"For a hard-working artist, being busy is inevitable. In the midst of work, the artist needs to be isolated because of the necessity of concentrating on art."
Jeongbok Jeong was born in Gochang, Jeonlabukdo, and has been living in South Korea. Throughout her life, she recalls her most precious childhood memory – the one that awakened every single part of her sensory perception of the world - South Korea’s distinct four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. In spring, various types of flowers were blooming in her garden, and she especially remembers the strong smell of lilies waking her up in the mornings. During the summer, Jeongbok Jeong and her sisters used to chase rainbows after the rain, and they competed with each other to plant cosmos on the street. In the summer nights, they did not want to go to bed while endlessly talking about fish, watermelon, and corns, and everything that surrounded them. The harvest in fall made them feel full of richness in the season, and they had plenty of things to do such as building snowman or sliding over snow in sleigh in the winter. Jeongbok Jeong has the happiest childhood memories.
There were a lot of trials and errors for Jeongbok Jeong to eventually find out her stylistic painting that is reflected in the “Dreaming Tree.” Although she used to engage in the realistic painting of nature ever since she graduated from college, Jeongbok Jeong changed her painting style to a more imaginative painting reflected in her trees on canvas. Doing so, Jeongbok Jeong has tried to express dreams, hopes, and the characteristic of Korean sympathy through her paintings. Through the trees, she has attempted to develop her own painting skills. First of all, on the edge of each object, there is a boundary between real and unreal. Through the uncertain boundary, Jeongbok Jeong wants to express a dreamy and symbolic aspect, mainly, of parental love. And the bird-like human figure symbolizes the aspiration for freedom. It is actually Jeongbok Jeong's own yearning for flying over the universe, sky, and nature. Lastly, the large circle shaped by tree leaves embodies a broader dream, hope, and love.
Jeongbok Jeong’s artwork brings to us an air of simplicity, innocence, truth and sincerity. Coming across her artwork, one can feel a sense of security, the type that a parent can offer. There is a sort of nostalgia within such dreamy imagery that transports you into another realm where everything feels absolutely right. Where your heart feels at peace and that is all that you know. Jeongbok Jeong, through her art, offers us magic at its’ purest state…a simplicity that encompasses a world of positivity.
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. Some artists work to present certain ethos of contemporary age or critique of this age. My philosophy of art is to be a gardener in order to deliver happiness to people through the “Dreaming Tree.” Doing so, I aim to fulfill my social responsibility as the artist to deliver happiness to a broader realm of society.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such us memorable shows or publications.
A. I had 8 times private exhibitions: Yeosu Art Fair; Busan International Art Fair; Orange Art Fair; Korean Art Festival; Myengdon International Art Festival; YACAF; The Grand Festival of Korean; Seoul Art Show. In terms of media, ever since my painting has been reported by Yeosu MBC, several local media channels have reported my major art pieces. Most recently, I had a short video shoot that I have introduced to my painting, “Dreaming Tree.”
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. Although I can’t say everything about my childhood, most of the memories have to do with nature. I was lying on the grass and looking at the sky; or, sometimes in winter, I was taking pictures, anything that I could capture in the winter scenery. I loved to look at the starry night, and I can remember that I tried to capture fish in the stream. Every memory is so precious for me.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. Early in my childhood, I wanted to be a nurse or a nun. But, from my middle-school years, I have wanted to be a painter.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. When I was 12 years old, I made my earliest artwork for homework during winter vacation. The theme was deer and spring, and I made two deers with fabric. Additionally, with twigs, I tried to express the deers as drinking water of spring near trees.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. It was from my middle-school years, sometime around 15 years old. During art class, we went outside to draw the scenery with my classmates and the teacher. My teacher noticed some artistic merits in my work and praised what I had done, especially to my father. Since then, being a painter was my dream.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. Trees are my medium of art to identify myself with nature. Trees more importantly deliver my dream to be a gardener to plant multi-layered poetic and musical emotions in the minds of other people.
Q. If you could work with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
A. I would like to work with the artist Nam Jae Park. He was the professor whom I met in my college years. He all the time emphasized on something genuine in art, and I have been trying to follow his teaching. Recently, I have been working with local artists by communicating about art, the direction of art, and the materials in our work.
Q. What is your favorite artwork of all time?
A. It is the artist Hwan-ki Kim’s work. His painting characterizes pointillism with a lot of dots and lines. The dots and lines seem to consist of a symbolic galaxy that weaves a lot of our stories about either sad memories or beautiful reminiscence. He seems to express through the countless dots our lives and the stories of us. I understand that his artwork shows both the beginning and end of our life, and I as being a mere part of dots become to yearn for rebirth. Such dots seem to further express the stories that I cannot reach even after death.
Q. What inspires you?
A. The deep silence in daybreak which soon to be bright with the sun rising, ultra marine-colored sky, softly swaying movement of grass and leaves in nature, the mysterious color in-universe, the very overwhelming power and mystery in aurora. I am inspired by everything that I see and feel.
Q. What medium(s) do you work with?
A. I have tried several ways and materials, but recently, I have been working with oil painting on canvas. That is because, although it takes some time to make drawing dried, there is a deep and strong color that only oil painting can express. One of my personality traits is that I am not in a hurry; I usually have some time to digest something or a certain feeling. Such personality trait is reflected in my preference for the characteristics of oil painting; it’s taking time.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. In my early career, I used to paint nature. But, later on, I wanted to paint something more unique with my own painting skill. In pursuing a different painting and painting skill, although I underwent slump for some time, I eventually have found a way to express how to mix my sensibility and imagination through the tree.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. For a hard-working artist, being busy is inevitable. In the midst of work, the artist needs to be isolated because of the necessity of concentrating on art. So, to be a mature artist, I do work harder even in the midst of a hectic life, while developing my keen sense of art. That is what I want to do.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. I was greatly influenced by the artist Nam Jae Park, and he initially led me to choose this path as the artist.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Yes, I feel lonely, but living with loneliness is the destiny for an artist. Feeling loneliness is actually possible in-crowd. I think that painting requires the painter to contemplate on each art piece –- what it wants to express, what it symbolizes, etc –- deeper and deeper. From the beginning to the end, the painters need to raise the questions to self and find the answers by themselves. Such process requires time and speculation. Although it is not easy, it is important for the painters to feel such painstaking process as a way to find freedom and self-satisfaction.
Q. Apart from your art, what do you love doing?
A. Whenever I have time, I like walking and recording what I am thinking.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. I would like to make people feel happiness, hope, and love through art and my artwork. That is what art is supposed to do in my perspective.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. For me, success depends on how I make other people feel moved through my artwork. To do so, I am trying to develop my world view and art piece.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. My father all the time emphasized on independence, which I think as necessary in life. As he taught me to live independently and be happy with the freedom of independence, I taught my children in the same way. As my father delivered the message to me, I told my children that the most important thing that they need to learn is to be responsible for their lives including both happiness and difficulties. That is how to be independent in life.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. I heard that I was good at expressing intricate sensibility. Because I identify my art with the work of imagination, the commentary on the sensibility was helpful for me to develop the identity of my artwork.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Don’t give up and be more patient. That is my message for the next generation. The continuous work with patience will be eventually a big picture like a big mountain. Through each work of individual trees, for instance, they may see the overall forest at a certain point.