Where are you from and where do you reside?
I’m from Seoul, South Korea but I moved to New York City three years ago. Now I live and work in Brooklyn.
What brought you to New York City?
I moved to the city to attend the Pratt Institute. My mom had suggested studying abroad, and especially in New York. It was a big challenge, but my mom never stopped encouraging me that I could do better than I thought. I think I’m lucky and also very appreciative of my mom for encouraging me to experience the world.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I changed the direction of my work to abstract after I moved to New York. I thought abstraction could be a way to break the boundary of my old work, but it didn't look like my current work. After awhile, my issues with the language barrier allowed me to choose to express myself with a visual language, which I call Shapes of Mind. Recently, I have been interested in writing poems.
You have an MFA from Pratt and you also attended Duk-Sung Women's University in Seoul - who were the most influential figures at these institutions?
Yes, I earned my BFA in 2010 and MFA in 2013 from Duk-Sung Women’s University in Seoul, Korea before I graduated with my second MFA from the Pratt Institute in 2017. Prof. Me Youn Park and Prof. Linda Francis trained me. In particular, Linda supported me to find a direction in my work which I had lost when I moved to this city. But I can say my grandfather Chung Sang Hwa is the best mentor. He is a painter and one of the pioneers of Korean abstract art. He still works hard and does his best. He is the best artist for me, and I always keep him in mind.
What led you to your current practice and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
I create a visual diary with the drawings based on my daily experiences. The drawings correspond with how I am feeling, and to my mind, which is why I call them Shapes of Mind. Then I blow some of them up to larger paintings - I just choose one, and the size of the painting follows the size of the feeling. I know it's an ambiguous explanation, but I would like to say I follow my heart.
It’s what makes me think more and talk less, which is good for an artist.
Hyun Jung Ahn
Do you find that environment relates to your work?
It's a good question - surroundings are the most important to make art. If I didn't move to New York, I would have never had the idea for my current work. A new environment makes people think differently especially being in a different culture and using the different language. It’s what makes me think more and talk less, which is good for an artist.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I usually get to my studio in Gowanus in the morning. Coffee first, and then I can start whatever. Before I begin to work, I check my plan for the day or week. I tend to organize some notes and doodles I had done before for creating new works. The notes become the titles of my works and the doodles become be the next drawing or painting. Then I make drawings or sometimes stretch canvases to warm up to my brain and hands. I work following the plan I made and usually I will stay in the studio until 7 or 8 pm.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I think upbeat music is necessary when I work. I always get some energy from that kind of music, and it allows me to work fast and have some good vibes with the rhythm. When I draw, I only use wax and oil-based pastel crayonsCarandache Neocolor 2. I love the powdery colors and the opacity of the oil pastel. What's wonderful is it's also water-soluble.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
I can say spontaneity is essential in my art, but it's not in the making process. I get inspired when I didn’t expect anything. For instance, when I stare at nothing while I wait for a train or when I don't think about work the ideas of shapes, color and theme suddenly come to me.
How does your choice of color inform the final piece?
I usually use less than three colors in a drawing or a painting. I crystalize my feelings, time, and words and pick the colors based on them.
My current works are my diary. I keep recording my narratives with the abstract visual language, so it's a series of my three years in New York City.
Hyun Jung Ahn
Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?
My current works are my diary. I keep recording my narratives with the abstract visual language, so it's a series work through my three years in New York City.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
Yes, Korean artist Hyun Jung Rhee is an artist I get inspired by. Her work is interdisciplinary media art, and the theme is about language and communication. Her work is strong and beautiful, and it is always very inspirational.
I haven't had the chance to collaborate yet but I would love to do so. My art is about my personal experiences, so the process is pretty solid and condensed. That said, I would like to have an opportunity to collaborate to broaden my perspectives and boundaries of the works.
What’s next for you?
I'm curious about my next step too. Three years ago, I had no idea that I could work as an artist in New York City but now that's exactly what I'm doing. I might try new medium, or I might leave, or I might keep working as I do now. I don't know where I'm going yet!