To Wrap is to Love

Veronica Yang

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A series of paintings, sculptures, prints, and installations that embody the cultural heritage and women’s history of the Korean diaspora.

Migration has been a defining aspect of my life since childhood and throughout my four years at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, I was given the time to delve into the depths of personal and collective histories. Through my artistic endeavours, I’ve been dissecting and processing these narratives, unveiling layers of meaning through the deconstruction of motifs and symbols.

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault, death, and trauma.

Through my creative process of crafting, painting, sewing, and printing, I found a profound connection to my ancestral heritage as a Korean immigrant. Living and studying on unceded land has prompted introspection into my role as the daughter of a first-generation immigrant parent. With this as the first research question, I began to unravel family narratives and excavate the shared history of the Korean diaspora.

dissecting personal and collective trauma

Women’s history & women’s work

Korean diaspora studies

Girlhood & womanhood

Colonialism, trauma & intergenerational trauma

“Comfort women”

Symbols, symbolism, and motifs


Fragments 2024, acrylic and oil on quilted canvas, 39″ x 47.5″

The fusion of quilting, painting, and color-driven storytelling resonates deeply within me. From childhood, I was drawn to tactile creation and the art of narrative construction. Learning to sew from my mother at age eight, initiated a language of expression that felt inherently natural. Paints, colour, and fabric seamlessly intertwine as an extension of my being, a second nature through which I articulate the essence of my girlhood and womanhood. Through visual storytelling, I aim to honour the tradition of women’s labour, artistry and technique passed down through generations. Furthermore, my exploration is centred on the concept of repetition, patterns, and the creation of a visual language that emanates from the individual which echoes to the collective consciousness.

Letters 2024, acrylic and oil on canvas, 48″ x 60″

Butterflies & Comfort Women

Butterflies are often a symbol of freedom and love. However, traditionally, the depiction of two butterflies together often symbolized marital harmony, representing both male and female counterparts. This motif adorned various household items including folding screens, furniture, ceramics, wedding attire, and ceremonial robes. Additionally, as butterflies emerge during springtime, they carry connotations of wish fulfillment and the arrival of spring. Moreover, yellow butterflies are often used as a symbol of rebirth for “comfort women”.

With my subject matter so closely related to women’s work and womanhood. I couldn’t ignore the history and tragedy of “comfort women”. More than 200,000 Korean girls were forced into sexual slavery under the Japanese army and lived in “comfort stations” all across Asia. Approximately 10% percent of the women survived and returned to South Korea only to live as social outcasts. Korean women were not the only victims of this tragic event, young girls and women from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Burma, Netherlands, Malaysia and Indonesia were also victims of this traumatic history.

Moreover, the elder generation who grew up in a war-torn Korea never learned how to read until after the peace treaty. Amongst the illiterate elderlies, a significant portion were women. Only to later learn to read, write, and articulate their experiences through written language.

Gravity and Freedom

Numerous migrants depart from their native lands in pursuit of a more promising existence for themselves and their loved ones. Having myself resided in thirteen different cities and towns across three countries, I have observed that the transient lifestyle embodies a perpetual readiness to depart while being simultaneously prepared for settlement.

The bottari, as portrayed in Rest and A Spring Day, shows an elementary instrument wherein the fabric is utilized to encase possessions. Traditionally, a woman would balance a bottari on her head—a practice emblematic of many cultures.

Delving into the intricacies of migration and mobility, this concept challenges itself through the symbolism of stones with lightness against heaviness. Illustrating how migration and movement may be perceived as both burdensome necessities but also an avenue toward settlement and belonging. The act of carefully bundling one’s belongings into a single wrap and travelling across terrains signifies a process close to quilting—metaphorically stitching together disparate elements into a cohesive whole.

I’ll fly away 2024, acrylic on canvas installation, 27″ x 40″

Ultimately, weight and weightlessness explores the duality of heaviness and lightness, both in physical and metaphorical dimensions. Through this juxtaposition, the artworks delve into the complexities of existence and identity, navigating the burdens we carry and the moments of liberation from their weight. Through various mediums and forms, the collection invites viewers to contemplate the contrast between gravity and freedom, inviting introspection into the forces that tether us to the land and those that allow us to transcend its bounds.

