Can drawing give you warmth?
– No, only the body can give warmth.
Can poetry give you warmth?
– No, only dialogue can give you warmth.
Then, what’s the point of drawing or writing poetry?
– It’s to remind us that the body and dialogue keep us warm.
Since February 2018, I’ve been working on paintings, based in a studio space at Recess in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I have been friends of Recess for many years, and it has been a really nice experience working out of a sun drenched studio alongside wonderful artists in residence, Assembly participants and staff, some became collaborators like Jessica Lynne who offered Finding Intimacy within Black Feminist Criticism for my project. I’m thankful to Allison, Gee, Jackie, Andres, Kerry and everyone who’s passed through Recess. It’s a really special place that brings art and social justice together with grace.
I started painting because I wanted some privacy in my creative practice. Most of my work is in collaboration with someone, engineer, designer, editor or socially engaged with a community. While I enjoy such work, I found it’s necessary to have a solo practice to balance my life, teaching, advocacy and art. By painting, I’m tracing memories about care, and creating reminders to take care of myself and others around me. The paintings depict moments of care between intimate people, care within communities, and care within oneself. The landscape becomes figures and figures become landscapes. The figures are between gentle motion and stillness. In making these paintings, I remembered feelings of care, and made sure the act of painting was also a caring act. Caring is not an act of taking something, like taking up space or conversation. Instead, it’s a careful holding, becoming something carefully. Taking care is paying attention and becoming accountable. Taking care of ourselves is both a responsibility and a preparation for taking care of others.
These days, I like to run around the Prospect Park. The distant landscape becomes patterns, recognizable faces, bodies and shapes. When I come near, the patterns become delicate textures, losing its initial form. In the process of running into the memory, past and sense of self, I find moments of peace, contemplation and encounters with people who are near and far.
Digital memory, data is highly volatile. It’s easy to write data and delete it. Human memory is different. If I try to remember something, it disappears quickly. If I try to forget, the memory becomes stronger. Painting is similar to human memory. I paint the background, cover up and paint over again. Previous brush strokes and textures resurface beneath fresh coat of paint. This process is similar to making memory and remembering it. That’s why making an image, creating a record of someone’s experience, is a really attractive work.
The paintings are both inside and outside, dark and bright. dry and moist, day time and night time. When I was not painting, I was working on Uncomputable and Distributed Web of Care, as well as organizing and teaching at the 10 weeks program at the School for Poetic Computation. I worked with a close group of assistants, interns and fellows throughout the year. I’ve always made drawings and dabbled in painting, but this is the first time I’m seriously painting on canvas. All of these paintings were made possible with support from Emily Miller, who fabricated the canvases and gave insightful help regarding composition, materials and processes of painting. Read her exit interview to get a sense of how she helped. Also Livia Huang has been very helpful on the administrative end of the studio, helping with budget, schedule and editing. I will move out of the Recess studio in end of 2018. I plan to continue making paintings in a few scale, ranging from small to large scale mural. I’m around Brooklyn until end of the year, and I’m happy to show paintings in person for anyone interested. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about studio visits. Here are just a few selection of works in progress.
Various drawings. The paintings are made with acrylic paint.
12 x 18 in
Sometimes I invite friends to visit and do an impromptu collaboration. When Angeline Meitzler came by, I asked her to writer some letters, and she wrote ASDF.
Studio portrait and all photos by Minu Han.