A Reminder of Our Eventual Demise — Jun Cha's CAPO
Interview by Eugene Kan
In ancient Roman tradition, a victorious general would always be reminded by a fellow warrior of one unavoidable truth: “Memento mori” (remember you will die). Death is something often overlooked until Mother Nature’s own biologically-enforced path takes shape and we come to terms with our eventual demise.
Growing up beyond the picturesque landscapes of Los Angeles, and through some of the sprawling city’s less glamorous surroundings, artist Jun Cha witnessed a sufficient amount of death through friends, family, and clients to make him reassess his path and desires as an artist. Weekend hikes away from the bright lights of LA have further reinforced Mother Nature’s undeniable dominance on the lowly human.
Jun’s curiosity in the relationship between Nature, we as humans, and ongoing inspirations behind some of our generation’s greatest artisans led him to create CAPO. The limited-edition marble sculpture was conceived to serve as a reminder of our place within nature, and the remainder of the balance between life and death. The skull features the laurel crown of emperor Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest Roman emperors ever. His death, many considered, to be the beginning of the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
Each piece is crafted with the highest-quality marble sourced from the Apuan Alps of northern Tuscany and comes with a collector’s box and signature of authenticity. It can be pre-ordered here.
Where did the idea for CAPO emerge?
I’ve been thinking about this for many years, but I’d say these past three I’ve been more focused. I realized the intent to create something that will last forever is about ego and after spending a lot of time in the mountains, that gets ruthlessly checked. I’ve lost too many friends, family, and clients during the process for it to be a coincidence, so I got the message: nothing lasts forever, change is constant, and one day I will die. I wanted to create something in respect to this and have it serve as a reminder to appreciate life and remember how lucky I am.
In relative terms, you’ve often dedicated a lot of time to a single execution of a project. What was this like regarding time spent planning and executing?
Hate to throw a quote at you, but this one’s from Stanley Kubrick: “To make a film is like trying to write a poem in a roller coaster.” Mainly it’s been chaos. I’ve never worked harder, and I had to restructure my entire process to bring this project to life. The time spent on logistics and coordination over multiple teams across two continents was almost more of a burden than actually creating the highest quality marble sculpture I can possibly make.
How would you define your relationship with time? Whether it’s a 16-hour session or what we imagine to be many trips and calculated decisions to create this?
Time is a river—sometimes it’s a violent surge, and sometimes it’s a gentle flow, but it never stops. Every micro decision can have an impact that’s reflected on the macro scale. So accounting every second of every day in production is crucial because if you accumulate those seconds over a period, it starts to add up to hours, days, months and in reality it’s never linear. The key is maintaining the balance between working with a sense of urgency and being focused on the bigger picture to make quick decisions and know when to say ‘no’.
You’re commonly known as a tattoo artist. Do you ever feel the need to diversify into other mediums to be respected as a full-on “artist,” regardless of whether it’s on skin, on a canvas, or as a sculpture?
I’m not driven by the need for respect from others or anything external outside of myself. Tattooing, sculpture, film, design—I see all of these as different disciplines to the same path. My focus and obsession is in the process and creating the best work I can which involves exploring all mediums. Whether people love it, hate it, or get it is on them. The real driving force has to be higher than what I think I’m capable of and the purpose has to be something beyond myself for me to dive deep and give it my all.
What is it about marble that interests and fascinates you?
There’s too much to lay out in one response, but maybe the biggest factor is its deep historical connection to us with Nature. This material was formed by the Earth and other organisms far before our species existed and it has impacted every civilization since then, and we will be the last generation to ever come in contact with it again. Because the majority of marble is not used for sculpture, this stone makes up people’s kitchens, bathrooms, buildings and many other applications that have little to do with art. Once the last mountain is carved, we will never see marble again.
What did you think it’d be like to go about creating this? What has been the reality?
I’ve been practicing not to have expectations about anything because in the past that approach is a set up for disappointment. Instead, I stay focused on intent and being transparent with the ‘why’ behind every step. My single objective was and still is to learn. I don’t know shit, and everything I think I know I discard and approach every scenario with an open mind to listen and pay attention to what’s in front of me. But again, at the same time, to not lose focus of the bigger picture and in that respect, it’s been a crazy onslaught of change.
Upon launching this, is there something you envision as “success?”
Going back to the process its the journey to strive for the balance that defines success for me. And by balance, I mean in body, mind, and spirit that affects all aspects of my life. Making money or gaining recognition is all a part of the game, but these are all fleeting and impermanent. Success is about maintaining my health, so I can live and create at my peak state, absorbing everything I’ve learned along the way and knowing I put everything on the line every step of the way. As long as I consistently give my all to the process, then I can die a happy man.