What do you do?
I try to show my work every year, and I have exhibited my works in South Korea and several places in North America. A collection of my works is currently touring Canada. They are inspired by me wanting to return to what I consider my home, despite the fact that that home or that town (Winnipeg in my case) no longer exists as I remember it to be.
Why do you do it?
Why do I make art? It’s simply because I have to. I make art because of the need the express myself, not just artistically but almost as a form of therapeutic exercise. My works consist of small texts which act as visual diaries, chronicling my thoughts and often frustrations during the art-making experience. Therapy is expensive. Keeping handwritten journals is looked down on unless you’re Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain. Making art is a great solution. Most of my work consists of recurring themes. One of those themes is missing home, missing my town. Missing your hometown is like missing an old love, and several of my works include tributes to hometown, much like a love letter or musings about a former love.
Why did you leave your town?
The reason why I left my hometown is because I felt I needed to experience the world. My hometown was far too small for the experiences I want to live through. I have always loved travelling to Asia, but when I visited Korea, life finally caught up with me. I got married, got a job, and settled down. Now my old hometown, which I took for granted and once thought was keeping me down, is now a place I long for almost every day. Seoul is a great, dynamic place. And from here, I can visit many other countries in Asia as well. But it’s never really home despite how accommodating and hospitable the people may be. And as an artist, it can be very challenging to have my work seen in the country. And I also don’t find it very rewarding if I do get my work seen here. The art scene is just very different here compared to what it is in Canada. There are far too many vanity galleries compared to co-ops or other galleries.
My work has always remained the same style throughout the years: small drawings and small text. I have refined my work and I am far happier with the images I produce now, but the style is still essentially the same. Once in a while, I will work on a different medium and different style just to take a break. I’ve made small sculptures, actions figures, and cartoon posters. But eventually, I go back to my old style of work.
What’s happening in your town?
As for anything else happening in my current town, I live in Seoul, so there’s basically always something to write about, especially with the constant threat of war with the North. Things have sort of calmed down now, but there’s always that threat. Of course, living as a foreigner, I get to experience different things as well which make for good fodder for my work as well as the writings on my website. Things are certainly busier here in Seoul compared to my hometown. Maybe that’s why I miss my hometown so much.
Find Joseph here: www.josephmreyes.com