Joo-hee Yang came to Highgreen from Seoul in South Korea to be VARC’s artist in residence here for ten months October 2017 till July 2018. Joo-hee Yang has lived and worked in Paris and Marseilles and has exhibited in Italy, France, Germany and Canada as well as in South Korea.
Yang draws on local culture and uses its materials and meanings to make sculptures that explore particular aspects of place or cultural traditions.
“In advance of an experience of a new place, I am always both nervous and excited. I have had opportunities to live in cities and rural areas of many different countries but, like a nomad, I have moved every three to six months. For me, making my life and work for an extended period in a rural part of a country where I have never lived before will be a time of new discovery, experience and challenge. Once at Highgreen I hope to develop a detachment and critical distance from my work to date and I’ll be very interested to find out how my work evolves and changes over my stay.”
Joo-Hee Yang, September 2017
Since arriving at Highgreen Yang has been following various strands of enquiry.
She is interested in the relationship between nature and culture in its broadest sense; how people’s lives have been affected by place. She has been asking local residents to respond to the question ‘Who are you?’. This line of enquiry grew from the artist’s questioning of her own sense of self after years of moving internationally from place to place and exhibition to exhibition. During the transcription of these interviews the artist found common strands and themes emerging. For her final exhibition Joo-Hee Yang produced an edition of twenty-one books, one for each of the 20 individuals the artist interviewed and one for herself to signify her own self-examination. In the book she has drawn together phrases from across these interviews under poetic headings to form visual poetry.
Over the course of the artist’s residency sheep’s sculls were collected and the teeth extracted. Joo-Hee found these teeth beautiful as unique sculptural objects whilst each also held the story of its function in unison with others as a chewing mechanism. In her exhibition Joo-Hee presented the teeth on little individual plinths that visitors were welcome to pick up and place in front of small magnifiying glasses to examine and appreciate.
Yang has also been film-making; recording the landscape of a particular location near Highgreen from a viewpoint close to the ground. Every day for a month Joo-Hee was out on the fells over the winter with a small remote controlled vehicle and a video camera. Although starting from the same spot, the actual route taken, the light and weather makes each day’s record wonderfully different.
A visit to Unison Colour nearby in Tarset where a huge array of artists’ pastels are hand-made, has prompted Yang to look in new ways at the papers produced as a by-product of the making process. The stack of used papers were presented at the exhibition and visitors could appreciate its physical form, its strata and wrinkled edges. However the papers also hold the story of the creative and practical process of making these coloured pastels; a different colour for each sheet and each sheet used twice.
A well-attended Open Studio event was held in November at which Joo-Hee met many local residents. Since then she has been joining in and enjoying local social events such as the weekly Scottish County Dancing class held in the village hall during the winter.
During March and April Joo-Hee lead workshops with children at Greenhaugh, West Woodburn and Otterburn First Schools and with young members of Bellingham and Otterburn Youth Groups.