In this week’s Student Spotlight, the Union sat down with MA Graphic Design student and 2019/20 BA Fine Art graduate, Dayoung Min to talk about her love for publications, and her projects, 'On a Daily Basis' and 'I Feel so Terribly Ugly'.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Hi Dayoung, so you’ve recently joined the MA Graphic Design course, tell us about the type of work that you’ve been producing?
DAYOUNG MIN: Largely experimental publications and fine press publications.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Sounds interesting, what drew you to that?
DAYOUNG MIN: I got into experimental publications and fine press publication designs through independent book shops like Village, and Colours May Vary; as well as publishers like TASCHEN and Thames & Hudson. I find the way that they deliver their content interesting as it isn’t only bound to the text and illustrations, they also put a focus on the format of each page, the papers and binding methods.
STUDENTS’ UNION: I love Village! Such a great variety of independent publications. I imagine that they’ve been a really positive influence in how you produce your work. Who or what else would you say has inspired you?
DAYOUNG MIN: I’d say the photographs of Hideaki Hamada and the drawings of Pam Steenwijk influence the visual identity of my work a lot. They’re very subtle but memorable, at least for me. In general, I take inspiration from all sorts of things like books, productions I watch, conversations I have with friends and observing how people live and think, not in a creepy way though!
STUDENTS’ UNION: It sounds like inspiration is all around for you. It’s always great to look at your surroundings and draw from your experiences for inspiration. I’ll have to check out Hideaki Hamada and Pam Steenwijk. I’d love it if you could tell us a bit about your working process. I imagine that looking to those who inspire you acts as a jumping off point, but where do you go after that?
DAYOUNG MIN: I often approach work by writing my thoughts, a story or noting down words that intrigue me before doing anything visual such as drawing. Once the writing is refined, I start communicating the ideas visually through drawings and photography etc.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That makes sense with your foray into working on publications. What mindset in this process would you say produces your best work?
DAYOUNG MIN: Some of the questions I ask myself from the beginning to the end of a making process are: do I like what I’m seeing? Am I being honest? Are the things I think I like inspired by my own fears and external pressure, or is it coming from the willingness to pass on something that can be helpful to the audience? Is it doing what I intended to do and is it unintentionally offensive or intimidating? These questions help me find my direction and what I think I’m interested in.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That sounds like a really insightful and introspective part of your process. It can often be difficult to ask ourselves those kinds of questions and to be so truthfully honest. I imagine that to some it could sound quite heavy, but art really does manifest itself from different states of thought. I imagine that a lot of your work is made for yourself, a bit like a cathartic release, what message do you want it to convey to others?
DAYOUNG MIN: Last year I focused on how we often project unhealthy identities on our objects and belongings and looked at the freedom of departing from them, asking the audience who we are without our possessions? I presented these ideas in the form of an artists book. Similarly, I’m currently interested in how we free ourselves from other external pressures, like unrealistic social standards that narrowly define who’s eligible or not. I’ve explored this in a book I created titled, ‘I Feel So Terribly Ugly’ which is a five minute video about the definition of beauty and body. Currently, I’m exploring a piece which is focused on appreciating a culture I don’t come from by seeing it through a lens which I’m accustomed to, in order to overcome the idea of normality and cultural differences.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That all sounds really interesting in it’s introspectiveness and in exploring how your life experiences have contributed to finding out who you are. Would you be able to tell us a bit more about your ‘I Feel So Terribly Ugly’ project? How did you come to creating the piece?
DAYOUNG MIN: The book/film was inspired by a conversation I had with my friends about our struggles with appearances. It led me to ponder about the fair ways to see ourselves and others beyond the barriers of what is only visible. After thinking about the new perspectives on appearances, and what gives us values over what’s tangible, I felt a sense of relief from the unreasonable expectations. I felt a slight sense of hope in rejecting the standards too, hence why I made the reflections into artwork, in an effort to pass on the experience to others who may have also been struggling with how they see themselves. I’ve learnt that it takes time to adopt the new ways, but now I try harder to stop judging myself in the mirror, or admire people purely for how good looking they are and try to remember that each person deserves to be respected for their heart. It’s a long road to adopting the new perspective but I hope a lot of people join in.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine how cathartic a process that must have been for you. With the pressure and trappings of social media today, you could say the way that we often look at ourselves is warped, so it can be really valuable to challenge your own view of yourself and work on correcting that. I think that in these times especially, it’s really important for us to create a positive relationship with ourselves.
STUDENTS' UNION: On the topic of creating positive relationships with ourselves, you’ve spoken about how you created a project which looks at our unhealthy identities with our objects, which if I remember correctly is the piece that you won the Leeds Arts University Sustainability Award for (congratulations by the way). Tell us a bit about that?
DAYOUNG MIN: On a Daily Basis is an artist’s book I made to provide a documentary-like insight into my journey of material minimalism. It talks about my process of decluttering all of what I believed to be unnecessary belongings, and keeping only what I need in the present moment. It also shows how it influences me on an everyday basis, like how I now view shops and how this way of living has affected my mental health. It does come with it’s limitations though. I wrote this at the beginning of 2020, and with everything that’s gone on it doesn’t exactly perfectly align with the way that I live now. For instance I now have an Instagram account for my art.
STUDENTS’ UNION: I could definitely do with giving that a read myself because I’m definitely holding onto more stuff than I need to.
How did you decide when that piece of work was completed or similarly, when any of your artwork is finished?
DAYOUNG MIN: When there’s enough work to communicate all I wanted to say, anything beyond that becomes unnecessary and clutters the work. Sometimes I stop when it’s 80-90% satisfying, because I’m never going to reach the standards I have in my head.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That seems to be a recurring answer in these interviews. It really is about knowing when you’ve given the work all it needs, rather than trying to overcomplicate things.