Editing Memories with Kyung Eun You

August 3, 2018 by


As Kyung Eun You prints, she weaves complex narratives together in a simplified grid. But a simple format is the most effective way to deliver her compelling stories about family, memory, and philosophical mysticism. Her personal and imaginary chronicle is etched into the linoleum squares, mythologized block by block as she reconstructs important moments in her history. She approaches art like a storyteller: each time the story is told again, it becomes edited or altered to fit the format. Kyung Eun You was in residency at WSW for six weeks January-March 2018 for the Art-In-Education Studio Workspace Residency, using her time in the studio to produce a series of narrative black and white prints in her signature grid structure.

While You recounts dreams, memories, and stories, the narrative complexity develops. Small, surreal comics describing existential dread take place in minimal settings. Repetitions of the same print evokes time passing as the linoleum loses ink or becomes damaged through repetitive printing. This is clear in the print “In The Shower”. The figure tilts their face straight up into a pressurized stream. As time passes, the water erodes facial features until nothing remains but a white silhouette in an increasingly propulsive cascade, finally resembling a comet in space shooting through the dark with a long celestial tail. You works small, bent so closely over her linoleum squares, her glasses almost come in contact with the sharp edged tool in her hands. “By adapting one of the traits in printmaking—images that can be reproduced multiple times—I wanted to share my memories that have come back to me again and again.” The effect is like watching the image undergo some contained life cycle on a cellular level as each piece of the grid evolves over time. The process of building these stories happens in layers. Carefully placing the linoleum squares ink-side up on the grid, You begins to map out the changes she will make in each carving and the changing relationships between the figures set in ink.

In her statement, You says “The repetition of images reflects recurrence in each story.” Consistency is established in printing process itself as You labors to convey perpetuity in a self-contained narrative. The piece “My Dad” is one of the least altered of You’s 2018 body of prints, but the unaltered elements are the most unsettling, especially for their consistency. Changes in the images occur in the overflowing glass on the table, weeping down the bar, and the tears dripping off the hanging head, weeping at a matched pace. Of the four reprinted linoleum cuts in “My Dad”, only the liquor bottle stays the same as the figure and his environment crumples under the influence.

You’s figures gaze up at a quiet night sky or lean into each other for a moment of knowing humor. Some storyboards are meditations on loneliness, like the dense and evocative “Lost in Translation” the four stages never change, but the content, additions and subtractions are powerful enough and well considered enough to elicit an emotional reaction in the viewer. The three figures in the last panel gradually lose their forms, hollowing out to empty sheets like white ghosts against a nightscape. But the middle figure has a different effect, like his mask is being removed as the story unfolds, giving the viewer a different sense of his personality and place in the story arc. As these figures exchange their costumes and identities, the viewer experiences the weight of You’s influence: she can reveal what was obscured and eliminate what was clear with the same subtractive method. We become translators ourselves in the great interpretation of what You is trying to address: identity, like our memories, is ever shifting.

Kyung Eun You was born and raised in Korea and currently lives and works in New York where she found printmaking as primary medium since 2012. She has been studying and working on printmaking and illustrations followed by previous education in cartoon and comics at Korea Animation High School in Korea.

In 2017, Kyung becomes a participant in Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program at New York Foundation of the Arts as a mentee. Her works have been exhibited and published in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Hong Kong and more. Besides career in her own art works, Kyung worked as an assistant printer to master printer Erik Hougen at the Lower East Side Printshop in New York. She has assisted master printer Kathy Caraccio and artist Taka Maruno and Bill Behnken in the past. She has moreover printed for artists such as Annie Poon and Franklin Feldman.