Books are time, a sign of someone and a subject that speaks for strong vitality and potential. Each book has a different character and individuality like a human, and history and description are read like life. – Artist Jukhee Kwon

EDIT Nari Park WRITE Anna Gye  PHOTOGRAPHY Rei Moon

kwon jukhee for artmine

Reborn book sculpture
Artist Jukhee Kwon

Artist Jukhee Kwon, who lives in an old abbey in Italy, makes book sculptures that require you to take a slow look as if you weremeditating rather than reading it in brilliant sunshine

Artist Jukhee Kwon makes books that cannot be read. Books that require a slowlook as if you are meditating rather than reading. She makes books that create the viewers’feeling and give impressions, not a medium that conveys information. So she calls it ‘book sculpture’.Her book sculptures such as :‘Libro Libero’, a work that cuts open book pages and weaves them like threads and its shredded pages fall to the bottom where the scrolled paper is placed. ‘Fluxus’, a work in whichshredded pages spill out like water from a faucet hang from the book and pieces of papers full of letters on them pop out of the mask’s eyes, nose and mouth, and ‘Wedding Dress’, a work in whichshe made a wedding dress with shredded pages, and so on. Her book works seem like a huge tree made up ofthin pages gathered and piled high. Originally, paper is made from trees, and it becomes books. So we can say the installation works she made like trees tells of the circulation of life. Even though she puts plastic covers on her works as needed, she thinks her works well suit a space where they can grow like trees in the wind and sunshine and can naturally rot in the air. For example, on the top of the middle of the abbey’sstairs where she lives.

kwon jukhee for artmine
kwon jukhee for artmine

Artist Kwon lives with her Italian husband in aformer abbey and abuilding of Theological College in Grottaferrata located about an hour away from Rome Station, Italy. This is the place where the bricks on the wall, the long corridors and the tall ceilings hold three hundred years of time, and monks used to pass by several times a day. The small room on the second floor of this abbey building is her studio. In the rest of rooms, books that she wants to start to work with, books that she hasn’t finished, and completed sculptures are asleep. There is a small balcony in her studio, and, when the weather is fine, we can even see the city of Rome and the sea.

kwon jukhee for artmine


For artist Kwon, ‘books’ are everything in her work.
She takes her own breath to give a vitality
to old and abandoned books.

kwon jukhee for artmine

Living in an three hundred year plus old abbey and working on art based on books, it sounds like a novel. What is real life like in an abbey?
When I first got here, the silence and the stillness were burdensome for me. I was anxious about the absence rather than I was relaxed about the long time. However, as I got more and more accustomed to the environment, I became aware of the sound that I couldn’t hear before, the feelings and the smells. And it became an inspiration and led to art works. This place accumulated over three hundred years of time, so it isfull of energy. So it is a perfect place for artists to meditate and contemplate. For me, this place allows me to do huge projects, and there are also many rooms left, so it is good for doing various works simultaneously. The downside is just that there is no heating facility, so we have to put ona fire with wood every day from autumn to spring. It is also a place where you need to control your mind well because you feel a strong energy piercing you.

kwon jukhee for artmine
kwon jukhee for artmine
kwon jukhee for artmine

“To me, my work is meditation and life training, and I think work itself should come out in my own language. Since I do everything alone, it takes time to do my work.” Kwon says to people who suggest assistants.

 

You studied and worked in London before you met your Italian husband and came here, right? I think it was a totally different life from here.
I decided to study abroad after my 20s, so I worked on a tight schedule everyday while I stayed in London for four years. I worked at a café and studied at the same time. London certainly has more opportunities than Italy, and it has lots of advantages for artists in many ways. There is alittle confusion in the diversity of languages and cultures, and it is in this confusion thatcuriosity and questions arise from this natural clash. I felt those things always existed, so I lived in tension. I became associated with October Gallery in 2012 and that led to the exhibition. A variety people, like other artists, curators and collectors, came to the exhibition opening. We can feel a strong artistic sense of beauty in London, but the expenditure of emotion is very hard upon us. We are endlessly exposed to new things, and we follow them, then the standard we set up is often shaken itself. London is an expensive city for artists to live. In Italy, I think the art comes into me slowly rather than shocking or new like in London. Due to this, we can take a breath and think about the art world one is pursuing. I like to reflect on the art in the past rather than the current issues, so I don’t have enough understanding and tolerance forcontemporary art. I usually work in Italy, and exhibitions are held throughout Europe, mainly in London.

