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Art as healing, healing through art: exploring the practice of Jena Jang

South Korean multimedia artist Jena Jang discusses her craft that stands at the centre of several creative disciplines.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jun 15, 2023

Jena Jang is a multimedia artist from South Korea, who is based in Prague, the Czech Republic, and combines aspects of movement, singing and image-making in order to explore the healing power of art. Jang’s visual work is what will most likely captivate new audiences upon first glance, for its vividness that is almost, and yet not quite jarring. Instead, many will likely find her work to be strangely soothing. Her multimedia art usually features visuals that combine primary colours like red, yellow, blue, and green with greyscales like white, grey, and black, and the artist mentions experiencing different emotional energies, corresponding to each primary colour. She tells STIR, “A professor landed me a book about colour psychology written by a Japanese colour therapist named Tamio Suenaga, which opened my eyes to the connections between emotions and colours. Also, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by a Hungarian-American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, got me thinking about how multiple senses are connected and how their synergy can be transferred to multimedia art forms.” Jang frequently uses hand-drawn images that are distorted into more vibrant versions of themselves for her video projects, and experiences a sense of "disappearing" from the world while creating her artworks. Her focus through this process is to illustrate the abstract mass of sensations she experiences in her mind; as ephemeral as it is in its truest form, rather than to transfer it to figurative images. In this, Jang produces work that is not unlike Kandinsky's musical paintings and Mark Rothko's abstract pieces.

Keep Going, digital art, Jena Jang | STIRworld
Keep Going, Jena Jang Image: Jena Jang

Jang tells STIR, “I started creating art very early in my childhood, and my relationship with it has been like that of a best friend, a temple, air, water, soil, the sky, stars, and galaxies. I have suffered from depression since I was six-years-old, and I was extremely afraid of possible accidents and deaths. I had irritating skin troubles, migraines and serious insomnia during my early teen years, and my solution was to remain eyes-closed, building a spaceship station from which I could travel to wherever I wanted to go. I also built fantasy countries that don't exist in the real world. The more I suffered from the problems, the more I relied on expressing myself through art and creating inner worlds. After I studied animation, I was able to combine artistic methods into video and sound design.” The artist’s doctoral research focuses on healing through audio-visual art, and is driven by her own life experiences, and how discovering her practice gave her hope and power to deal with the tough times she experienced growing up. “I have been interested in the spirituality within art for a long time,” she says, “and one day, I read Concerning the Spirituality in Art by Wassily Kandinsky. This book was the starting point of my research and gave me ideas on how various art mediums can be harmonised together. I got carpal tunnel syndrome and tenosynovitis after hand-painting and making stop-motion films for my animation studies. So, I had to stop, but I thought that I could still make animations in a different dimension, such as a live art performance.” She jokes, saying that she has become a real marionette: musicians play live, and her visual art runs in the background. Jang believes that this melding of multiple artistic mediums allows her to share a fuller creative experience with her audience.

The artist’s work feels almost glitch-like here, year unknown, digital art, Jena Jang | STIRworld
The artist’s work feels almost glitch-like here, Jena Jang Image: Jena Jang

The last few years have been a busy time for Jang: in 2020, she did a month of residence at Zaratan: Arte Contemporânea in Lisbon, Portugal. Decalcomanias came about in due time, which was a live painting performance on four square metres of paper that lasted 56 minutes. Her intention with this piece was to paint faster than her thoughts, and she looked towards primitivism to guide her process. She says, “In the end, the paper was torn off because it had too many colours and washes. I collected all the bits of paper and made an egg, embraced it and laid down on the ground.”

Nado, digital art, year unknown, digital art, Jena Jang | STIRworld
Nado, Jena Jang Image: Jena Jang

In 2021, Jang did another residency at Konvent Zero in Cal Rosal, Spain, where she collaborated with one of the participants, Violeta García, who is an Argentinean cello improvisor based in Bern, Switzerland. Then, she undertook Sunus, a half-hour live performance at night in the large circus hall, with only light projected on the screen. “I created a video art piece, describing living nature in primary colour elements. I whipped a rope into the ground to remove negative energy from my mind and danced according to the cello sound,” she recalls. Back in Prague, Jang carried out a ritualistic performance with Yakutian musician Aldana Duoraan at the Prague Biennale 2021 - Reconnect Art. Rorrimirror was a half-hour live performance that focused on seeing the world through mirrors and trials, in order to connect real and virtual spaces, as well as the past and present temporal contexts.

A scene from a performance, year unknown, digital art, Jena Jang | STIRworld
A scene from a performance, photograph, Jena Jang Image: Andrej Kapcar, Courtesy of Jena Jang

In 2022, the artist undertook CURE, a live performance with Czech music improvisor, Kryštof Pátra, which was supported by Pragovka Gallery in Prague. The purpose here was to seek out a self-curing system through noise music and screaming. Coming to her most recent undertaking, the Korean artist explains, “During the summer, I participated in the Valdis Bus̆s; a painting residency organised by the Mark Rothko Art Centre in Latvia. There, I painted six canvases about spiritual connections and harmonies between a man and nature, inspired by natural environments I observed in the small town of Viļaka, which lies in the eastern part of Latvia.”

The artist with shaman mask and puppet, year unknown, digital art, Jena Jang | STIRworld
The artist with shaman mask and puppet, Jena Jang Image: Juan David Cevallos, Courtesy of Jena Jang

As an artist, Jang’s long-term goal is to further explore spirituality and creativity through the convergence of various media. Additionally, she wishes to collaborate more with professionals from different fields, such as science, religious studies, psychology, pedagogy, philosophy, sustainable fashion, and future textiles and materials. Finally, Jang also plans to guide workshops on improving our connection with our unconscious mind, and on how to use dreams in our art practices. She ends her interview with STIR, saying, “Through my art projects, I also want to build a bridge and find a balance between the west and the east, the past and the future, humans and nature, and new technology.”

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