Korea: East & West Summer 2014 Surface Design Journal
August 1, 2014
The “Korea: East & West” theme began to take shape when I first saw cover artist Shin-hee Chin’s Self Portrait #5 in Fiber Focus, a regional exhibition hosted by Art Saint Louis gallery. Chin created the vibrant shimmering halo of color effect with a technique she developed by appropriating the traditional Korean paper twisting method of jiseung, often used for basketry. Handmade Korean mulberry paper (hanji) is twisted into single strips between the index finger and thumb to make cords. Chin substituted recycled fabric for paper to construct thin tubes, which she then connected with hand stitching. Dyeing certain stripes added tonal variation.
Chin’s technical achievements align with her introspective narrative. “Self Portrait #5 poses questions about identity and the sense of belonging in terms of gender, ethnicity, and nationality: Who am I and What am I? Both Korea and the US, the two countries essential in defining my nationality and cultural citizenship, use red and blue colors in their flags. To symbolize the hybridity of my identity and cultural practices, I alternated stripes of red, white, and blue (America) and red, blue, white, and black (Korea) in creating an image of myself.”
This issue is filled with stories about fearless artists who have ventured beyond the borders
of their homeland in search of creative challenges and personal fulfillment. Others have dedicated their boundless artistic energy to promoting traditional and contemporary Korean art forms. To provide the backstory needed to fully appreciate these efforts, several articles provide key historical references and terminology.
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