A Secretive Shop of a Printmaker
In the heart of downtown Seoul, near the City Hall, Myeongdong and Namdaemun, printmaker Choi Kyung-joo’s studio and her printing label’s showroom are located on the third floor of a building in a busy street. To purchase her work, we pressed the passcode to the secretive showroom of Artist Proof.
Artists are the people who cannot live without expressing the stories inside of them. Choi Kyung-joo, who studied western painting in college, went back to school for a master’s degree after working at a nine to five job for about a year, for that very reason. She had to “resume creative work.” She said, “I think I had fascination with the medium of printmaking, but it was mainly because I thought it would be fun. Coincidentally I found a school offering a printmaking major, and I just enrolled there.” It sounded like despite a series of choices she had to make to become the printmaker that she is now, she has been following the path of her destiny all along. Choi uses various ways such as silk screening or etching to tell her stories via printmaking.

Inside Artist Proof Showroom

Q. I came to realize that there are many different forms of printmaking.
A. That’s right. In elementary school, you start from embossing and engraving. Wood carving and stencils are also forms of printmaking. Silk screening is under the stencil category. Etching is copperplate printing. You pour the ink on the corroded surface to create a printable pattern. That machine over there is a press machine using pressure to copy the pattern onto a piece of paper. There are so many kinds of them. There are some I can’t handle and others that are just not my cup of tea.
Q. Do you work with the finished project in mind? Some of your silk screen works seem improvised.
A. Yes. Atypical patterns are layered on each other to form a mass. Each individual pattern may not carry any meaning. Then you begin breaking up the mass and reorganize the layers for an unexpected effect. It seems like a continuation of work that makes you go all the way to the end then back to the beginning.

Silk Screening by Choi Kyung-joo

“Then you begin breaking up the mass and reorganize the layers for an unexpected effect.”
Printmaker Choi Kyung-joo
Q. You have a heavy workload. Where do you get ideas for all of your projects?
A. Minor things and useless stuffs.(laugh) Dusts and little stains left during the work. These days I collect images by magnifying or downscaling what I see on the commute. I observe my surroundings and look again wondering if there’s a treasure I haven’t found yet.

Bookshelves Inside the Studio, Filled with Scrap Paper and Props

Q. Your works feature vivid colors such as blue and orange.
A. Hmm. I’ve heard I used many colors as a child. Since I became aware of my interest in color, I have spent a lot of time studying it. “What color will I get if I combine this and that?”  “What effect will I get if I mix crayon and watercolor?” Even the same colors manifest differently depending on the manufacturer. I would study those differences. I think I’ve found the colors that show me well, during that process.
Q. You rely on fluorescent colors often. Are they your favorites?
A. Yes. I think they show me well. When I looked at colors once, thinking I’m an outcast, fluorescent colors appealed to me. “How would you mix a fluorescent color with others for a natural effect?” I think I empathized with those colors. After my explanation, you will also find that cheerfulness and vividness are not the only traits of fluorescent colors.

Choi Kyung-joo's Pigment

Q. Why did you think you were an outcast?
A.  My childhood and just the overall life experiences made me feel that way. I also realized while working on my projects that many people feel the same way about themselves. That’s partially why they like my work, I think. Even when they don’t see it directly, they might feel it subconsciously. I think my works show clearly what I was feeling at the moment of creation.
Q. You’re not just a printmaker. You also paint and build mobiles and objets.
A. I like the word “balance.” I felt like I had to have both purposeful and purposeless works going on at the same time. It would be right to say my works are without purpose. I try to show through my work what’s inside of me without purpose. I focus on that aspect, instead of thinking whom I’m going to show my work to or what I’m going to do with it. When such work or what’s derived from it gets displayed in front of others, a third party is inevitably involved. “I would like my work to be viewed certain way.” Naturally the idea begets a purpose and I start making something that would bring more pleasure to share with others. Then again, that becomes my purposeless project. It goes back and forth like that.


Cup and Mobile by Choi Kyung-joo

Q. What draws your attention these days?
A. I want to create a sort of mode of life, instead of individual work. My friends are all artists. They have their own struggles working and creating art. Working with them, a concept of virtuous circle came to my mind. A virtuous circle can provide energy for continuation. Money is a big factor. To have fun collaborating with friends working in the field of performance, crafts, fashion, films, music, installation, and furniture and use the goods or contents created from that can form a platform. I’m searching for a way to extend the sustainability of one’s artistic potential.

