Tai Hwa Goh, Leaks installation at BRIC House, photo by Abigail B. Clark

Recently we sat down with artist Tai Hwa Goh's whose delicately-layered, brightly-colored immersive installation made of handmade paper and other items is on view in the main hallway of BRIC House through August 21, 2016. Join us for a celebration of the project on Wed, June 29 from 7-9pm.


Tell us a little about your work and how you got involved with BRIC?

I create delicately layered installations from printed and cut paper. My imagery evokes biological forms and landscape, reflecting on the accumulation of memory and experience, and the interior and exterior worlds of the human body. I cut, fold, layer, and form the hand-printed paper into three-dimensional objects that engage with the architecture of a space. I construct tubes, pipes, and balls brimming with fluid-like strands of paper as a metaphor of the cycle of the body, industrial machinery and natural phenomena, as well as the endless processes of growth and decay. Highlighting the contrasts between the joyful tropical fantasies of landscape vis-a-vis a land brashly invaded by fragments of American suburbia, I respond to the architecture of the gallery space while reflecting on experiences of loss and absence. 

BRIC is a venue that really engages with the public in diverse ways, especially with the hallway, a dynamic space to communicate with viewers. I had been wishing to show my installation in BRIC, so when (BRIC Assistant Curator) Jenny Gerow contacted me, I was thrilled.


How long have you been working with hand-printed paper? How is Leaks a continuation of your current body of work? It looks like you've done some similar/related installations recently.

I started studying printmaking when I was in college, so I've been working in that field for more than 20 years. I love the texture and processes of printmaking, but I want less static and more dynamic relationships with materials, dimension and size. To engage with the structure of a space, I started to experiment with incorporating different materials and techniques such as flipping, folding, cutting, and overlaying prints on hand-waxed papers combined with other ready-made objects.

Recently, I just installed Overflow, my piece for the Sunroom Project in Wave Hill. Overflow explored the controlled natural environment of greenhouses and deepened the connection between organic and human-made realms.

I dared to question what would happen if the containers controlling nature malfunctioned and plants began to overwhelm these carefully managed interior spaces. My installation "filled the room and enveloped the view with an overgrowth of hybrid botanical and industrial forms" (Gabriel Guzman, The Sunroom Project Card ).


Can you talk about your process in creating an installation such as Leaks?

My process begins with examining and researching the site of installation. I start with many sketches and drawings built upon close inspection from landscapes to biological forms about the penetrability and vulnerability of the human body. Then, my prints are created using traditional printmaking techniques such as screen printing and woodcuts on Soon-ji, a fine Korean paper. The process involves transforming the characteristics of the material by reacting opaque Hanji with batik. Thin sheets of beeswax are ironed onto the prints, obscuring the images underneath. The layers of delicately waxed papers obstruct and bury the images, ultimately transmitting only their echo. I treat paper as not only a surface for image-making, but as a sculptural medium as well. It reveals an underlying architecture, awakening in three dimensions as an installation. By folding, cutting, flipping and overlapping, I construct tubes, pipes, and honeycomb balls and extend them throughout the gallery space.

The process of installation is one of the important parts for my work process because I can have an intuitive "conversation" with the space. I can connect and converse, exchanging information and matter with the architecture of a space. The process usually takes several days to be completed due to my dedication to bonding with the space and its many assets.


How did BRIC inspire this installation? And how did you come up with the notion of "leaks" or "leaking" as a way to express the creativity and imagination that comes out of BRIC? Did the space at BRIC House influence the piece at all?

For the BRIC House Hallway, I was interested in expanding my recent interest in physical experience further to the psychological process of human beings. The overflowing images of the installation displayed in the hallway, represent the unintended and undesired expression of the inner feelings.

A hallway has the most lively and diverse contents! People with brimming minds filled with emotions, secrets, and ideas walk through hallways all day, every day. There are vibrant relationship and deep-rooted connections between the people who walk those halls. Some of those emotions might be pushed down, piling up in the shadows of the mind. Some of those relationships might be kept secret, hiding unscathed deep underneath the surface. But sometimes there is a leak, an unexpected opening that the well-kept feelings, secrets, ideas, and relationships flood through. My artwork is the open expression, the leaks, of the emotions, the secrets, and the paradigms that the constrained hallway struggles to contain.

Tai Hwa Goh, Leaks, (detail) 2016

Your installation is up at the same time as our Look up here, I'm in heaven exhibition which deals with issues of identity. How does identity factor in to your work?   

I work with images that are adapted from the natural world in my effort to describe the ineffable self that resides within the human body. 

I make layered print installations in which images are piled upon themselves to create a kind of bodyscape, showing the layers piled upon my body by a myriad of outer phenomena, physical and psychological experiences, and traumas. The prints hold remnants of my memories and sensory experiences; they are the record of my exquisite contemplation of the body's exchange with external events. Layer upon layer, images reflect the vast depth of memory and experience presently held in my body. I am exploring this opaque and ambiguous connection between oblivion and memory, the dichotomy between the resilient yet vulnerable body, and my recoverable but rather strong self. Through the different experiences built upon inside of the layers of my installation, I describe the identity of a human body.


Is there an advantage to being an artist in NYC?

One of the big advantages of being a NYC artist is feeling like you're always awake. I am constantly surrounded by new events, experiences and opportunities. You try to keep your eyes open . . . there are too many possibilities and it would be a waste to blink. But, ironically for that reason, being sustainable as an artist in NYC is also a big challenge. There are too many opportunities for me to indulge in my ability to express things artistically. As of now, I am still learning how to find the right and most effective possibilities for me: the direction, speed, what to keep, and what to give up...all these lessons make me stronger for facing rejections and challenges, especially in such an artistically diverse scene.


Are there any future exhibitions/project etc. coming up that you'd like to mention?

I am in the residency program at Guttenberg Arts in New Jersey this summer. I am experimenting with many different materials to incorporate in my installation such as ceramics and printing on various surfaces. The resulting exhibition will be held in August.


Learn more about the exhibition on the BRIC website >> 

Visit Tai Hwa Goh's website >>