Kanik Chung Essay

Kanik Chung Essay

Kanik Chung
Fall 2005 Fellow

For Kanik Chung, a Fall 2005 Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America, it seems to be all about pattern and repetition: the series or a series of series. Patterns and patterns within patterns. The boundaries of patterns are not necessarily meaningful; It’s the idea of infinitely expandable modularity that fascinates. Chung has done successful production work for years and appears to have transmuted the possibility of an endless sequence of almost identical elements into a conceptual perhaps almost mystical, vision of great elasticity and expressive potential.

In one series of works commenting on production glass, he grouped paper-thin blown vases and bowls in an arrangement he compares to ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging in which the elements of the world: earth, sky, and the human are suggested through scale and form. Chung thinks about parallels between the vessel form and the human body. It’s also possible to interpret the crowd of pale tinted symmetrical glass bodies as a cluster of buildings, their different profiles and heights composing the skyline of a distant metropolis, a cool, translucent utopia, unsullied by the realities of human messiness, physical or emotional.

Chung is especially attentive to the physical, aesthetic qualities of individual units. Flat clear glass flowers with fuzzy centers can be mounted on the wall in different sizes and have a kind of ‘sixties charm. He began making them in his studio in Brooklyn and finds the CGCA fellowship an ideal “opportunity to make a bunch of them.” The flowers are really low relief ideographs, symbolic representations in which each petal is an identical slightly domed circle (a droplet of cooled molten glass). Taking the glass dots, which could become flower petals, Chung, paints smaller black dots on the flat surfaces to make googly eyes.

At the same time, he’s making mushrooms which he will mount on the wall in the same way, but the effect is different. “One of the reasons I like doing flowers and mushrooms,” he says, “is I really like the process of hot molding glass.” The mushrooms are more individual and fungus-like, as they seemingly grow on the wall. The use of a natural phenomenon to embellish the environment, is almost universal. Chung says, “You see [the mushrooms] like flowers. They are working pretty well. They are a little bit phallic but that’s good.”

Even though he makes them, Chung thinks “the word ‘installation’ is over-used. I go into a space and react to the space.” He is conscious of the grid implicit in any kind of organization of elements and he knows his art history. “Agnes Martin found her home in her mind with her first grid. At some point she found comfort, solitude, sanctuary… Who knows? That was it for her. Sherrie Levine says artists have one idea and they keep saying it over and over again. This scares the shit out of me. That all being said,” Chung admits, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

He’s working on a whole series of series. Most of them seem to draw attention to light—to capture or interact with light in a proactive way. A group of bell jars, or domes are intended to generate condensation. Chung calls them “misty mountains” and is playing with them trying to stabilize the amount of condensation inside.

“I think your primary material is your thoughts and your brains and your skills,” he says. “Glass is a skill that I have and that I lean on, but if glass is not an appropriate material for an idea, I’m not going to force it.” He’s worked with fluorescent lights and made a boat image of lights. At Wheaton Village, he wants to make a “ghost ship” which will record the shape of a boat as it displaces water in a pond, as one might see it if a boat were removed from a frozen body of water. This work will be glass.

He also enjoys making “Galaxy Drawings” or images of “single line universes.” Using a ball point pen to make a continuous line on paper he tries to block out the “sky” of the sheet of paper. At CGCA he was making his sixth in this series. “You can never completely black out the paper. I like doing it and after doing it for months and months, I have realized why it affects me. I think of them as windows of contemplation.”

Chung recently moved to Brooklyn from San Francisco. “I went there to try to become a famous sculptor. That’s not my goal anymore. You can make more work that you think is important and you think is beautiful than people can buy. But sometimes you make things people can buy. Very very few people can make a tremendous amount of money in their work,” he acknowledges. Anyway, his girlfriend told him, “It’s a waste of time trying to be brilliant.” He agrees. “Discovering something new and being brilliant is all a by-product of making art.”