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An Interview with Osang Gwon


An Interview with Osang Gwon

Born Seoul in 1974, Korean artist Osang Gwon is one of the rising stars of the Asian art scene, with his unique blend of sculpture and photography. His works have been exhibited widely across the world, and are in the esteemed collections of institutions in Korea and in Europe. 

The Artling speaks with the artist to find out more about his practice and his iconic photo-sculpture medium. 

​Image courtesy of the artist


Your works are immediately identifiable as yours. How did you come up with your signature photo-sculpture medium? Why the choice to merge these two very diverse media (photography and sculpture), melding the two with the three dimensional?

I started the Photo-Sculpture, the so-called Deodorant Type series, to make easy and light sculptures by using photographic papers, to be free from heavy and complicated traditional media. As photographs are invented from paintings, it is one of the mediums of two dimensions. My works have toed the line between the two-dimensional and three dimensional. However, the origin of my works is still from sculptures, from the three dimensional.


"New Structure 15" (2016)
Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


You have some works that err on the extremely abstract side, and others that are like classical portraits or scientific studies. How do you choose your subjects? Are they real, or fictional?

I hope that the works are visually figurative, but their meanings are abstract. The external methods could be cognitive in that the methods are similar to the study of traditional sculptures or paintings. The subject matter ranges from everything I encounter online and off-line, as a man born in metropolitan city, and they are always driven by the questions on sculpture itself or on the history of sculptures.  


"Relief 9" (2016) 
​Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


What is the process for creating each of your works?

In Deodorant Type series, hundreds of photographs of the subject are glued onto the form made of a light material, like Styrofoam. The unusual combination of 3-D sculptures and 2-D photographs densely clustered on the surface of the form distort and repeat the image of the subjects, reconstructing the viewer’s perception of the subject.

The Flat series uses mass media images in a more direct manner. I cut out all kinds of images printed in a magazine, fix them on a wire to stand erect on a horizontal surface, then photograph them to assemble the cut-outs in one surface. Passing through the process from a flat photograph to sculpture, then back to photography, the work situates itself between the boundaries of the three-dimensional and the flat; the actual object and its image.

Another series, The Sculpture, takes images of cars and motorbikes like Lamborghini or Ducati from the internet and magazines, and makes an actual model from which the sculptural form is created with traditional sculptural material like bronze or clay. The smooth artificial surface of the real product is substituted with a traditional sculptural touch or painterly brush strokes. The New Structure series is in close relationship with The Flat series. The formative features are constructed by cutting out and using the already existing forms of images.

After producing three-dimensional abstract sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder’s Stabile for two years, I had a desire to experiment with sculptural elements on relief, which could be hung on a wall. Relief is a collage-type wooden relief piece arranged only with a combination of images. I intended to organize and recompose images in this series to create sculptural work representing the contemporary image.


Installation view at Arario Gallery Shanghai, 2016
​Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


The poses of your sculptures can sometimes remind one of classical sculptures from the Greco-Roman period. This is juxtaposed against the conspicuous modernity of your subjects, with their style and the use of technology within them. Both these aspects are immediately recognizable to the viewer – what do you hope to portray with this dichotomy between the ancient and the modern?

Most of the references of my recent works are from classical marble sculptures. These marble sculptures have some structural tricks. For example, to protect fragile parts, such as the ankles of the figure, meaningless objects are arranged around the calves or ankles including baby angels or fruits like grapes, cloths or animal skins, animals, trees or baskets. I mapped out the works where the contemporary products are entangled with these classical sculptures.


"Reclining Man Dringking" (2016)
Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


In a world where we are constantly bombarded by images, and conscious of celebrity’s images online. You’ve been using your unique medium for a while – has your process changed with the advancement and invention of new technologies?

Models of my early Deodorant Types were from my friends or celebrities whom I took photographs of by myself. Then, I fabricated The Sculpture series by googling the super cars or super bikes. This researching process, including the use of Google, has been used to fabricate photo sculptures, too. I collected the images from both online and off-line resources and I believe that this process reflects our contemporaries well.


"Torso (The Sculpture 12)" (2008-2010)
Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


You’re a Korean artist, based in Seoul, but you’ve shown extensively overseas. Do you see a difference in how various audiences react to your works?

The daily life in the metropolitan cities is similar throughout the whole world. Most people are walking and taking subways while looking at their smart-phones. The reactions through my works are almost the same as every city.


You’ve collaborated with many high-profile brands, such as Fendi, Nike and Hermes. What projects do you have coming up in 2017? Do you have a dream subject or collaboration that you hope to do in the future?

I recently have fabricated a Korean actor Yoo Ah in as a charitable campaign for W magazine and I’m preparing some exhibitions in 2017. I hope my works could be exhibited in the public space.


"2009 September" (2011)
​Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery


And lastly, what advice do you have for young artists?

I don’t want them to cut their ears or get pneumonia like Van Gogh. There are a few poor great artists in art history. If you don’t have talent, please quit being an artist, but if you do have talent, create as many works as you can in positive way.


See more works by Osang Gwon here.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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