First Person: Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith

By Breyanne Urbin

On Thursday, April 20, the David Owsley Museum of Art was proud to welcome contemporary artists Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith who are both featured in our Spring 2017 special exhibition called SHIFT: Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, Corban Walker. The two artists, along with Lisa Banner, curator of SHIFT, spoke together on stage in Recital Hall to tell visitors stories about Ma’s and Smith’s artwork, artistic processes, inspiration, and evolution as artists over the years.

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Lisa Banner and Jongil Ma with a visitor

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Jongil Ma, Lisa Banner, and Christopher Smith

Jongil Ma originated from Korea and started his career in business and accounting before moving to New York to start his life anew as an artist by studying at and graduating from The School of Visual Arts in 2002. At the beginning of his art career, Ma built monumental sculptures that he said were 30 to 100 feet tall. During the presentation, Ma mentioned how he was, “…interested in architectural sculpture because the form was so beautiful but tense which kept a building held together.” Not only is architecture an influence on Ma’s art but music is a big influence as well. Ma explained, “It’s a great mindset to express oneself.” In Ma’s current work, his art has sized down considerably.  In some of his work, he will repurpose previously used wood from large-scale sculptural installations.

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Floating in Blue Space, Jongil Ma, 2014

Just like Ma, Christopher Smith lives in New York, where he has lived for most of his life. Smith art focuses on using video to capture paint trickling down and dripping off Plexiglas canvases. During the presentation, he explained how taking his hand out of the art targets the viewers’ attention to the paint itself. Another element Smith adds to his videos is purposefully having no concrete beginning or end. Smith explained how he wants, “…to make the videos very accessible where you can walk into it and out of it at anytime.” If a viewer started watching the middle of one of Smith’s videos, they wouldn’t be confused about what’s happening because the artwork is meant to make sense at any point in the video without watching it all completely.

 

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Cutting In, Christopher Smith, 2011

While the two Ma and Smith are different, Banner said, “They are like brothers,” because they are continually supportive of each other.  After the presentation, the galleries were open for visitors to check out the SHIFT exhibition where both Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith’s art is on display until May 7th.  As this exhibition quickly draws to a close, I would like to say how honored I am to get to work with all of the artists in SHIFT, Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, and Corban Walker as well as curator Lisa Banner. Thank you all for making great exhibition and making great art!

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