Much of your work deals with issues of consumption and evacuation (like In and Out which was exhibited at the gallery). When did this idea first come about and how is this continuing in your present work?
The characters in my paintings are looking nowhere with vacant eyes. They seem so disarmed towards violence and easily could be consumed. They look as if they are cyborgs, robots or avatars, those artificial human-like objects that we create. The image of those figures evacuating or eating stuff endlessly with an empty gaze is my symbolic way of looking at the (post)modern human condition; the modern humans who are surrounded by numerous information and ads and excess of everything.
For me we are like ‘passive eaters’ without filtering incomes, taking the fast stimulus and shocks and as a result of that becoming numb. I went to Korea recently and my ideas became solid by seeing the fast-developed city’s plastic flatness. Screens are everywhere showing things soundlessly with extremely bright light signs. The experience happening inside of flat screen looks unapproachable. As Slavoj Zizek said, the modern situation under science and virtual reality turns the whole of reality into something which ‘exists only on a screen’, a depthless surface. In Seoul, there were so many advertisements for plastic surgery and restaurants juxtaposed in the same space. This ‘unmatchable scenery’ for me feels like a contrived outside and inside. The cosmetic surgery ads maniacally but unabashedly showed natural before and artificial after photos of girls. It was so uncanny. The girls’ faces looked as if they were made of plastic. And the photos of well represented food conveyed a similar feeling. I felt light and heavy at the same time.
As a person living in a country that underwent rapid post-war development, I felt disoriented with the mixture of all these unmatchable things that are all fully ready to be consumed. Pretty shiny high-resolution figures drive me to futility.
You seem to shift back and forth between the monumental and the small. Do you have a different work process for each one? (for example, sitting and standing.)
When I work with small scale works I focus on the stillness of the subject like a still life. Things painted on the smaller scale canvas are vulnerable creatures. They are abandoned useless things as a result of human greed. For example the work Only Can Watch is inspired by CCTV.
This multiple-eyed creature can not do anything but watch. It is vulnerable to outside violence. It is deadly passive. Vice versa when I work on the bigger scale I try to express a narrative of an active event.
For example the work Threat of Farming Feelings is inspried by an article of scientific conjecture in which it is imagined that in the future we will be able to farm organs to replace our own when they get weak. This painting is depicting the event.
I like how in your work, there are areas of the picture plane that you can see through to something else–like something behind it, either colour or light, and in other areas the colour is dense and it’s packed with activity. Can you tell me more about your use of transparencies and layers?
I wanted to find a material that could show the depth in two dimension painting with flat images and I found that drafting film and polyester have the perfect textual effect. Drafting film is a translucent material. When I layer it more than once the back images appear dimly, like a ghost. It gives the feeling of inside and outside. I have always been interested in what is in the inside and what is ‘in’ the outside. The series Internal Sequence came from the idea of a reaction between the inside and the outside so that the layering in the works fits in with the concept.
It seems like you have a great productive output. Have you ever gone through periods where you rest and are more contemplative?
I think I am now in that interval moment. With my expression, I call it going into the cave, literally a hiding period. Because like you said,I have moments of pouring out works. I am working with my intuition and when it comes I can make lots of work but when it goes I need to do nothing. It sounds like I don’t have my own principle but I think art is conveying and resonating energy to people so that I need to have some time for hiding, for accumulating things that will later explode.
How was it going from the environment at the RA to working during the Arts League residency in New York? Did you notice any changes in your work or in your process?
I am very affected by my environment. Of course the results were very different. When I was at the RA, there was something in the air. Being at the such a historical academic place made me work with form differently and when I was in NY I focused more on an expression method.
Do you think of yourself primarily as a painter? could you see yourself working in other areas–sculpture, video, installation, etc?
I am an artist who deals with two dimensions. I have always wanted to make animations but don’t know when it could happen.
It is always in my mind.