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Sally Han’s small studio is on a quiet street near Tompkins Square Park, filled with chirps from her three birds and laughs she gives and stimulates. Her works, mostly in tones of cadet grey, hang around us, creating space.
Sally, an SVA alumna, just graduated with an MFA from the New York Academy this May. At one point during the interview she sat on a wooden stool caressing her bird’s long yellow and green feathers. Her painting Vanilla, progressing arches of yellow, stands behind her.
Q1. Maybe we should start with some background information.
Okay, she smiles, so,
I was born in China. When I was 2 years old my family moved to South Korea, where I grew up. And when my parents got divorced, I moved back to Beijing, China. I finished my middle school there, and at 17, I came to the United States to finish High School. Yes, I speak both Korean and Mandarin, she says in English.
Q2. When did you decide to study Art?
I always wanted to draw. My mom says I started drawing since I was 4 or 5 years old. I was purely interested in drawing. Not even painting, that came after.
One of my earliest childhood memories was drawing a living room. It wasn’t my living room, more like a doll house. I never thought I’ll be drawing architecture forever.
Q3. Where do you get inspiration from?
I get inspiration from text-based literature or old films more than other visual arts. I don’t have specific directors I like, it’s almost as random as possible. I have a favorite Japanese film –– it’s a 50s film, black and white but modern looking. It’s a complicated story about a man who lost his face. Currently I’m reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.
The great films, music, and literature are created by great artists. They are not visual artists, but they create art in different formats. I’m really interested in looking at their subjective minds.
Q4. Do you keep personal emotions separate from your artwork?
Intellectual knowledge comes first. I want to be rational first and put my emotions in slowly. For example, if I have strong emotions like anger, I don’t want to straightforwardly express that to my canvas. I want to think about it, and express it in an intellectual way, and express it fully.
Q5. How do you choose your subject matter? Is there a reason why you have so many drawers in your work?
I’m genuinely interested in space. she laughs. Both drawer and non-drawer space.
Drawers –– they are the most personal and private spaces, but they are also easy to forget. I like this duality of the drawers’ personality. You put your precious things in it, then you close it, and you forget. You know that there’s something really important inside, but in a few days or a few months, you forget what’s inside. The psychology of “drawers” interests me.
Q6. Do you have specific message you want to convey through your art?
I’m not interested in throwing a specific message to the audience. I want to ask a broad question, and see what they say.
Written by Sunny Liu