11 Oct Artist Vlog: Jason Yung “the light painter”
by Eleonora Brizi
Jason Yung is a Brooklyn-based Canadian new media artist working primarily in light. Yung approaches light art from the standpoint of a painter; his work reinterprets the age-old visual logic of the painter through the 21st medium of LED light, and the ability to shape light through programming and actuation.
Jason is the first artist to be featured in our new section of “ARTIST VLOG” and he will take us here through a fantastic journey into his world, his life in his studio and show us the creation and the building of his last masterpiece from the “Temples Series”: Temple 6
After the Vlog about Temple 6, you will discover the full story of the “Temples Series” through one of the purest artists’ statements.
This is the story of the life and creation of this artist during one of the most difficult times human beings have ever faced: the Covid-19 pandemic. And yet, light always finds its way.
The Temple series of pieces that I present for the Breezy Gallery’s Renaissance 2.0 2.0 show were made between March and October 2020.
The artistic direction embodied by these pieces are a direct result of the covid-19 pandemic, as well as the political turmoil gripping the US. John Dewey once wrote that “without compression, there can be no expression”. In this vein, I offer my gratitude to the circumstances and hardship of a pandemic that allowed me the opportunity to branch off and find a new direction and discover new territory in my artistic expression.
Before the pandemic, my work predominantly consisted of using LEDs inside lightboxes, using acrylic panels as a diffusion surface. However, with my Brooklyn studio building closing immediately as New York City went into lockdown, I lost my ability to use the tools I was accustomed to: laser cutter, 3d printer, CNC machine, table saw, etc. I took home what materials I could, but constructing new lightboxes without the proper tools in a home setting was out of the question.
The Temple series began as an at-home experiment. Since I would be in my bedroom for hours on end during the lockdown, I wanted to conduct a James Turrell-inspired study of the sky color outside my window, using LEDs on sticks to project colored light around the window. While the study did not turn out as expected, I started to play with the L shaped sticks that I used to project light on to the wall. (These L-shaped sticks were readily available at the nearby Lumber store, and are known as “corner guards” or “corner moulding”.) Originally, I selected the L-stick for its practicality. It was something easy to find and easy to cut with a hand saw. Its shape was ideal: its two perpendicular surfaces allowed one for mounting LEDs while the other could be to attach to the wall.
However, as I began to experiment with using the L-stick to illuminate the wall, I began to see its true potential as a method of shaping light. The beauty of the L stick is that one side casts a hard shadow, while the other side produces a beautiful gradient on the wall that gradually fades into darkness. It is this structural quality that the Temple series is built upon.
THE INNER TEMPLE
Art is my second career. I gave up my first career to move to New York (from Canada) to study painting in 2015. The move to New York and the switch to study art was underlied by a spirituality that developed in me. As such, my art practice follows two simultaneous lines of exploration — one material and one spiritual.
The material line is the technical exploration of medium. In my light art, it is about wiring LEDs, designing how things will fit together, planning, fabricating, engineering, programming, etc…
The spiritual line that my work explores is completely intuitive. It follows and works with inner images that bubble up from the unconscious mind.
Carl Jung wrote about the concept of “active imagination”, a process by which someone works with the images that occur to them in a dream or fantasy by giving it physical manifestation. Jung thought that this allows for a dialogue between the conscious mind and the deeper unconscious.
After I completed the Triangle – the prelude to the Temple series – it was a time when covid-19 in NYC had somewhat stabilized. It was at this time when the George Floyd murder happened and with it, civil unrest engulfed New York. With the new energy created by the protest movement – on one hand constructive, on the other hand destructive – a feeling of change was in the air, and I knew I had to move beyond the triangle. The Temple series started during this time of change.
Before I named the pieces Temple, I remember staring at the light patterns on the wall created by the object that would be Temple 1. All of a sudden, I was struck by the feeling that I was wandering in an imaginal desert, looking at a great pyramid that was rising up in the distance. This pyramid was the Temple. For me, it was the Temple of New York City. It was what I had come to this city in search of, but which only emerged during this chaotic time of peril and uncertainty.
With each Temple piece that I did, I felt like I was circumambulating the Temple, and finally approaching and entering it.
Temple 1 is the northern approach of the temple.
Temple 2 is the southern approach.
Temple 3 is the courtyard of the temple.
Temple 4 is the gate of the temple.
Temple 5 (currently installed at a gallery in New York) is the great hall of the temple’s interior.
Temple 6, my final piece in the Temple series, is the inner sanctum of the temple.
Years ago, I travelled to Jerusalem with a friend. While walking the outskirts of the city, we met a French pilgrim. He told us that he had walked to Jerusalem from Paris. He spent months walking through Europe, through the Middle East, and finally ended up in Jerusalem. I asked him why he had not entered the old city yet, since it was only a short. He replied that he was in no hurry — first, he had to walk around for a few days before he was worthy of entering.
It is with this feeling that I complete the Temple series, that I complete my time in New York City, and hope that this offering is worthy to the time we are living through.
The “Temples Series” will be on display in our art show RENAISSANCE 2.0 2.0 that will happen in Rome on October 20th. We are more than honored to present Jason Yung and get lost into his vision and philosophy, while understanding a bit more about his relationship with randomness, fate, life and code.
“There is something about the imagery of void, of something coming. You are not able to go into the void, reach out and get something: that is not what the void is. The void gives of its own accord, you are not able to force it. You can just sit and wait, not waiting per se but instead observing the void. And then it just occurs”.