"The empty space of a gallery or museum always appeals to my imagination in the same way a painter sees a blank canvas."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I am a sculptor based in Seoul and London. I think my practice began with my first architectural intervention I did for my BA degree show at Seoul National University in 2006. The starting point was a misunderstanding: I mistook an actual construction site in a gallery space for a fascinating artwork, only coming to realise my error later on. Though I felt a bit stupid, this incidental memory spurned an artistic idea, which induced a chain of practice.
On a more intimate level, my mother was an inspiring painter, so it could be said that my practice started when I was in her womb.
When I graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 2010, I made my first pillar installation in the basement sculpture studio. After my MFA degree show, I met many enthusiastic people in the London art scene, which led to my first solo show, ‘The door in the wall’, at Gazelli Art House in 2015.
You create holes in gallery walls and/or pillars, sometimes with objects embedded within them. This gives a sense of history, almost like an Archaeological discovery. Could you talk about the reasons behind these installations?
When I was a boy I would dig the ground with my hands searching for pieces of broken vases. I thought that these pieces were real treasures since we lived in the capital city of ancient country. The empty space of a gallery or museum always appeals to my imagination in the same way a painter sees a blank canvas. The space remains linked to my personal memory of this experience.
In my practice, I have researched mundane spaces through observing people’s behavioural patterns. My sculptural interventions are based on an understanding of the urban architectural environment and people’s expectations of this public space. As an artistic intervention, my works transform the viewer’s expectation to explore how daily circumstances can be changed into artistic experience. I also create unfamiliar stories through accidental situations. I explore sculptural contexts, including physical symbolic relations, cultural authority relations and various process of interactions within the urban space. Tactility is important for experience and understanding my practice.
When you first started these installations was it hard to get a gallery to agree to put holes in their walls? What has been the most technically challenging piece so far?
It seems that nobody wants to put holes in their walls! I do, however, have a technique whereby I do not need to damage the wall, though I still need permission to install my work. It started in art school, whom I thanks for for their generosity in allowing such artistic experimentation. My practice is not based on technique. For example, in my work ‘the screw’, the conceptual adventure was more important than the artistic technique. ‘the screw’ is my most challenging piece in that sense.
What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?
Over the last 7 years I have developed my practice of sculptural interventions within architectural spaces. This investigation has taken the form of discreet interventions in slightly unusual places, which can make people disorientated. I’ve tried to make people experience the whole space as a sculpture. If the whole space is a glass of water, my intervention is one drop of coloured ink so to speak. I’m interested in the method of dispersion. As such I see my interventions as a sort of catalyst which makes the viewer to see the whole space as site for discovery. Viewers become active discoverers in these sites using all their senses.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
Anthony Gormley’s recent massive sculptures are very interesting. They’re different from his previous pieces. People walk through, crawl into and climb on them because they are not objects which can be understood without using the body. In other word, his recent works can be experienced with one's whole body.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine, what is your studio like?
I’m doing an art residency two hours from my home. I go to my studio 4 days a week and am also writing my doctoral thesis. I’m not a studio-based artist normally. I usually like spending time in the actual spaces for which I'm making plans as well as finding new sites for my interventions.
What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I’m preparing the two solo shows, one in Seoul and another in London 2018. That’s always an exciting plan for me. I can’t say exactly what at the moment but the new works will be totally different and yet in some way still predictable from my previous work.
Images courtesy of the artist and Gazelli Art House
Interview publishing date: 09/02/17