Bridging cultures with Ji Hyang Ryu

artsnb Featured Artist Series – an interview with Ji Hyang Ryu

Ji Hyang Ryu is a self-taught painter living and practicing in Riverview NB. Having immigrated to Canada from South Korea, her work infuses both Canadian and Korean cultures in style and technique. Ji is an emerging artist who has recently made the shift to a full-time career in the arts. The dedication towards her arts practice and the personal story she tells in her work has resulted in great successes in her career over the last year.

A view of Ji Hyang Ryu’s studio with paintings in progress. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Can you describe your creative process – how do you approach creating a piece? Do you have any routines, rituals, etc.?

My creative process begins with collecting references and sketches, followed by experimenting with different techniques and colors until I find the perfect balance. I do not have any specific routines or rituals, but I like to take breaks and step back from the painting to gain perspective. I often listen to podcasts or audiobooks while painting to stay focused and engaged with my work. This helps me broaden my horizons and bring fresh ideas to my artwork.

Ji Hyang Ryu with her painting Dragon Lady (Dragon and me), 2022. Acrylic on canvas. 53x 36×1.5. Photo: Kevin Frenette.

How has your artistic practice changed over time? Where did you begin and where do you see yourself going?

My artistic practice has evolved over time, starting with traditional Korean painting techniques and gradually incorporating more modern styles. I see myself continuing to experiment with different techniques and styles to create unique pieces that represent my personal experiences and thoughts.

In my work, I like to explore themes such as cultural identity, belonging, and acceptance. I also incorporate traditional Korean painting techniques and styles to pay homage to my cultural roots.

Can you describe a current project/piece that you are working on – what excites you about it?

The project Culture Bridge explores my life as an immigrant in Canada, touching on themes such as cultural differences, fighting racial discrimination, and the beauty of different cultures. This project allowed me to express myself and communicate with people as an immigrant through my art. It impacted my creative process by enabling me to explore my personal experiences and showcase them through my paintings. This project also helped me appreciate my cultural roots and where I came from.

I am thrilled to have received Creation funding from artsnb for the Culture Bridge series. This funding allowed me to fully explore in my artwork themes of cultural differences and their beauty. One of the paintings from this series, called Sugar Camp, was purchased by Canada Council for the Arts in the recent Canada Council Art Bank’s call for acquisition as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

Sugar Camp, 2022. Acrylic on canvas. 36x24x1.5 inches. Photo: Kevin Frenette.

Sugar Camp is a painting exploring my experiences as an immigrant in Canada. The piece fuses two strong aspects of cultures from the two nations I call home. The painting depicts Korean people in traditional clothing in a traditional Canadian setting, expressing my appreciation of both cultures.

With the success of the Culture Bridge series, I am excited to continue my exploration on the themes of cultural identity, belonging, and the immigrant experience in my work. I was fortunate to receive another grant from Canada Council for the Arts to delve deeper into this body of work. The grant will provide me with the financial support and resources to experiment with new techniques and styles, ultimately enhancing the quality of my work. This project excites me because it represents the blending of two cultures and showcases the beauty of both.

I am so grateful for the support of artsnb and Canada Council for the Arts, which have helped me to realize my artistic vision and share my unique perspective with a wider audience.

Why is art important for you and/or for New Brunswick?

Art is important for me because it allows me to express myself and communicate with others. The most rewarding aspect of my artistic practice is being able to express myself and communicate with people through my art. Seeing people connect with my paintings and sharing their own experiences is truly fulfilling.

Hope of Rocks (New Hopewell Rocks), 2022. Acrylic and oil paint on canvas. 36x48x1.5 inches. Photo: Kevin Frenette.

For New Brunswick, art is essential because it showcases the creativity and diversity of the province’s artists and brings people together. I think the greatest challenge for New Brunswick artists is the limited exposure and opportunities for showcasing their work. However, the greatest advantage is the supportive community and the opportunity to collaborate and connect with other artists.

What role does collaboration play in your work? What possibilities do you see for cross-disciplinary collaboration? 

Collaboration plays a significant role in my work, as it allows me to explore different perspectives and techniques. I believe cross-disciplinary collaboration can bring about unique and innovative art forms that showcase the province’s diversity and creativity.

Ji Hyang Ryu is a self-taught visual artist who was born in Busan, South Korea, and later immigrated to Canada. After starting a family, she pursued art and eventually became a full-time artist based in Riverview. Her work has been featured in various juried exhibitions, including at Moncton City Hall, and has been acquired by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Stay up to date with Ji’s practice: