Artist to Know: Jiyoung Chung

Liz Catalano
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Buy-Now Sale on Bidsquare Features Korean Joomchi Abstract Art

Artist Jiyoung Chung feels a connection to her chosen medium that runs deeper than most. Chung manipulates mulberry paper to create a strong, fibrous material called joomchi. For centuries, Koreans used this technique to make garments, armor, and household items. Although it is no longer popular, Chung saw the technique’s artistic potential at a young age. She has since devoted her career to continuing the tradition of joomchi and sharing it with the world.

Jiyoung Chung is offering a selection of her joomchi wall hangings and artworks in a buy-now sale on Bidsquare. The event started on June 1st, 2021 and will run through August 31st, 2021. Learn more about Chung and her craft before exploring the catalog.

Jiyoung Chung with a mixed-media sculpture. Image from the artist.
Jiyoung Chung with a mixed-media sculpture. Image from the artist.

Jiyoung Chung learned traditional Korean craft techniques from her mother, Chunghie Lee. An artist and expert in bojagi, Lee creates wearable garments and installation pieces made of Korean wrapping cloths. Lee’s work in reviving Korean fiber art inspired her daughter. Jiyoung Chung felt drawn to papermaking while growing up in South Korea. After she moved to the United States at 19 years old, Chung studied painting and earned her MFA in printmaking and media. 

Chung eventually explored joomchi as a possible artistic medium and loved it. To create her works, she starts with hanji (mulberry paper) and applies water. Chung then kneads the material to break and reconnect the fibers. She adds up to 20 layers until she creates a strong, smooth surface. Making joomchi requires hours of time and patience, though it does not bore the artist. “I’m negotiating with the material as I do it,” Chung told the American Craft Council. “I see the hardness of the agitation as life. The more you deal with it, the easier it gets. I’m not dealing with the paper but with the process of creating.”

To make her sculptures and wall hangings, Chung stacks pieces of joomchi in complex patterns. Holes riddle the layers of colored paper, and the artist occasionally adds stitches on top. In some of Chung’s works, the joomchi layers are pressed flat. In others, the artist allows space in between for the air to add movement and life.

Jiyoung Chung, Inner Peace II. Image from the artist.
Jiyoung Chung, Inner Peace II. Image from the artist.

Chung’s best-known series, Whisper-Romance, uses joomchi as a tool for healing. A conversation with her father inspired the series. Chung read a newspaper article about a son who killed his parents, and her father noted that a broken relationship caused the tragedy. “I believe we need ‘human whisperers’ to heal what has been broken in our essential relationship to ourselves, to nature and to God,” Chung says in her artist statement. “The holes, layers and free mounting of my work represent these conversations, the whispers and the breath between them.”

The upcoming buy-now sale, hosted on the Bidsquare platform, includes several hanging works from the Whisper-Romance series. Inner Peace II is among the offered lots (USD 6,400). This yellow, green, and light blue piece has 12.5 layers and can be displayed horizontally or vertically. Most of Chung’s artworks offer that flexibility in display. They typically include between three and 13 layers.

Jiyoung Chung, Seeds_Voices VI. Image from the artist.
Jiyoung Chung, Seeds_Voices VI. Image from the artist.

Smaller sculptures are also available in the buy-now event. Seeds_Voices VI, for example, shows many stacked layers of joomchi in a black shadow box ($590). The effect suggests flower petals, sedimentary rock, or the uneven pages of a book. In Whisper_seeds and Whisper II_Seeds II, Chung places tight balls of joomchi in a pebble-like pattern ($180 each).

Chung regularly offers her joomchi artworks in buy-now events, including during the Smithsonian Craft Show in October of 2020 and the Smithsonian Craft Optimism sale in early 2021. The current buy-now event brings many of Chung’s joomchi items to market for the first time.

Detail from Jiyoung Chung’s The Life_My Cup Overflows. Image from the artist.
Detail from Jiyoung Chung’s The Life_My Cup Overflows. Image from the artist.

Joomchi dates back to the Goryeo dynasty (918 – 1392). While it fell out of favor in Korea as industrialization spread, artists such as Chung are working to revive the technique and share it internationally. Chung regularly curates joomchi exhibitions and teaches educational workshops. She takes pleasure in sharing her traditions with new generations and groups: “I feel so blessed that other people’s cultures are responding to ours, and they are creating their own version of joomchi.”

Jiyoung Chung’s buy-now joomchi event will close on August 31st, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT. Browse the available items and register to buy on Bidsquare

Want to learn about other contemporary artists? Check out Auction Daily’s profile of British contemporary sculptor Rachel Whiteread.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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