Artist Proof Shop

“I want people to feel like they are actually experiencing the entirety of our space and taking a part of it with their purchase.”
Printmaker Choi Kyung-joo
Choi Kyung-joo has been running the printing label Artist Proof since 2014. She manufactures products based on printmaking and collaborates with various brands. The book cover for "Zorba the Greek" published by Minumsa is one of the examples. Artist Proof products are only sold at the Artist Proof Shop (AP Shop) which also serves as a showroom and exhibition room as well as a live concert hall. The shop is jointly run by Choi and her husband and trumpet player Lee Dong-youl. Once or twice a year, AP Shop holds a collaborative exhibition organized by Choi Kyung-joo and other artists. The shop is renovated to fit the exhibition, and it'll feel like you're visiting a new place every time.
Q. The name “Artist Proof” means an impression of a paint made in the printmaking process that the artist keeps as a record. Why did you choose this name?
A. Silk screening looks like patterning but that’s not true. A pattern is supposed to produce the same images. My silk screen works all vary. I print one image this way and that way. The end results are all different.
Q. Do you mean each print is worthy of possession?
A. Printmaking is derived from printing technology. As an extension, printmaking has traits of both fields. The things shown only through printmaking and chance factors. Drawing a line and printing it produce two very different images. It is a perfect medium of expression. When it becomes a way to make commercialized products, it is an efficient tool to produce items firsthand and in an instant.

Choi Kyung-joo at Her Studio

Q. How did you start commercializing your works?
A. I’ve participated in an exhibition as a painter before. There was a sense of satisfaction and excitement seeing from behind the spectators appreciating my work. After that, I participated in an exhibition where the artists’ goods were sold. The response was immediate despite the fact it was the same work. The two occasions brought me different levels of satisfaction. I think that may have been the beginning of me wanting to make goods using my work.
Q. Is there a reason you don’t open an online shop?
A. Items look different when displayed online and in store. I want people to feel like they are actually experiencing the entirety of our space and taking a part of it with their purchase.

Fabric Bag with Different Patterns


Fabric That Can Be Used for Rugs or Posters

Q. You have an exhibition planned in March.
A.  An exhibition and a performance are scheduled at Platform-L from March 14. It’s titled "City Poem Project". It’s a collaboration with my friends that began as an individual project with images collected in Seoul. It’s an exhibition archiving the past activities of Artist Proof as well as an experiment offering glimpses of our future projects. 

View of Artist Proof Shop

The AP Shop selling original artworks, prints, paintings, objets, mobiles and other items derived from art is not your ordinary shop with a storefront you see walking in the street. In fact, ninety percent of the AP Shop customers already know about the place before visiting. It means they have checked the passcode to the shop entrance at the Artist Proof website or they know to ask for the passcode using the interphone covered with a colored acrylic panel when they visit. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hard to get in. Among the visitors are foreign graphic designers who became curious about the shop they have found on Instagram and savvy tourists from Japan or China.
One of the reasons why the Artist Proof’s Instagram is worth following is because it’s where the information on the monthly AP Shop Live show is updated. Once a month after the shop closes, people gather in a 10-pyeong(33m²) space. This small concert with trumpet player Lee Dong-youl playing a key role is a unique way to enjoy the AP Shop. If you are curious about the music, you can run a search for an album titled “Island” on Youtube or a music streaming site. “Island” features Lee playing duets with guitarist Kim Ki-eun.
Despite sitting in a crowded downtown, the AP Shop gives off quiet, secluded vibes. Whether weekday or weekend, day or night, the shop is relaxing and accepting. The playlist picked by the musician fills the space. Would this be what it feels like to listen to the music in the vacuum of space? Called “urban oasis” by Lee, this is for sure the closest to and farthest from Seoul. It is where you will find a few good, special souvenirs while enjoying tranquility.



Ball Knitted by Choi Kyung-joo for Exhibition at AP SHOP

Address Unit 301, 9 Namdaemun-ro 5-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
March 2019 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Photographer:Park Sungyoung

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  • March 2019
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
  • Photographer: Park Sungyoung
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