Chewon Kim, a fresh visual artist from South Korea, has been creating her art professionally for the past few months. She might not have been working in the arts for long, but there is no doubt that she has an incredible talent. Chewon Kim studied Clothing and Textile at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and Creative Practice in Fine Arts at Kingston University in London, UK. A few months ago, she participated in an art show in Seoul for the very first time – and now, she is about to take part in the Nasty Women Exhibition – Empowerment in London.
Chewon Kim – Happiness (Photo Collage)
You have been creating art professionally for the past 4 months. You have named surrealism, Picasso’s cubism, as well as David Hockney’s style to be your main influences. How did your journey into the Arts start and is there any other artist that influences your style as a visual artist?
After I started to study art, I read Picasso’s books and documentaries and learned of his passion for art. Mainly, I became interested in Cubism through his Guernica. Also, I fell for the charms of surrealism through the works of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. I think surrealist artists had the privilege to create an imaginary space on canvas that cannot be seen in reality. This is why my focus was drawn to surrealist works. At that time, my art workshop teacher recommended that I read A bigger message: Conversations with David Hockney. After reading the conversation between David Hockney and Martin Gayford, I got curious about Hockney and his artworks. So, I researched him, and I found his works to be very experimental. I also found his photo collages, and I’ve seen the documentary about him. I found it all incredibly fascinating and decided to base my research and my own work on the works of David Hockney. In my works, I especially considered the concepts of time and space.
The four collages that I created focus on different areas of my interests. One of them is about “a change of space and object through time”. The other looks at “rearrangement of space”. The third one is a “multi-dimension collage”, and the fourth one is a video collage. My most typical method was to transform the two-dimensional aspect of photography into one with three dimensions; using photographs, which are frozen moments in time, to create a story. Later, while studying in London, my work on collages gained more depth and also changed a lot. I did a lot of research on the work of collage artists like Richard Hamilton and made various attempts to find my own style of collage-making. I concentrated on social issues and human emotions and behaviour, and started creating face collages and architecture collages.
How do you create your art now, and what is the main subject of your work?
I was interested in various issues such as politics, society, nature, fashion and architecture while studying fields of law, business, and fashion in Korea. I always wanted to show people the social issues we face, the human rights and emotions – through art. That is why I studied fine arts in London. I don’t want to concentrate on a specific subject, and I always consider everything that is happening around me.
Nowadays, in Korea, the significant issue are women’s rights, connected to the #MeToo movement. I support this movement, and I wanted to express this historical moment through my work. So, I created my artwork The Border for the Empowerment exhibition. Women experience discrimination through the stereotypes and prejudices of others. They are asked to live up to the stereotypes of always being pretty, kind, polite and quiet. If a woman strongly insists on something, people call her a “nasty” woman. I wanted to express the boundaries between “nasty” women and the fixed stereotypes of the traditional femininity.
Chewon Kim – Untitled (Illustration)
How do you design your work and how long does it take to create one piece?
I get a lot of inspiration from books, films, documentaries, newspapers and other media. When I focus on one topic, I start researching it in a variety of ways. In particular, when I discuss issues with my friends, I can get a lot of inspiration. I look at it from new perspectives that I have never seen before, and a lot of ideas come up in a conversation. So, I always write conversations and ideas down, into my research and idea books. To me, it is crucial that I record my thoughts. These records are precious to me, and help me in further creation. They help preserve ideas. Through my research process, I conduct various experiments and decide on which idea is the best for the final product.
The time that it takes to create a piece is always different. The Border, which will be exhibited in this exhibition Empowerment, was created in less than an hour. If a specific subject has always been of interest to me, the production time of the artwork becomes shorter, because I already have a lot of ideas.
What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?
If the artists of the past were concerned with how to express well, modern artists are focused on the intent and ideas. They look for the right medium to express their opinions, in order to get the attention of the public. I believe that a true artist is someone who is concerned with social issues in the world and has a voice, a unique style, to express and convey their own message to the public through their chosen medium.
Chewon Kim – Destruction (Archi-Sculpture)
Recently, you had a joint exhibition in Seoul where you presented your new work. Could you tell us more about the exhibition? Who took part in it?
The exhibition was held in Seongsu-dong, South Korea. Seongsu-dong used to be an industrial district, but nowadays, the old factories were transformed into art studios and cultural complexes. Compared to England, it is a bit like East London. The exhibition that I took a part in was a visual arts competition which opened in the cultural space complex, called S Factory. Many artists applied, but only 140 got a chance to exhibit their artworks. Various artists participated; there were artworks in the fields of photography, graphics and illustration. The show lasted for three weeks and ended last week. Through a voting process for the exhibited artworks, the final winner will be selected and announced in March. The exhibition was an excellent opportunity to see the works of other Korean artists in Korea.
Which is more important to you, the subject of your art, or the way it is executed?
When I first started studying art, I was interested in what materials to use and how to make the product look stunning. I always thought that materials were more important than the subject. However, when I studied art in the UK, I found that I used the wrong approach. I realized that in the beginning, the theme is more important. Only after the theme is clear, I can decide on what medium to use for the theme to be expressed efficiently. Both the theme and the execution are crucial, but the order is important. The subject is the first step, and the choice of medium is the second.
Chewon Kim – Save the Earth (Vintage Collage)
What do you think are some of the most inspiring things happening in your artistic life now?
When I came back to Korea, I became more interested in Korean society. A few years ago, I made artworks about human emotions and behaviour. Nowadays, the position of women in Korean society is the most interesting subject. When I met and talked with my Korean female friends, various problems came up in our conversations. In particular, the #MeToo movement is currently a big issue in Korea. Starting with the confession of a female prosecutor, many victims of sexual crimes are now speaking out through social media. As we witness this social phenomenon, it is becoming clear that many women lived in depression and suffered from sexual harassment. I want to keep focusing on women’s rights and I want to create artworks that encourage them to speak out.
Chewon Kim – Diversity (Photo Collage)
You have been chosen, alongside 39 other artists from around the globe, to participate in an important exhibition in London, called Nasty Women: Empowerment, which is organised by Creative Debuts. Could you tell me more about how you were selected to take part in the event?
As I mentioned previously, I have been interested in women’s rights. I checked the Instagram and found the competition Nasty Women – Empowerment. I created my artwork in an hour – I already had a lot of ideas – and then, I sent The Border to the Creative Debuts team. My main theme are the boundaries of the definition for a “nasty woman”. Trump said the definition of a nasty woman is a scandalous, wicked woman who is like a devil. Women have been struggling for their rights for hundreds of years. Even nowadays, women have been speaking out to fight for our rights in the society. I want to call these women “the new nasty women of the 21st century”. So, that is why I applied for this competition, and I am truly honoured to participate in the exhibition.
Apart from the exhibition in London, are there any new project in the pipeline for you?
The Seoul Illustration Fair will be held in COEX Convention Centre in Seoul, in July of 2018; I will participate in this fair. I also have a plan to collaborate with an Italian restaurant to display my works and to also paint a wall in the restaurant. I will also launch a brand of clothes, designed with traditional Korean patterns, at the end of this year.
After graduating from the university in London last year, I have been working as a professional artist for about four months. I am glad that I can exhibit my work because I now have many opportunities to take part in competitions and exhibitions. So, I wish to thank Creative Debuts for selecting my work, and I am pleased to be interviewed by View of the Arts. I want to be a dynamic artist who can communicate with people through my artwork.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Chewon Kim