work.
How do you see your print background information your more expanded practice?
One Korean proverb is “be brave if you do not know.” I always kept this in mind while I was making sculpture and my sculpture-based background was the reason why I found failure and mistakes a challenge without being afraid of them. Therefore I found the learning process of printmaking to be a challenge and tried not to be afraid of my mistakes or unexpected outcomes. Although my primary method in my studio practice is silkscreen printing, my studio practice crosses over into other disciplines including painting, textiles, sculpture, and photography. My studio practice also relies on both digital and analog processes, I am not bound by the traditions of printmaking.
Where do you make your work? Home studio? Shared print space?
I use two studio spaces: a shared space at Lower East Side Printshop (LESP) and a private space in Greenpoint. I started using Lower East Side Printshop after graduation in 2016. I began as an Intern in order to learn about how to publish screen printing editions for artists. My printing skills improved a lot through the experience I had assisting master printer Erik Hougen and assistant printer Jeremy Ruiz while they worked on a publication of Derrick Adams’ prints. I also had a chance to participate in the Keyholder Residency at LESP and I have kept using their shared space. Currently, I also rent a private studio space which I’m using to prepare my solo exhibition in Seoul in October 2019.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Print Club Ltd! I remember seeing one of your published prints with shaded polka dots on a multi-color striped wave pattern (our Jonathan Ryan Storm edition) at the 2018 Editions/Artist Book Fair. Also, I would love to collaborate with Surface Scientists who deal with semiconductor materials by using nanoscales to reveal the illusion between two sides of an algorithm for futuristic development. My father, who is a physicist, had shown me his research on this subject and he told me that their characters seemed repetitive but they were not really ordered. It had its own regulating systems but with exceptions. I find this fascinating and I want to investigate the intersection of art and other disciplines such as science. I want to create my works in those contexts to discover new ways of creating illusionary abstract spaces.
Where are some of your favorite spaces for contemporary art or design?
If I pick one location for contemporary art or design in the U.S., I choose the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Even though this museum is not mainly known for showing contemporary art and design, Isabella’s distinctive collection inspires me to use visions of the past to consider my consider my present.
Whenever I visit, I’m rewarded with new inspirations. The antiquities hold embedded futuristic memories. One of the hidden riddles of the museum is how it balances multi-cultural collections and architecture. Upon each visit, I try to see connections that I may have missed previously. The different thematic rooms of the collection raise questions about the challenge of harmoniously displaying arrangements of Eastern and Western antiquities in one site. Compared with other museums, the installation of the collection is familiar and cozy, even mysterious. I still remember this moment in the tapestry room when I opened a red-velvet blanket and I saw underneath a schematic manuscript of water clock made by Al-Jazari who made Automata. I recognized this beautiful work from texts on the history of medieval manuscripts.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am preparing for my upcoming solo exhibition at the lobby in GS Engineering & Construction Company in Seoul in October 2019. The exhibit will focus on memories of spaces from past where I can no visit, as they have been destroyed through urban gentrification. Using photographs with my grandpa’s souvenirs suspended inside a glass cabinet and whimsical silkscreen prints on window screen I will insert my memories into this new space. I am also preparing for a three-person group show with artists Em Rea and Duy Hoang. The exhibit is curated by Erick Benitez and Ariel Foster who just launched at an artist-run gallery, The Parlour, in Baltimore.