I come from Korea, a country with a historic tradition of ceramics, where I was a fashion designer. By age 30 I had been designing high heeled shoes for over ten years in Seoul then in Tokyo and London. I emigrated to England in 2007, the first time I had set foot outside Asia. Learning English from scratch and being influenced by the radical change in culture I went back to being an artist, which was always my first calling. Starting with life drawing and experimenting with other media, I found myself drawn to my cultural roots in ceramics, mixing the two. In 2013 I made bowls and sketched live models drawing directly onto the contoured surfaces, combining the organic hand-moulded form of the bowl with the human form of the model. A couple of years later I began to add imagery to the pieces to extend the narratives that began with the poses, seeking inspiration from what I found captured in the drawings.
In Asian culture bowls are philosophically connected with humanity; for example in Korea we might talk about how big a bowl you have in your mind, so the bowl is holding all your knowledge and experience. I mould the bowls in my hands and I draw straight onto them, with no plan, never changing a line. My vases are like many bowls coming together inverted into sculptures. Drawing directly onto these with a life model, with a human in front of me, I can be led by their energy and afterwards see what of human life can fit into a bowl. What I found drove me to use imagery on top to draw out stories imagined from the lives.
The VainEgo project moves on from imagined stories to real stories, with myself as the life model and subject. In May 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and this motivated me to start the new project. I decided to draw a self-portrait every day, and I also made 30 bowls to do life-drawings of myself over the next year or so. Vain is looking at myself in the mirror a lot, and Ego is the deep self- examination. So, ‘VainEgo’. Although the drawings might capture some of the moment and the emotion, I continue to use the process to use what I capture in the poses to bring out stories. Now the bowls, the drawings and the imagery show events, feelings, or times that marked my life, starting with my childhood. I don’t pose for the story, I pose for the moment, then come back later to the bowls and see what stories they bring out as I add the imagery. Each of the pieces match the essence of the moment captured in the self-portrait, to specific past experiences that were defining over the whole of my life.
The VainEgo pieces are not for sale. The whole project is building towards an exhibition; from the 30 VainEgo bowls and the VainEgo faces I will create one experience.
Yurim draws straight onto the surface of each piece. Life drawing in front of the living, breathing model joins the model's pose to the contoured surface of the piece. The lines from the model are communicated through the rough texture to the fired handbuilt stoneware with a ceramic pencil. The jagged lines soften under glaze. For some pieces, imagery is overlaid on the drawings.