Osang Gwon has made it his quest to demolish the line that divides the medium of sculpture from that of photography. He accumulates photographs to build sculptural forms and he sets up sculptural forms to compose photographs. Gwon relishes in the ambiguity that confuses the viewer—is his work two dimensional or three dimensional? Or simultaneously both? He is often called a rising star of the Asian art world. He has shown his work around the globe, done projects for Fendi and Nike, and collaborated on a record cover for the band Keane. His work can be found in numerous local and international exhibitions, as well as in publications that present and feature contemporary Korean art. Gwon has held solo exhibitions in South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and his work was shown in the international touring exhibition, Roundabout, which traveled from New Zealand to Israel. Read below for the full interview…
Many artists receive criticism for being multi-disciplinary. Why do you think society wants artists to conform to one form of art?
Osang: Society not only wants artists to conform to one form of art but they also demand changes from artists. To be honest, society does not have a close attention to our process or works. I believe that there is no one who would give closer attention to it than artists themselves. Therefore, it is most important that artists work with their own will.
Many of your creations take months and months to complete. As an artist, what steps do you take to be consistently inspired to follow through on a piece?
Osang: In order to get inspired, I spend a day just like anyone who lives in city, and spend some times with people whom I love.
Design can be described as a factor of cultural and economic exchange. Making sculptures tailored to western audiences or using every-day items to construct a sculpture is evidence of that. Would this be an accurate assumption of your work?
Osang: Estimating audiences when creating works is almost impossible for contemporary arts. It is because, one small factor can be likes or dislikes for audiences. At the same time it is a mixture of small factors. Myself, can be one who creates contemporary arts and also an audience.
Many of your ideas are constructed from industrial design. Is sustainability important within your industry, and your work?
Osang: Sustainability meaning durability of works? Of course it is important. Since my works are already being owned by galleries, they have high chances to become cultural heritages.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Osang: Recently, movie “Uncle Boonmee” was very impressive.
As a Korean artist working in Korea, how has your work evolved over the years as you focus on fundamental issues that you experience living as a person?
Osang: I don’t know if a fundamental issue in Korea appears in my works. However, I am sure there are some elements those people, who live in a large city during 2013, will enjoy to see. Being a contemporary artist or sculptor, some elements that make me become curious are the motor force for developing my works.
Your work is neither strictly sculpture or photography, but a fusion of the two. When you first started experimenting with these mediums, did you know they would mesh together so well, or was it a challenge?
Osang: I majored in sculpting in college and I always loved photographs. Therefore my experiments in both sculpting and photographs are being continued. In 1998, when I was in my 3rd year of college, the first sculpture with pieces of photographs was created. At that time, my interest was which materials will be helpful for making a light weighted sculpture.
As an artist, is it a struggle to not include a sense of yourself in your work? Many feel vulnerable or want to infuse their emotion in their pieces, but you tend to stray from that. Any reasoning behind that?
Osang: I do not have high expectations in communicating with art. However, if someone has a chance to look at my art work and take some time to think a little differently than usual, that will be a way of communicating myself with people through art. It’s little different than the usual meaning of communicating and that is why I do not love works that have too much emotions of artists themselves.
As print media, newspapers, magazine and more are being phased out by the digital age, do you feel as we progress deeper into the digital age that your supply for inspiration will decrease as well?
Osang: Currently, my works are being created with pictures from Google. As world changes, I believe that artists will get inspired from digitals.
Lastly, any advice for any creatives out there who might be struggling?
Osang: If they are struggling, they may not be talented. I suggest [to] them to forget about being an artist.
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