The beauty of love and nature

Photo by Cheryl Minns
Photo by Cheryl Minns

Artist explores meaning behind her latest exhibit ‘Jayeonmi’

By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist

Making art is about telling stories and giving viewers a message, according to artist Ilsoo Kyung. That’s why her Amelia Douglas Gallery exhibit, Jayeonmi (Korean for Natural Beauty), features a variety of her multi-discipline works that share memories of her childhood and family, as well as raise awareness for environmental issues.

Kyung began making art in 1998 when she took her first painting class and discovered she had a talent for it. She has since expanded her practice to include many other types of art, such as etching, printmaking, and sculpting, which are all featured in Jayeonmi.

In the main gallery, there is a collection of Kyung’s limited edition prints, which have only six to eight copies made of each. The images are very personal to her since they represent herself, her family, and nature.

The prints that represent her are “Old Tree,” “Big Full Moon,” and “Two Working Old Ladies.” “Old Tree” is a black-and white print of a large tree rising above the smaller trees near it, representing Kyung in her senior years. “Big Full Moon” is a colourful, abstract image of her as a little girl hanging from a branch extended from a full moon, representing her love of nature while growing up in Korea. “Two Working Old Ladies” is a black-and-white print that shows two elderly women carrying backpack-like baskets, which was inspired by the work Kyung had to do in her youth.

“When I was young, we had a Korean war. We didn’t have anyone to help. My father needed somebody to help. I was the oldest one in the family. My brothers and sisters were all too young to help my father,” she explained during her artist talk on October 28.

The prints that represent her family are “Love” and “Two Sisters.” “Love” is a black-and-white print that depicts a family in nature, with a mother bear holding her cub beside a tree with a face that is meant to be the father. “Two Sisters” is a black-and-white abstract print that features two faces, one being Kyung’s face and the other being her sister’s.

“I have one baby sister. The age difference is about 25 years. When we go out together, they think I’m her mother. When I say, ‘Oh no, she’s my sister,’ everybody’s surprised,” she said.

The main gallery also features Kyung’s colourful tree sculptures, which are made from chicken wire, newspaper, and rice paper. The rice paper is from a Korean store in Toronto that imports the paper from Korea, which connects Kyung’s sculptures to the homeland that inspired them.

Along the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre wall, just outside of the main gallery, are Kyung’s nature etchings and abstract paintings of window reflections.

“Underwater” is a photo etching that features a lake surface in the background with an underwater scene etched on top of it, including an etching of trash. “This one is environmental awareness,” Kyung said. “I’m trying to give a message not to put trash in the water.”

“Red Head Crane” is a photo etching that features two cranes on the water at a Delta bird sanctuary in the background, with fish and water ripples etched on top of it.

Kyung’s “Window Reflection” series features abstract, acrylic paintings of bright colours and various shapes that represent the sun’s reflection off of tall, glass buildings on Burrard Street in Vancouver.

“I was walking down Burrard Street where they have high-rises and offices and things. With the sun, you get a reflection,” she said of the colourful images. “Its colour is not the same as the reflection. I created all different shapes and colours.”

Jayeonmi will be on display until December 10 in the Amelia Douglas Gallery on the fourth floor of the Douglas College New Westminster campus.