Artist at work in RYSE E.P. Suite
RYSE Can you describe the book that this artwork originates from?
Na Kim The book is called SET. The word ‘set’ can be used in many different ways and be applied to all kinds of uses.
I intentionally chose the word for this book because the book was initially made for my solo exhibition in 2015 in NYC. I had some solo exhibitions in the fine art field. So I had to present my works quite a few times [to this new audience. I was looking for a way to present or to introduce myself to this art field in a different continent – and for that reason, I was thinking ‘why not try to do something I like to do!’ So I simply decided to make a kind of conceptual monograph containing all my works from 2005-2016. I hired my friend, a graphic designer, to design my book. We made a special concept that all of my previous works can be simplified as color, shape or very simple symbol. And you cannot catch the context inside each project. It was simply a kind of sample book or a swatch book of my work. For me, it was a clever idea to present my work in a very different way, so since then,
I have used this book sample, a swatch book, to present my works into different places. At the first solo exhibition of SET in NYC, I presented the contents of this book into space. I made the wall paintings [for that exhibition] of the pages – since then I have made the art installations with the contents in this book. The installation at RYSE Hotel is the 14th version.
R So the process – of the installation from your work to the book – that was done by someone brand new.
N It is like a cycle of self-reference somehow. And at the same time that I made my monograph I had to explain it to someone else. For me, making artwork is a kind of commission for me. Because the curator needs something, the exhibition needs some concept. That’s why the artist was invited to do the show. So I mostly conceive this kind of project as commission work. For me, a political message or social language inside the work is not existent. That doesn’t really matter to me. Developing my own method through my work is more important. And then, in the end, finding the solution or answer. Maybe that can be connected with an aesthetic decision.
That is important to me.
R This is a very abstract proposition. The artwork doesn’t have an inherent meaning.
N Well, it is difficult to say that it doesn’t have a meaning. For me, the process is meaningful. I don’t think the message can be the meaning. A message can be interpreted in many different ways. How to manage the process, how to define the process or how to investigate ways of seeing as well? [With this] attitude anything can be meaningful to me. In that sense, somehow the work is full of meaning, right?
R When you first came to the project to what we see on the walls now – what were the stages that you went through? It meant adapting to change, because when you first visited it was just a concrete box.
N If I compare it to the work flow of graphic design, I think about all kinds of questions in the brief. You asked a lot of questions about the differences between the graphic designer, product designer or artist. But for me actually, the definition of these different fields is not really important. I just try to find something interesting within the process. In many cases for installation work, I have more space to consider many different possibilities, that’s why I like installations. When I visited this place for the first time I couldn’t really see the structure of the room. And there are some conditions that I cannot really change: penthouse suite room, on the 20th floor. There should be some specific purpose for the visitors, such as a party or just a gathering of people to relax. I naturally think about all these kinds of situations and maybe some imaginary situations in the future and some circumstances I can’t even imagine at the moment.
R Can you tell us what the material is that you are using now?
N It is a washi tape – paper tape – that was sponsored by a Japanese company called Nitto. The tape brand is Haru and I got a request that they want to launch this product in Korea for the first time. They wanted to collaborate with me on an installation. So I suggested that the RYSE project would be a nice chance to make something with these colored tapes. This would be the first time for me to work with the tape.
R We were a little surprised that you proposed a brand-new material for yourself! I think that added a lot of stress to the challenge. Is that something you do a lot?
N I try to push something in a certain direction that I cannot expect. I mean, I can expect some outcomes, but I can’t picture the actual result. I like to do something like that. This was intentional to try to mix these elements together in the project. In this suite space, very simple and minimal graphics will be unified and be a counterpart to the paintings already chosen. I thinkthis paper material tape and the carefully selected colors will go together well. I do like to experiment and go in a new direction. Honestly, I have to say this was really the first time that I challenged myself with this kind of material, and I am quite happy with that.
R For the physical space, I know you had a conversation with our interior designer.
N That was quite important because it is not a white cube. There will be people that stay here, but also there will be some objects that will stay together in this room. So, I wanted to think about the state of furniture, lightings, walls, colors, and materials as well. I like to immerse the people together inside the space. I checked the color of the furniture and the shape of the interior elements, and finally, I decided to make very minimal geometries with a lot of different colors. If I made this work without any fixed interior context, I wouldn’t use those specific colors.
R What are you going to tell people when you bring friends to your first party here, how do you describe the work?
N There will be two cases, maybe. One case will be a visit by someone that doesn’t really know my work. They may imagine this wall graphic and tape installation are part of the interior design. I also like to picture it that way. I’d like to see people not being able to point out what is art or not. But maybe they can see some tension. The artwork can interact with other things. I prefer the experience to be that way, but if I come with people who already know my work, I will explain why I use these new colors, maybe they will ask me these questions. Because I normally use basic and vivid colors.