Rest 2024, multi-coloured textile quilt (jogakbo) sculpture and assorted rocks

My motivation for delving into this historical root comes from a desire to illuminate the forgotten narratives of women’s history in the Korean diaspora. Yet, as both an artist and a woman, I was challenged of honouring these women authentically within the broader context of the Korean diaspora.

In my exploration of archival images, from pre and post-colonial Korea (around 1900s to 1960’s), I’ve discerned a predominant pattern: the majority, if not all, of these visual records, are captured through the lens of foreign observers—individuals with a distinctively Western gaze. This realization emphasizes the complexities inherent in the representation of my culture and its history, mediated by the gaze of curious, blue-eyed visitors.

Guided by these reflections, I used ambiguity, silhouettes, interlaying of images, and vibrant colour contrasts to weave a narrative that embodies a generation of lost voices and untold stories.

A Spring Day 2024, oil on canvas, 48″ x 60″

Drawing from numerous testimonies and interviews of “comfort women” victims, a common longing emerges from the ladies. A yearning for normalcy—a desire for companionship, parenthood, grandchildren, and familial bonds. Above all, it’s a yearning to reclaim a sense of home within their bodies and minds. Through the empty silhouettes and blurry figures, we can only imagine what life could have been like before.

Furthermore, storytelling is an integral element in my work. It is through the preservation of narratives and lived experiences that remembrance endures. Trauma, history, and oppression intertwine, forming a cohesive narrative like interlocking puzzle pieces, one story cannot be told without the other.

Though it may sound idealistic, I earnestly hope that in another life, these women find solace in a life untouched by the pain they endured in this one. Unfortunately in this life, we are only left to remember their stories and carry their stories for a greater goal of reconciliation and peace. Without the continuity of the passing down of stories, what truly remains of remembrance?

Here 2024, acrylic on quilted canvas, 30″x 22″
우리 할머니 (Our Grandmother) 2024, acrylic and charcoal on quilted linen, 12″ x 16″
In Another Life 2024, acrylic and watercolour on canvas (work in progress)
Hometown 2024, serigraph print installation, 5″x 5″ prints spread on wall (ongoing)

The text “그속에서 놀던 때가 그립습니다” translates to “I miss the times when I played in there.”

Installation Photos

More on symbols and symbolism

Symbols and symbolism are prevalent across diverse cultures, yet in my research of archival imagery, I’ve observed the gradual disappearance of many symbols and motifs from contemporary discourse. This raises questions about the criteria distinguishing the contemporary from the historical or traditional. I’ve delved into the dichotomy inherent in the visual language of symbols within Korean tradition.

Symbols and motifs permeate various aspects of life, from attire to furnishings and even architecture. Korean traditional arts and culture boast an array of embellishments and decorative designs imbued with contextual significance. Through my investigations, I’ve unearthed patterns that unveil layers of meaning. Many of these symbols and motifs once adorned domestic articles, serving as omens of prosperity, fertility, and well-being. For instance, items intended for female use often bore symbols indicative of a blissful marriage, abundant offspring, and robust health for childbearing. However, in today’s societal landscape, notions of childbirth and marriage have evolved significantly, altering the potency of these symbols. They no longer carry the same influence as they did when employed as protective talismans. Through the recreation or reinterpretation of these symbols, I aim to ignite a revitalized visual language that resonates with the same power and resilience in the contemporary context.

Past works

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Veronica Yang

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Veronica Yang is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice encompasses painting, printmaking, and textile sculptures. Prior to her training at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, she worked as a pattern designer and authored books on sewing and quilting. Drawing from her background in 3D textile work, she brings a fresh perspective to painting and printing, transforming her two-dimensional artworks into dimensional and even functional pieces. Her work engages in dialogues surrounding domesticity and cultural identity, conveyed through symbols, creatures, and historical references. Currently, she is focusing on exploring women’s work and history within the Korean diaspora, further enriching her narratives with this perspective on gender and heritage. Her current body of work delves into the significance of symbols, exploring how they carry meaning and power, and how this, in turn, shapes language, people, and landscapes.

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