Yeonji Chung was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea and is currently living and working in Chicago, Illinois. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2021. After moving to the U.S. from her hometown in South Korea, she got to spend a lot of time alone. Such meditative time in silence has helped her to reflect, restore, grow, and evolve. As she learned to value the time spent by herself, time spent with her family and friends became as important. Painting the shapes and colors she extracts from the people functions as taking a snapshot of her appreciation for the people that she loves and cares about. Using her own memory as a dominant reference to paint lets her meticulously retrace the images she digests in the everyday. Painting has been a way to visually preserve her impressions of temporary moments in her life, and therefore to let the moments last longer.
What initially compelled you to create your work?
I make paintings to document my appreciation for the people and places that I love and care about. Painting has been a way to visually preserve my impressions of temporary moments in my life, and therefore to let the moments last longer. It’s like a visual diary.
What main topic does your artwork address and why?
In a recent series I’ve been working on, I made portraits of my family and friends. I’ve always loved to spend time with them, but it became even more important to me after I started to live away from my hometown. All the portraits I’ve made so far are when I invited them to my apartment or when I was visiting theirs. By painting such intimate scenery of the apartments, I was able to develop more affection for them through more careful observation.
In your artistic journey, what has been the most challenging point thus far?
It’s always been difficult for me to predict how people would read my painting. Sometimes, what I thought was familiar and ordinary comes to people new and unique. Sometimes people don’t like what I like about a painting, or vice versa.
Is there an aspect of your life that especially impacts your practice?
My environment has always determined the main subject of my painting because I paint what’s around me at the moment. When I spend most of the time alone in my apartment, I paint my apartment. When the weather is nice and I walk around a lot, I paint landscapes. Now that I’m loving to spend time with my family and friends, I’m painting them.
What do you do when you find yourself at a creative block?
I take a break from a painting that I’m working on and start a new one. After I work on a whole different image and come back to the previous image with fresh eyes, I can easily find what needs to be done to move forward.
If I don’t have an image I want to paint, I take a day off to run errands. I take a shower, go grocery shopping, do the dishes, and sleep. I should find an image that draws my attention after spending time by myself.