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Interview: Sangho Han

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Improvisation(drawing). Acrylic, pencil and house paint on canvas. 72 x 73.5 in 2022

1) Could you introduce yourself? Where are you from, where did you study art, and when did you first see yourself as an artist? Hello, I am Sangho Han, who is living in New York CIty. I studied and received a master's degree in SVA (School of Visual Arts) MFA Fine Arts. And I never thought of myself as an artist. I may have pondered several times the thought of "what if I could be an artist?" 2) Could you elaborate on your artist statement that your art deals with the history of abstraction? Do you think the distinction between abstract art and nonobjective art is significant or meaningful, if the two can appear very similar? Are some of your art non objective rather than abstract? I agree with your opinion. The main reason why I attach myself to the history of abstraction and the term "abstraction" is because I was heavily influenced by abstraction. The boundary between non objective and abstraction is insignificant, and to be honest I believe that it would be difficult to explain this. However, if we think of the impact that the term "abstraction" and the history of abstraction made to people, I think that this would be the basis of spirituality. I believe that As we talked last time, I believe that the protruding thoughts and actions of the type of artist who breaks 'taboos' and violates religious precepts (as we talked about last time) comprise the 'abstract parts.' This is in complete opposition to the current of common sense and popular belief and makes the boundary between common sense and the lack of common sense in vain.

untitled. Acrylic and graphite on canvas. 30 x 40 in. 2021 3) In our studio visit, you mentioned that you always consider the possibility of quitting art as a necessary condition of making art. This strongly differs from other artists who intend to make art life long, but about 90% of the art school graduates stop making art within 2-3 years. Do you think this contradictory mentality has freed you from the burdens of being an artist and will allow you to persevere, perhaps? I totally agree with you. And I think every artist has to think about the situation of 'quitting art as a necessary condition of making art.' The more one makes art the more one gets stuck in a rut, and there is the tendency to get used to habits. Furthermore, there are also thoughts like "I am a painter," "I am painting right now," and "the work I am making now has significance," etc. These thoughts continually lead the artist towards a state of delusion. The image (or painting) is an object that must be destroyed at the moment that it is created. 4) You also mentioned that in your current artistic practice, you treasure the accidental, improvisational, and impulsive nature of making and doing. How do you involve artistic intention in this kind of creative process and mentality? How are the two related? Actually the impulsive and the unplanned mean that there was no time to think about something in a systematic way. I am unable to think systematically about the task of painting - painting and maintaining my life. To speak with direct meaning, to make a painting (or artwork) activates as the meaning of stirring an attack and committing an act of some sort. I would like to speak of this as a rational attack and an attack with rationality removed.

5) In your artist statement, you mentioned that you feel that you became childlike in the process of becoming a Korean immigrant in the United States. Could you elaborate on some of the experiences that emasculated or weakened your sense of identity and strength? How does this child-like quality activate in your artistic practice and style? This question has a connected aspect to the 9th question. Since coming here, I came to conceive of everything that was happening to me as a kind of anecdote. That could be said to be my strategy to completely absorb my experiences in this country called America. Although the word 'strategy' may appear too grandiose, I thought that I myself should completely throw away the experiences and learnings that I would acquire here, and I should become someone who can contain anything by becoming an 'entirely empty plate.'

New Yorker. Acrylic, pencil, and house paint on wood. 6 x 5 ft. 2021

6) You mentioned in the studio visit that a transformative event occurred that led to the destruction of your paintings that were made in an academic style, and this was the new beginning for you to create a new body of work that was influenced by abstract expressionism. You mentioned that the new body of work is actually a return to your previous abstract doodles or drawings from your teenage years. How did you conceive of the style when you were young? How have you re-invigorated and renovated this previous approach to painting and drawing? The transformative event that we spoke of is the result of my feeling that a portion of my psyche atrophied. I came to sense that in the process of creating my work I completely escaped the influence of academia and the institutional setting, and I believe that this became the foundation of my work until now. As a young person, I definitely liked scribbling and drawing, and I resisted painting. I put effort into understanding and pioneering these two fields in any way possible.

