Interview with Joanne Nam for “Hiatus”

Joanne Nam Hiatus

We (SH) interviewed Joanne Nam (JN) for her upcoming solo exhibition HIATUS on view in Thinkspace’s project room this October. Please join us during the opening reception this Saturday, October 10th from 6-9pm.

SH: What is your inspiration behind the work in your upcoming exhibition? Are there specific themes you were exploring?
JN: The paintings I prepared for the show represents my unconscious emotions that I would feel uncomfortable to show to the public. Personally, art has been a sort of a constant observation to the world outside and myself. I wanted to focus on the deep inside of my mind more than before and how it changes over time and situations. These emotions don’t appear on a person’s face easily, but it always shows in the air. That’s why I titled the exhibition Hiatus.

SH: It seems there has been a shift in your color palate from very light colors and highly render backgrounds that communicated a sense of frailty to a bolder palate and a looser background that is more defiant, does this shift in style reflect a shift in you as an artist as well?
JN: I spent lots of days this year thinking about my art and its direction. “Does my art represent myself?” has always been a big main question that I asked to myself constantly. The reason of the question was because of my painting’s identity. For this show Hiatus, I wanted to let things flow, and decided to represent a bit of my strong and unstable emotions such as fear, anger, and disappointment. Which was a new thing for me because I don’t really feel these emotions often from my usual days. I sometimes even had to make myself angry intentionally, just to hit the canvas with a brush in a right motion. Making myself angry was actually quite hard. I was surprised that I didn’t know how to do that at first. Also, it was interesting to watch how my mood changed the air around me. I wanted to focus on that more than anything. I wanted to focus on things that I cannot see but definitely exist.

Joanne Nam Red

SH: What is your favorite horror movie?
JN: A movie I can think of right now and want to watch again soon is an old Korean horror movie called Ol-Ga-Mi. The film was made in 1997 and it is about a crazy obsession of a mother. In the movie, a gorgeous looking single mother raises her son and they are happy together until her son gets married. When the mother’s ugly obsessions over her son goes out of a boundary, she numerously tries to kill her daughter in law because the mother thinks that her daughter in law is stealing her son away. It is a great movie that has illustrated the crooked emotions very well. I think complicated human minds are scarier than unknown phenomena.

SH: If you had a day with yourself as a child, what would you tell her and what would you two do together?
JN: If I had a day with myself as a child… I want to tell her I’ll live a very very interesting life with a very very confused mind. There wouldn’t be much to do together. When I was living in a forest, what I did was climbing up to the mountain, feeding fish at ponds, and collecting wild berries and vegetables to play and to eat. My grandma taught me what to collect in the forest. I used to like being outside. Nowadays, I realized I had a pretty funny childhood. I didn’t know it until I became an artist.

One thing I just remembered is that there was a sweet potato field that I made for my school project when I was in elementary school. After my 32 classmates came over and planted their own sweet potato vines in the field, somehow I was responsible to take care of them. It was hard work to a child, but I couldn’t stop working at the field because everyone asked me how’s their sweet potatoes doing every morning I went to school. I think I would help myself to stop being obsessed with the field and let the potatoes go because they died soon anyway.

Joanne Nam Lost Drawing

SH: What do you listen to while you’re painting?
JN: I listen to classic music, opera, and some sound effects that made for horror movies. Sometimes, I play random movies or documentaries next to my easel and listen. I love documentaries about nature, serial killers, anatomy, and healthy eating.

SH: Based on past interviews, you seem to be very acutely attuned to your emotions, either pulling them from the past or capturing them in a little bubble to be used for inspiration for your work, does using your emotions as inspiration for your pieces help you process them?
JN: If my emotions change too much when I work, I can’t concentrate. I would rather go to sleep without doing anything to my painting. One thing I realized throughout out my artist career is that my mood somehow shows up in my painting. If my emotion changes too much, my works would be looking like they have no subject and unplanned. Which I think it might be interesting to see, but I wouldn’t like that yet.

SH: Do you have a favorite plant or flower?
JN: I don’t have any specific plant I liked because I usually love all the plants and find them very interesting. I even love dried, dead, and rotten plants on a random street. However, I don’t really like bright shiny tasteful looking flowers because, personally, I feel like they are lying to me to get my attention. They crave for my love and I really hate that kind of attitude. Their bright colors yell at me and it hurts my eyes. I also hate their fragrances. I know those fancy flowers are also from nature just like wildflowers but they still feel so intentional and fake. I always want to tell those flowers to leave me alone.

Joanne Nam Paranoia

SH: Are any of the subjects in your work informed by you or, in a way, represent anyone you know?
JN: The people I painted are basically nobody to me. I don’t want to make them look like someone, but I want to make my audiences feel like they’ve met my characters sometimes at somewhere in their life before. I use myself or my friends as models to inform myself about a certain forms and shadows, but I characterize or even simplify figures too. My work never looks like my reference photos but somehow they are. I like to stay in between reality and surreality.

SH: If you were to throw a dinner party for a few people who inspired you the most, who would you invite, what would be on the menu, and what is one question you would ask them all?
JN: Lucien Freud is one of my all-time favorite artists. If he actually decides to show up to my dinner party… I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else when I see his face in front of my door. I would laugh and black out and then happily die knowing that I breathed the same air with him in a very same room…… Then he could grill my flesh after I’m gone.


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