Recently, I have noticed some people I meet hesitate to answer when I ask, “Where is your house?” I met a travel journalist and artists who would say, “When I travel, each studio becomes my house and each residency program provides a new family.”
Traveling and working as they please, therefore, not having a certain place to live is romantic to some. The flexibility in deciding where to call home as ‘Home is where I am’ is very admirable, we have a common denominator in many parts of the ‘home’ that remind us of many warm words like family, blood, mom, dad, mom’s food etc.
What about family? Many people jokingly say that May is a house wrecker. It is a social satire on Korea’s national family month. May gives workers a great financial burden with taking care of parents, children, nieces, nephews and extended family for Father’s Day, Children’s Day and other holidays. In today’s world, with the belief of the traditional family falling apart, various new forms of family are likely to be the norm and personal comfort and achievements seem more important than a family bond. However, May is still a great month for people who are less expressive to express their love to their family.
The Empire of Light by a Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte is one of the paintings that depicts the paradoxical feeling of “home” very well. He frequently uses and displays ordinary objects in an unrealistic context. His painting ‘The Empire of Light’ shows the viewers a mysterious house in the dark beneath a daytime sky.
The ‘home’ for artists would be a space that has a significant effect on their art works. Vincent van Gogh tried to live and share ideas together with the artist Paul Gauguin who Van Gogh admired and the house Van Gogh prepared for Gauguin’s visit became the model of his artwork ‘The Yellow House’. He desired an artist community as today’s artist residency program, he called this house ‘the Studio of the South’ and tried to establish it as an ideal place for art. His obsession with such a space created his artwork with the interior of the house as well and it portrays his passion for his insistence on art and mixed emotions such as anxiety, doubt, anger etc. while showing a rather quiet bedroom where one can work in peace.
In a letter to his brother Theo, he confesses that the sunflowers, today’s world famous painting, were painted to decorate the walls in preparation for Gauguin’s visit. In fact, they were the flowers that were always placed at a window of a restaurant next to Theo’s store and they were a very important medium that had Gogh’s great empathy for his brother and reminded him of his dearest brother that he missed so much.
Van Gogh’s themes and bold strokes inspired a lot of other artists. An Austrian painter Egon Schiele also created a similar artwork to Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’.
The emotions that a home brings can be those common ones that are beyond our times. Korean artist, Do-ho Suh sympathizes with issues like family, hometown, homeland that remind one of home. In his installation work, ‘Home within Home’, he not only presents Korean sentiment and identity living in America but also leads the meaning of true home in today’s world with installations of western style houses and Korean traditional house, Hanok.
There are also equally interesting artworks of transparent homes of the western style and the eastern style by Do-ho Suh’s installation artworks. It is the unique still-life or landscape paintings of artist Chaemin Ryu who is living and working in Daegu. A way that is significantly distinct from inside and outside of a window but still balanced can let viewers look into the artist’s thought of a home.
A home for the artist who is also a mother of two children can be the most precious space for family but sometimes a burden that restrains her as an artist. Though the objects that are sincerely depicted such as a clock, a mug, petals etc. express her deep affection for her home and family; the sea rolling softly, blue buildings that are sad but beautiful out of the window seem to tell us her yearning for an unknown world. Maybe, we all long for another home in our heart, a shelter of our souls like the two worlds on one canvas.
Written by Yoonkyung Kim