Thursday, March 27, 2008

Art Space Talk: Rimi Yang

Alan Rankle introduced me to California based artist Rimi Yang. Rimi's increasingly sophisticated paintings imbue traditional Asian imagery with a contemporary spin. Intensely emotional, vibrant and often whimsical, Yang’s work shows a technical mastery that can only be achieved through an ardent dedication to the act of painting. For Rimi, this act is highly intuitive, and often a celebration of the uncertainties of life.

In addition to her training at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, Rimi has studied at Otis College of Art and Design, and spent a summer in Florence, Italy, studying at the Florence Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited on both coasts, most notably in New York and Los Angeles, and she has been featured numerous times in the Kyoto Journal. Her work has been exhibited at several galleries throughout the United States-- including, Lowe Gallery (Atlanta, GA), Stricoff Fine Art (New York, NY), and Art Amo Gallery (Santa Barbara, CA).

Jade by Rimi Yang

Brian Sherwin: Rimi, can you tell us about your academic background? Where have you studied art? Also, have you had any influential instructors? Did your studies make an impact on your artistic practice?

Rimi Yang: As a painter I am a late starter as I have only been practicing for four years. I have a Masters in Library Science, and worked as a librarian for many years. As to formal training, I took various classes, and workshops over the years including sumi ink drawing in Japan, some old master painting/drawing classes in Florence, and many classes in the US. My best teacher was the artist (and friend), Regina Lyubovnaya. There were many great teachers, and my nature is to be easily influenced by work that I see and people I meet.

BS: Rimi, you are interested in the duality of life. The dual elements-- female and male, happiness and sadness, love and hate, black and white...and how one would have no purpose without the other inspires you. You enjoy observing the confusion of this conflict. Can you go into further detail about this interest and how it is conveyed in your art?

RY: I simply think of duality as a balance and a matter of truth. Last night I just read something about "ying and yang." It said that the advent of development of static words, has added to the world has being out of balance in becoming more "yang." I kind of agree with that, but I think the advent of Internet might help to bounce back the world to become more "ying" and to be more balanced. That is my hunch.

I need many dual elements such as sharpness and fuzziness, cold and warm colors to make my paintings to become a balanced and thereby successful. I do not think of this while painting, the balancing is instinctive and comes automatically.

I need to go through this process, learning technique to build structure and then destroying it with energy to reach what I feel is a comfortable balance. Again these are dual elements that I must go through. I do not delve into my work on a deeper level, I leave that to the audience and the critics, but I do hope that my art reflects some truth as a petite planet on canvas with all kinds of dualities.
Blue Lake by Rimi Yang
BS: You have stated that it is difficult for you to describe your art... and have suggested that often times it is an illogical process. Would you say that art should speak for itself? In other words, would you prefer that viewers find their own dialogue within the context of your work rather than have you spell it out for them, so to speak?

RY: There is a group of people who visited our studio complex, and I was asked to give a talk. I have difficulty doing that, and mostly refuse as my language as an artist is not words. Rather my language is shape, color, form, scale, stroke, texture, etc. Joseph Campbell, the mythologist once said the best things in life are the ones that you cannot describe, like love, and if I could accurately articulate my paintings in words then I should be a writer.

I believe paintings allow viewers to instantly sense time, feeling, energy, complicated context, etc. as a whole. Once they start to deconstruct it the work becomes something else. And being able to feel, enjoy, and identify what make paintings great is a valuable talent. That could just as important as the creating part. I always admire the people who have keen gifts of seeing. Thus I rather listen to those viewers than my speaking about my works. Others can teach me what I am doing.
Some Thoughts (after Eizan) by Rimi Yang

BS: I understand that you are interested in Taoist philosophy in regard to art. For example, you admire the art of Shen Tusn-Ch'ien. Can you go into further detail about this connection... do you feel connected to this way of observing art-- and life for that matter?

RY: I do not know if I have an ability to understand his work, but in reading his writings I think that his thoughts are very close to the goals I have for my abstract art.

He does talk about very strict things like, "the young artist should copy masters, and should not be famous in early of his career, nor think of success…" So I must copy from a master for 200 years to be able to become one so-so novice artist. Well, I am a woman who loves to buy a new pair of shoes and indulge myself shopping, so I do not agree with him 100%, yet, I feel many of his thoughts are admirable like, "For painting is only an art, yet is has the power of create ion of the universe itself."

I have read a lot about Taoist, but I have forgotten all that now. As a Taoist, my image of Tao is one of old friends drinking and partying next to the river, being lazy, and laughing at the moon. They are aware that the world as a chaotic place, and they can still enjoy the life. They are the coolest of all.
Madam in Blue (after Ingres) by Rimi Yang

BS: Can you discuss some of your other influences? For example, are you influenced by any other specific artists or art movements?