kwon jukhee for artmine
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You said that you got inspired by books which you discovered unintentionally,like people you encounter, and you developed your work.
When I studied for my MA in London, I visited the library in the Victoria & Albert Museum. There is an old book section, so I asked them to show me, but they said it was not allowed. A few days later, I showed my book project which I was working on, and asked them if I could just take some pictures of the unopened books. And then they said that would be possible. I suddenly thought books we can’t open are death. Books are usually closed, but if somebody owns the books, spends time with books,it is an object that comes to have traces of the person. I thought I wanted to transformpassive booksinto a subject with positivity and create their rebirth into something else other than a book.
So book sculptures in which their shape, function and means are completely changed are developed inthis way. A shape based on the inspiration from the book comes to mind, and I also think about the book’s title or the route that the book came to me. To emphasize the vitality of the book, I expand the shape in connection with the look of tree trunks spreading out to the old building or the mold spreading on the wall. Dismantling works differ from time to time. I usually dismantle pages but don’tseparate them from the book at all. The roots are always connected. Which means the pages of the book are connected to the spine. It is also connected to my life philosophy that I want to take my roots deep into the ground and grow wide and big. Trees become paper, the paper becomes books, and the books become trees again, this process seems like a circulation of life. Books very much resemble our lives. I think my book sculptures also tell about the moment in which the reincarnation of time is repeated infinity.

kwon jukhee for artmine
kwon jukhee for artmine

Do you have any books you are focusing on recently?
I have been working on this for a long time, it is like a human encyclopedia called ‘Who’s Who’. It may be out of print now. This work is to make a large relief plane by cutting and folding a little piece of page like an origami form and attaching it to the plane and three-dimensional structure, but it takes a lot moretime thanI expected.

What do you think of the advantages and disadvantages of living in overseas as a Korean artist?
Korean artists have a good impression in Europe. Most of Korean artists are good at digging into one thing persistently, and people in Europe think this is very unique. People say they can feel sincerity and craftmanship. On the other hand, this can be a disadvantage. There is no flexibility. While European artists change their work style freely and try new things without a hitch, Korean artists have a lot of thoughts and worries. Including me. Hahaha

Galleria Patricia Armocida_ObjecthoodJukhee Kwon_PhCarloBeccalli_72DPI-3
Galleria Patricia Armocida_ObjecthoodJukhee Kwon_PhCarloBeccalli_72DPI-11
Galleria Patricia Armocida_ObjecthoodJukhee Kwon_PhCarloBeccalli_72DPI-43
Galleria Patricia Armocida_ObjecthoodJukhee Kwon_PhCarloBeccalli_72DPI-29
밀라노 GALLERIA PATRICIA ARMOCIDA  갤러리에서 열린 권죽희 작가 개인전 풍경. 다수의 작품이 콜렉터들에게 판매되며 성공적으로 마무리됐다.


밀라노 GALLERIA PATRICIA ARMOCIDA 갤러리에서 열린
권죽희 작가 개인전 풍경.

You decided to study abroad after your 20s, and I think there are some artists who have a similar worries. Many people think that they should work abroad to enter onto the wider stage. Do you have any realistic advice to give those artists in the view of your real experience?
To put this in a cold way, I don’t think it matters for the artists who will succeed whether they are in Korea or overseas. In our time when digital is developed, people can do enough to draw appeal to themselves, the gallery reaches out them first wherever they work. However, when you think you need to go abroad to have some adventure and challenge, then I agree. But, I suggest that you should make a specific plan. What point or how old you will go abroad is not under consideration.It is important to think ahead how faithfully you will spend time there even if you just stay for a short time.

In which living space wouldyou want to display your book sculpture in Italy?
GNAM(National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Rome, Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, Fondazione Prada, Mudec, and Venice Biennale. These are my dream spaces.

kwon jukhee for artmine

권죽희 | Jukhee Kwon
Jukhee Kwon was born in Daejeon in 1981. She lives and works near Rome in Italy, Grottaferrata. Kwon studied Fine Art at Chung-Ang University, Seoul. After she graduated from Chung-Ang University, she worked as an illustrator for a while. After that, she went to London, England where she encounteredbooks while she obtaining her MA in art book course from Camberwell College of Arts. She discovers abandoned or disused books and shreds the pages by hand to create objects which have other meanings and purposes rather than books. Kwon says that each book has a different character and individuality and has history and description like human life. She refers toher works as ‘book sculpture’. Ideas of destruction and re-creation. This is her work’s keyword that is conveyedthrough her book sculptures. Jukhee Kwon has held several exhibitions with October Gallery in London, England. After she moved to Italy, she works with Galleria Patricia Armocida. She has exhibited with Choi&Lager Gallery in Germany and Ierimonti Gallery in New York, USA.

 


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PHOTO © ARTMINING – magazine ARTMINE / Rei Moon, Jukhee Kwon