Combining Life-Drawing and Ceramics: Interview with Yurim Gough
Interview by Alicia Puig
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 the 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-molded 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 mold 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 afterward 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.
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 hand built stoneware with a ceramic pencil. The jagged lines soften under the glaze. For some pieces, imagery is overlaid on the drawings.
How did you first become interested in art and can you explain a bit of how it led you to the work you create today?
When I was six years old, my art teacher was surprised to see my paintings and made me participate in an art contest. Painting was the only stabilizer, because I was a little kid who couldn't concentrate. I tried to go to art school with a love of art, but I became a fashion designer. Being a designer was another pleasure for me. It's a process that allows the maker to understand the images of creative imagination through drawing. I'd always heard that my design drawing is more beautiful than the reality. When I first moved to England, I worked briefly as a designer again, but all the circumstances were better suited for art. So, after five years of experience with a new environment, culture, and experimenting with various other media, I fell in love with pottery for the first time.
The passion for life-drawing and my new interest in ceramics have combined, yet my passion for fashion still shows in my work.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your artwork or a specific series that you're currently working on.
I get inspiration from having a living human being in front of me. It's related to the idea of humanity, and I find that humanity can’t be felt without direct contact with humans. And so I find that the thrill of putting a human live model in front of me when I draw is captured in my work.
For me if it's not life-drawing, it's dead art.
I live and experience this world and express what I see in colour; in particular, my 10 years of fashion design experience and special interest in fashion are part of this new work.
How did you end up working with ceramics as your primary medium and what is its significance for you and your art?
"What do I like and also want to do?" This is the question that created a combination of life-drawing and ceramics, and I think it's really important for many artists to find the right materials first. I found the medium for me and that's ceramics. Ceramics is like a paper or canvas that holds my paintings. I've never had a formal education in pottery. Through my experience as a designer, I developed and analysed an understanding of the material and found that clay and pencil fit me. The failures that arise without formal education are a source of ideas for me ... in my works I can see both failure and success at once.
Describe your current studio or creative space. What is most important about it or one thing that you definitely need in your work area?
Creative space is really important to me. I can work without having my own kiln for my work, but without a studio my art would stop. My workspace is divided into two. It's a ‘brain space’ on one side and a ‘body space’ on the other. For me, balance is very important, just like our brains. In the brain space, all the planning, data and images are easily attached to the wall to make it easier to see. I plan and organize it just as when I used to work as a designer.
In the physical space, I make and shape organic hand moulded bowls. It's the same process as meditation that cleans and empties my mind and soul. Then I have a life-drawing space in the middle. I go around the model and find the angle I want to draw. I work in a new studio less than a year old, and I feel it’s a little bit small already... I can see why studio spaces get bigger as artists grow.
What one piece of creative or business advice would you give to your younger self?
I think all the great artists have already told us.
I also took notes from their comments and put them on my wall.
READY TO FAIL
DON’T ESCAPE FROM YOURSELF
NOBODY DOES BETTER THAN YOU
BUILD A GOOD NAME’
I want to add ‘LET’S PUT IT INTO PRACTICE AND ACTION’
Do you have any big collaborations, projects, exhibitions, etc going on during the rest of the year that you'd like to share?
I have a very exciting first solo exhibition, which runs from the 25th May until the 12th June 2019 in London at the Zari gallery. www.zarigallery.co.uk
I also open my studio space in the second and third weeks of July. Located in the centre of the Cambridge, UK.
My self-portrait has been selected and is exhibiting (Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Art Prize) at Piano Nobile, Kings Place in London until the end of September 2019.