AHL Foundation: Can you briefly describe your artworks?
Kakyoung Lee: My works are inspired by everyday scenes; trivial memories that easily slides by. For instance, I record mundane scenes such as waiting for a light to change in the crosswalk or the back-and-forth movements of the subway. I record mundane events that repeat and is forgotten so easily.
AHL Foundation: What are the most important criteria in creating your artworks?
Kakyoung Lee: I find all the layers of everyday life very important. The news only shows us what seem to be the most important or interesting events to people. However, our everyday life consists of so many layers that relate and connect to one another. Those layers repeat and make up the present, but what we see and remember is only the top/ one layer. So, I find not only the one layer but also the other layers very important, and I focus on the daily and mundane events/layers that we often forget so easily.
AHL Foundation: You capture movement and scenes of everyday life; can you tell me about your art making processes?
Kakyoung Lee: So, I use many layers in the process of image making. Stop motion is such technique. It requires a lot of layers of images to create a video that is about 30 seconds or a minute.
AHL Foundation: Do you think about the order while making?
Kakyoung Lee: No, I just record my everyday life. I take photos while I am driving my car, walking, or pushing the stroller. So, I reference those images that I recorded every day. For instance, ordinary scenes like a frisbee play between a father and a daughter. 6 images per second.
AHL Foundation: If I remember correctly, I didn’t see these materials (aluminum foil) in your previous works?
Kakyoung Lee: I often work with everyday materials like notepapers and post-its. I find these materials attractive and use them very often because I think the lines make the everyday life very flat and objective.
AHL Foundation: Pavement?
Kakyoung Lee: Yes, I took photos while walking. My recent works reference a lot from those photos. I used to focus on things that move, but I focus on things that are still. However, everything changes, time flies, space change, and everything around us change. So, I am interested in making still images into moving images.
AHL Foundation: You work with both prints and video, what are the pros and cons of the both medium?
Kakyoung Lee: “Printmakers know well; you need to print dozens of test prints to make one final print. In brief, to make one print (copper plate), you have to sketch and then print it to a sheet of paper. But, you can’t tell how much the print is completed until you try it out. So, in most cases, people start printing from the midway of the processes. As a result, piles of test prints accumulate. Thus, with all the piles of test prints and the final print, you get a moving image. However, printmakers usually show their final prints only, and the processes don’t show. I find the process as important as the final product. So, these trains of thoughts brought me to where I am now.”
AHL Foundation: I saw your past works that you repeated the process of drawing and erasing.
Kakyoung Lee: If I work with plates, layers of lines accumulate, and as I repeatedly print, the past lines get lighter, and this repeats.
So, you are trying out new ways based on the previous works?
Kakyoung Lee: Yes, I personally like this repeated process of accumulation and disappearance, but it takes so much time. It takes about a year to create a 30seconds video. So, I want to try out different works because of the technical reasons. I insist printmaking because it makes the images indirectly. It’s like fiction, but I reference my everyday recordings to print, so I am minimizing the fiction. So, I am doing monoprints because the copper plate prints take too much time.
AHL Foundation: I am interested in hearing about your life stories as much as about your artworks. What made you come to New York? If you compare your artworks made in different location or time, how are they different or the same? Would you say that your Korean heritage or time in Korea is influential?
Kakyoung Lee: After I had graduated from the graduate school in Korea, I showed my works at exhibitions, and I did some illustrations. So, I got interested in bookmaking. However, there was no place in Korea where I could learn about bookmaking. So, I came here to study Bookmaking at the Purchase College. I intended to stay here for 2 years and came here in 2001. But the program wasn’t what I expected. So, I just developed the print-slide show I did back in Korea.
AHL Foundation: So, it’s been about 15 years since you came. What were the most challenging things for you as an artist?
Kakyoung Lee: I think artists always struggle with challenges. But, there is always a happiness and satisfaction after the completion of each artwork. I also feel challenged because I have to balance to being an artist and a mom. I think most women artist would feel the same, but this is life.
AHL Foundation: What motivates you to work?
Kakyoung Lee: I don’t need any motivation. I just do what I do, but I want to make when I see an interesting image. But, it takes time. It’s not like something I can do in a day. The process of making the time is more challenging that the work itself.
AHL Foundation: Throughout your artistic career, could you describe some of your successful or most rewarding moments? For instance, any memorable exhibition?
Kakyoung Lee: The exhibition is actually one of the most stressful things for me. Preparing an exhibition, thinking about how the viewers might assess and respond to it are all very stressful, but I feel ecstatic when I am making one and each artwork.
AHL Foundation: What are you recently working on?
Kakyoung Lee: I made two works, and I recently showed one at the Jamaica Flux. In the gallery opening, I made a moving image in the gallery opening, and it was very fun. People move in one direction and in clusters in museums. So, I recorded those observations. Also, like the blocks of pavement street, I do those kind of works too. The scenery, it’s fun. Also, I am working with these coffee cup holders, I worked with these materials in the past. If you unwrap them and connect them together, they make a big circle. This to me was like a metaphor of the everyday life as it repeats and circulates. I drew paintings with coffee too. These materials can be seen in our daily lives.
AHL Foundation: Do you have any advice for younger Korean or Korean American artists?
Kakyoung Lee: Well, I am not sure if I can give any advice as I also struggle, but many artists who came to New York from Korea feel nervous because two places are very different. Artists feel nervous when they can’t see anything visible and sometimes think time is too slow, but actually time flies. I think they can see things if they just take time and enjoy what they are doing. I hope artists enjoy what they do and stop feeling nervous about the immediate outcome they don’t see. I think that is the most important thing.
AHL Foundation: I see people in your work Do you prefer to use people as a subject?
Kakyoung Lee: Yes, I draw people, and they were in my past works as well. I am always interested in the figurative. I don’t know why but I guess because I am a human?
Everyday life and daily life doesn’t have to involve human, right?
AHL Foundation: Kakyoung Lee: I guess I think of the layers as some kind of human relationships.