As we're building TOTUM, we’re interested in exchanging ideas and thoughts with our community about what environmental wellness means to them, their special daily rituals, and what they do to create sacred spaces that bring them comfort and connection. This way, perhaps we can inspire each other and share learnings along the way on how to create spaces that enhance our well-being, our communities and the nature around us.
For our first conversation, we reached out to up-and-coming artist Jessica Wee. Citizen of the world, Jessica has been exploring the theme of identity through surreal dreamscapes at times inspired by rituals and moments of daily life.
Can you quickly introduce yourself, where you are, what you do and what brought you there? Tell us a bit about your background.
I am a Korean artist born in New Jersey but grew up in Paris and Montreal. After studying painting in Italy for four years, I worked in New York for three years. During the pandemic, I returned to Montreal, closer to my family. I found an amazing studio space, which gave me a lot of comfort and inspiration during those uncertain years.What does a regular day look like for you?
I will try to get to the studio before 10 am. If I'm still not awake, I will make a pour-over coffee, check on my plants, and then start working. Sometimes I start sketching things that come to my mind to loosen my hand and thoughts. After, I will go to the computer to continue developing my ideas, and sometimes when I feel the urge, I’ll start painting directly onto small format canvases to get ideas of colours and shapes out of my head. It is more like a moment of improvisation that feels exciting.
Do you have any special daily rituals that are important to you that help you start your day or unwind?
The coffee in the morning is a ritual; sipping my first cup and sitting on the couch has been the ritual that helps get my day started. Recently I picked up yoga again; being so close to my favourite yoga studio in the city helped me get back onto the mat.
We talk about the concept of environmental wellness; what does that evoke for you?
Hmmm, I would say that taking care of yourself and the space that surrounds you is part of taking care of the environment.
Do you have any special objects or items around your space that you are attached to and why? If you feel comfortable, can you share an image?
Fortune elements that I got or were given to me. I have a Chinese lucky cat that I – bought in Chinatown in New York. It reminds me of my time living there. I also have a small pig with three legs that a wigmaker next to my studio gifted me and a Huichol Deer that a friend offered me from his trip to Mexico.
You work with your hands and with different materials and colours. Can you share more about your creative process and what drives you?
My practice involves staying open to ideas and being receptive to inspiration. Once I'm in the studio, it means constructing something from that inspiration, deconstructing and remaking it until it feels right.
Can you describe your creative flow or what it’s like when you’re in your creative process and most inspired?
Time doesn't exist when I'm in the creative flow and I'm in a deep state with myself.
When do you feel most at ease and grounded?
When I am in the studio and have a good creative session, I feel connected to something beautiful and bigger than me.
What inspires you?
Colours and this cabbage I got from the Jean-Talon Market (:
What are you excited about at the moment?
After being in New York for an art fair and working on an illustration project, I am excited to start painting again in my studio and returning to hermit mode.
What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
I have a show scheduled with Steve Turner L.A. in June/July 2023, and this will be my first solo show on the West Coast!
Do you have a mantra? If yes, what is it?
I don’t have one officially, but since the start of the Fall, it has been about Slowing down.
If you look out your window right now, what do you see?
Mountain Mont Royal with leaves changing colours
What’s your favourite space/room, and why?
Living room, the couch, where I can lie down.
Finally, where can people find your work?
On Instagram @yessica_oui
Note that the cover image is from Jessica's latest exhibition in NYC; it is called L'intime - 2022 and can be found at Spring Break art fair.