RY: Abstract painting has always fascinated and confused me. I kind of like to be in confusion, as when you are confused you cannot lie. But I also feel close to some Asian art. I read a story about a centipede when I was young. One day the centipede realized that he uses his 100 feet to walk, and get confused how he does that, then he froze as he tried to figure it out, and then he forgot what he was thinking, and started walking again. I was impressed by that story. That is how I discover and learn about abstract painting.

BS: You create a rich distorted quality with your work. Would you say that you acknowledge the confusion that you observe by painting in this manner? Are these paintings a reflection of that confusion-- the battle and embrace between the opposite forces of duality?

RY: First of all, I did not know my art is distorted. I have right eye has a perfect vision, but left is totally bad. That must be related to that.

I am aware of this chaotic life, yet I am not Tao enough to laugh at it. I am still fearful, so when I paint, I am always searching through the application of layers of paint, always looking for the balance that tells me that I am done.

Tumbling Lemon by Rimi Yang

BS: Can you tell us about your painting process?

RY: When I rented my first and only studio about 4 years ago, I did not know what to start to paint. That terrified me so I had to push my fear further down. I did not understand abstract painting, so I started painting abstract. My process can be described as exploring what I do not know. If you know exactly what you are going to paint, there is no discovery, no chance, no delight, so what is the point of painting?

If your life is mere routine, then what is the point of living? I also try to be honest to myself. If I am confused, fearful, and lose confidence, then I have to fight my way through all of that on the canvas.

If you are asking me how I painted most of my figurative works, then, I started off painting abstract grounds, and sometimes, I see figures and I paint them. Sometimes, I paint figure first, and I paint some layer of abstract to express something instinctive.

BS: Rimi, you currently live and work in Los Angeles. How have you handled the transition of moving to the United States? Also, how is that change reflected in your work?

RY: I am a Korean, but was born and raised in Japan. I was already a minority before coming to the US. Thus it is wonderful to be greeted by a lot of other minorities here. In Japan Koreans are the sole minority. In the US, all the minorities make a majority. See, this is another duality.

I did feel the sense of acceptance of being an individual in the US. In Japan I felt like I had to conform, so I follow the rules, but here, I can express myself without any specific identity. Now I feel it is OK to pretend to be an old-Italian master, a geisha girl, or to drip paint like a cowboy abstract expressionist.
Shaman Dance by Rimi Yang

BS: What are you working on at this time?

RY: I rented one section of a wall at our studio complex and drew six ten foot high nudes under my Japanese name, Satomi Yoshimoto. I rented another wall and covered it with CDs. I wanted to see a shiny wall and do something very large.

I just started painting a nude from a drawing. Usually I paint figures from my head or use some references from classical paintings or Japanese woodblocks, but I wanted to try painting from drawings I did of a nude model. I have some time before my show in New York this October, so I will try some new ideas.

BS: Rimi, you have had several exhibits in recent years. You exhibited at Art Miami and have had shows at Stricoff Fine Art in New York and Lowe Gallery in Santa Monica. What do you enjoy most about exhibiting? Do you observe the reactions of onlookers?

RY: I am exhibiting constantly and currently have a show at Winsor Gallery in Vancouver. I love to talk to people at the opening and gather their reactions. On the door of my studio, there is a sign stating, "Do not disturb. Seriously naked." But at the open studio day, I love to open my studio and talk to people. People can teach me a lot about my paintings, and I am easily influenced by that opinion, and I like to be influenced.

BS: Speaking of exhibits... will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work in person?

RY: We have a Santa Monica Art Walk coming up 29th of this Month. You can view my six 10 feel tall girls, and you can visit my studio in Santa Monica Art Studios. And the show in Vancouver is still going on until end of this month. I am scheduled to have a show Oct. 4th at Stricoff Fine Art in NYC and am in discussions with other galleries about new exhibitions.
Whisper of Rose by Rimi Yang

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have as an artist?

RY: When I lost my job, and decided to paint full time, I thought I would spend just 2 years. But now I decided to keep going until the end of my life regardless of commercial success. That is my simple yet tough goal.

I totally respect art. I do not know how to describe it in words, but art is tremendously important to me. I am very thankful to be have a life in painting and have people respond strongly to my efforts. On personal level, through my paintings, I am able to experience new worlds and meet new people. For this I am very grateful.
You can learn more about Rimi Yang by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Unknown said...

rimi yong rocks!!! but someone should let her know that art is not that important...

Anonymous said...

hey rimi: awesome interview!! i love the centipede story. it is so true and it is so you, too. also, love the story about your right eye and left eye vision... i can really relate to it. see you tomorrow at the art walk!
julia schwartz