Improvisation(untitled, wall painting and drawing). Acrylic, graphite, collage, paper, canvas, and house paint on the wall. 73.5 x 73.5 in. 2022 7) Do you see a fundamental difference between painting and drawing? Where do you see your art situated between the realms of painting and drawing? Painting and drawing are not different from one another. However, the issue is really what kind of paintings and drawings the artist has experienced while making art. The problem is what kind of painting one has experienced and intends to do and what kind of drawing one has experienced and intends to do. 8) You suggested during our meeting that the academic environment of art schools and graduate schools force or pressure a particular kind or way of thinking, making, and presenting. How do you see this academic style and manner of artists who went to art school? How about outsider artists who were never trained in an institutional setting? Do you see yourself as being closer to the outsider artists as you resist and challenge the modes of being, making, and ideating that are typical to art schools and graduate schools? I believe that art that deviates from the academia and the educational system is not all that important. This is not to say that art that does not experience the educational (academic) system is not important. What I mean is that there is no meaning to merely resisting the system. And to consider oneself as an outsider artist is also not all that desirable. The diverse forms of art and business relations that include the academic system have always existed, and we cannot say that this is bad. Also we cannot say that art that escapes the system is irrelevant. The important thing is about where the art that I am making came from and where it will be heading towards. To speak directly, this is ultimately about skill. It is not that regular education is important but the question of how to define oneself regarding one's access to regular education or the lack thereof. The artist must be skillful, oneself.

New yorker. Acrylic, pencil, and house paint on wood. 6 x 6 ft. 2021

9) Could you elaborate on your vocabulary, "psychological anecdote," which you use to describe your work, in opposition to "representational?" What is the meaning and implication of this terminology, and why is the distinction needed to accurately describe your work? This is also my affection and interest in literature. LIterature and art cannot be separated and comprise a very close relationship. I think of everything that happened to me in America as a kind of anecdote. That is also a story about the metaphor that we shared and ultimately a problem of which method the artist could sublimate the events that occurred to him/her/them with. 10) You explained that you really focused on art and studio practice so much that you really had no time for social life. What are the pros and cons of working in near isolation as an artist? What are your plans to step out of this isolated territory? This is a very difficult issue. I believe that there is a need to isolate myself, but at the same time I think that there is a need to socialize in order to maintain a life of making art. This issue is a problematic aspect with my temperament. I am too exhausted with the task of painting and frustrated that I don't want to spend energy on things that happen after painting. This is a very twofold attitude. And as a member of society this is a method having a significant problem. However, the process of painting or drawing out the image cannot be only nice or beautiful. Although I think that there is a need to change this sort of attitude of mine, I don't know a definite plan on this. I only make art when the environment allowing artmaking is given, and try not to attach myself or feel anguished too much regarding the situation outside of artmaking.

Wall drawing. Acrylic and pencil on the wall. 92 x 72 in. 2021 11) How do you see your work evolving in the next 5 - 10 years? If you had won a major grant that would support big projects, what would it be like? I don't know if I could continue making art after 5 or 10 years. In the case of receiving a grant this is mostly concerning space and materials, based on what we talked about last time. I have a desire to leave behind my murals as not temporary happenings but as permanent works of art. If I could receive a grant, perhaps it would be a way of manufacturing a drywall or making a material of similar format and painting on it. I am not sure.

A friend of mine. Acrylic and house paint on wood. 90 x 40 in. 2023 12) Who are the artists who most influence and inspire you? Are there any Korean/Northeast Asian artists whom you look up to? Or do you blur the boundary between the East and the West as an artist? Is there any important distinction between Asian contemporary painting and Western or non-Asian contemporary painting?

In truth, I believe that the spirit of great artists are all connected. The great artists of both the West and the East have realized a kind of correct method and visualized it in one's own way by coordination. One can talk about the historical artists of Korea or the artists of the West. I do not think that it's important to name a particular artist. Of course, although, despite this, I could name several artists whom I admire the most, I believe that contemporary art is undergoing a particular kind of time or period. History is just history; I think about the things that I can make at this time and period. However, I also feel regret about not being able to talk about the great artists (for this question).

Why we paint ? Acrylic, graphite and house paint on canvas. 72 x 78 in. 2022

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