Essay questions for Kelly Hwang

What media do you consider to be your “main” media? Or are you very flexible in the usage of various media?
SM: I like to remain flexible and respond to the working environment with regards to media use. For example a previous residency in Cyprus, surrounded by cacti plants, led to pluck spikes from the plant to thread through my canvases. I try to respond to what exists in my natural environment and that will depend greatly on where I am in the world.

My residency at NLCS Jeju was directly informed by the volcanic rock and structural leaves surrounding me. Previous works have used soap, wax, fat and chocolate, materials that can be melted down and poured into any mould. However, saying this I would consider plaster to be a ‘main’ material, even if it’s only used in the research stages, it is immediate, accessible and wonderful to work with.

How important do you consider your media to be to a) you personally
SM: I have always questioned and tried to challenge consumerist messages regarding body image, femininity and my role within society. Physical connections with materials and media use therefore have been a silent, nonverbal response to these questions throughout my life.
b) you as an artist
SM: My personal response therefore spills over into me as artist (although I am not sure I see any differentiation). My role I suppose is therefore defined as ‘artist’ but I am not even sure what that definition is, and never really have done. I research, I engage with other people, other places, I play, I discover, I talk a lot, I make things and then hopefully people want to look at those things. As an ‘artist’, I want to play with as many different materials as possible. The potential therefore is endless; feathers, make-up, hair, skin, soil, rock, sand.
c) to the work?
SM: This is the most important part of the work, what it is made of. What physical/social/political weight does that material possess and how can I utilize that within what I am trying to say. ‘Followed’, a solid white chocolate spine, required endless trips to purchase the ingredients, days of chopping and melting and smelling and stirring and pouring, a disciplined act not of consuming the chocolate but of casting with it.

Do you think choice in media has shaped your artwork (e.g. meaning, message) or
vice versa?
SM: Yes, following on from the previous question, the media/material choice is therefore of paramount importance to the meaning and message. Although that meaning/message is one that I lose control of as soon as I release that work for other people to consume as they then bring their subjective view and personal history to the work and that is when it starts to get interesting.

In your body casting works, how important is media a factor?
SM: Casting the body, usually my own, is an experience of complete dependency and lack of control as the material I use is incredibly restrictive when drying. To have direct contact with the material covering my skin makes a strong connection and is quite often painful. Works that use the body casting process have included plaster, chocolate, wax, resin, soap and fat. Materials that are used to target our consuming bodies and/or our self-policing subjects are then transformed somehow and embodied within an installation or sculptural work.

Is your aesthetic of color preservation a continuous theme throughout your work?
SM: Yes, the use of latex, plaster, clay, sand, soil, stone, hair, black/white paint, canvas, material are allowed to remain in their original state of colour. I have never properly questioned this about my practice, so thank you, and I am now thinking perhaps it is a reflection of how I feel personally about colouring/covering something, my skin with make-up, my hair with dye, the canvas with colour, the latex or resin with pigment, the plaster with paint. Perhaps this all comes down to some sort of refusal to disguise. This needs more thought.

In regards to media, how focused/concerned/devoted to their color and texture?
SM: As above, I am ‘concerned’ to retain original colour/texture and will, as a result of your essay, explore this further.

About the installation at NLCS Jeju: Why did you decide to have four different media (white plaster, black/white photographs, volcanic rocks, fabric with black paint) and four different subject matter?
SM: For me, there is only one subject and that was traveling to NLCS Jeju and working with a group of students on a volcanic island, a shared experience. A series of works installed together were created under this one subject matter. Visits to various galleries and museums during my stay absorbing historical, cultural and touring the island to take in the natural environment all influenced this work. The fabric footprint journeys are the result of a shared experience across the school and reminiscent of Korean calligraphy. The collection of rocks was a group ‘offering’ to
the work, a collaborative act of placing in a space, things found in our local environment. The collage of photographic prints, (full colour) provide the documentation of the performance act of painting each other and the fabric in some sort of ritualistic routine. The white plaster is using the ‘immediate’ process of printing from life, as if you were taking a rubbing from a tree, we were printing in plaster from the leaves around us. The 2 sculptural works are laid on the floor in geometric shapes reflective of the crops harvested around the coast and from the sea laid out to dry and are piled as if an island is present amongst them. The fabric is hung in some sort of waterfall format. The red footprint on the fabric is of the artist, a signature as if a piece of calligraphy.

Concerning the red covered volcanic rock in the corner, I found it to be very similar to the work of Andy Goldsworthy (attached on the next page); did you deliberately cover the rock with red as a reference? And is it significant that it deviates from your usual aesthetic of color preservation?
SM: A very interesting relationship between the two works. Yes, the single red rock again refers to the artist signature as per a piece of traditional Korean writing. I would not usually employ the use of colour like this so yes it does deviate from my usual aesthetic, however the installation is site specific and required this visual reference in order for it to make sense. This rock is the same one used within the performance to print each other’s bodies. A comment on who is the artist in this act. The people who make the mark or the one who is directing those to make the mark, neither of which was myself. However the single red rock acts as an artist signature without stating whom the artist is/was.

Do you have any other comments about your art practice or usage of media?
SM: Below is my artist statement, which reiterates the importance of media/material use and further info about my practice in general. ‘The artist is interested in individual control and consumption. Obsessive and routine acts of measuring and perfecting envelopes both Misselbrook’s creative process whilst commenting on the disciplined quest for an unattainable bodily perfection. The use of chocolate, soap, latex, wax, and degradable or edible materials presents the seductive yet simultaneously repellent nature of human anatomy. The juxtaposition of hard against soft and sensual against skeletal has become her visual language of a struggle within and of a body.

The artist’s degree show presented ‘Followed’, a skeletal vertebrae cast in white chocolate morphed into a pair of cupped hands as though waiting for absolution, ‘Monthly’, documenting the artist shaving her head and ‘Pure’, the artist’s torso cast in soap, routinely washed away in exhibition. In 2004, ‘1m2’, a cast of the artist’s body was produced in response to a call for entries, which limited the work to a metre in any direction. The work is strapped into a steel cage and spikes aggressively defend it. This work has since been exhibited in an underground medieval vault, the Southampton City Art Gallery and The Crypt in St. Pancras Church. In 2006, a solo exhibition at the Bargate Monument gallery presented ‘Misplaced’, the artist in a steel cage with elongated arms and knife and fork attachments and ‘Self-conscious’, a looped video showing the meticulous self-policing of the artist’s face. Misselbrook’s Masters degree show included sculptural installation and recorded performances conveying educational, religious and submissive acts in quests for perfection. This structured behaviour and performance is providing a new dimension for the artist, opening up her practice and interrupting controlled processes and displays. Misselbrook now looks to develop a more socially engaged practice exploring acts of self-starvation in feminist art and relating this to the disordered psychology of the anorexic ‘patient’ as well as ritualistic social gatherings and experiences within the making process.’

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