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I Laugh in the Joys and Sorrows of Life: Artist Kwon Ki Soo ①

Designpress

 

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 Where does the plantain grow?

 

The Peach Blossom Land (武陵桃源 Paradise, or Shangri-La) of freedom of Kwon Ki Soo 

 

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Honest and serious. And quite twisted too. This is Kwon Ki Soo’s attitude toward painting and the world. Perhaps this is the reason why his work does not linger anywhere in the East and the West, in tradition and modernity, and in the real and the ideal. There is a sense of alienation and loneliness. Each time he is faced with such a situation, he gives himself an intense and ample time for self-reflection. Sometimes he turns his back on the rough and haphazard world and maintains silence, and sometimes he expresses his scribbled graffiti-like energy. Then suddenly a change comes.

 

Kwon Ki Soo has returned with a new story after 4 years. He has depicted the ‘plantain’ which is found in the paintings of flowers and birds in the Joseon Dynasty. Dongguri—a round icon of a human figure—is hidden behind the broad leaves, and the canvas is composed of brilliant colors and geometric shapes. He has also showcased new drawings. Reflecting upon the foundation of his art, he has expressed the original images of Dongguri with an intuitive sensibility. I met with artist Kwon Ki Soo. He has related that he has now become more relaxed and laid-back.

 

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My favorites_the Permanent Blue World_162.1X130.3cm_acrylic on canvas on board_2019

 

 

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My favorites-expanded reflection_227.3x181.8cm_acrylic on canvas on board_2019

 

 

Artist Kwon Ki Soo has many titles: Oriental painter, contemporary artist, pop artist, and creator of Dongguri. How would you introduce yourself? 

 

I am the ‘artist’ Kwon Ki Soo, who has been active for over 20 years since my first solo exhibition in 1998. Up to now, I have been working on unclassifiable work that was sometimes Eastern painting and sometimes not Eastern painting, sometimes painting and sometimes not painting at all, and sometimes close to installation.

Probably because of this, I often find that the public classify me in a very vague way. I have been constantly focusing on the desire to dig out something new beyond a fixed paradigm. The Dongguri series, which many people recognize as Kwon Ki Soo's trademark, is also the result of my attempts at diverse avenues.

 

 

Your recent works are about the ‘plantain’. I wonder why you chose this object.

 

You know, I’ve been working on modernizing the Four Nobel Plants for over a decade. The plantain series is also a continuation of this acquired sensitivity. Just as the Four Noble Plants in Eastern art were representative objects loved by the scholars and art enthusiasts of Korea, so was the plantain. I wanted to look closely into that aesthetic and image.

 

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Eternity_220X110cm_Acrylic on Canvas on board_2018

 

 

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(Left) Oar-White_130X130cm_2019                             (Right)Oar-Black_162.1X130.3cm_2019

 

 

Then what did you find in plantain when you looked closely?

 

Plantain is a subtropical plant. It also has fruits similar to bananas. In Korea, it is generally known to grow naturally only on the southern coast. However, in the Joseon Dynasty, it was said to have been raised, appreciated, and painted in Hanyang, today’s Seoul. It looks like it was a tropical plant that could pass the winter. So, the plantain symbolizes the hope of the spring. Perhaps because it grows in tropical climates, the plantain has broad leaves. As paper was precious, people wrote on the leaves as an alternative. Because of this, scholars in the past loved the broad leaves. Isn’t it practical and romantic? When it rains, the sound of raindrops falling on the leaves is very loud. Many intellectuals were fascinated by the sound of the rain.

 

 

Wide leaves were also noticeable in these works. The atmosphere seems to be different from The Four Noble Plants.

 

The Four Noble Plants are plants with strong political implications. The plantain seems to have been a fantasy plant. It instills illusions in us: ‘Where is that plant growing?’, ‘Isn't it the Peach Blossom Land?’ As such, the plantain also symbolizes something like an ideal land that cannot be reached.

 

 

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(Left) Study of scratch_90.9x116.7cm_2018                        (Right) Study of Blue and Hot Pink_90.9x116.7cm_2018

 

 

I think the work is brighter than it used to be.

 

I think I am more relaxed now than I was in my 20s and 30s. In those days, I often borrowed from the narratives and works like the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢), Jiang Ziya (姜太公), Gosagwansudo (高士觀水圖 picture of a scholar or Taoist hermit watching the stream), and Sehando (歲寒圖, Winter Scene). I thought of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, thinking about what attitude I would take when my own individuality collided with society. Jiang Ziya came across my mind as I was waiting for the time to realize my vision. Telling my story directly would curtail my appeal. After all, I seemed to try to embody my ideas by comparing my situation with the narratives of the past. The figures in my paintings always empathized with my situation.

 

 

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세한歲寒 Sehan(Winter Scene) 2_227x130cm_ acrylic on canvas on board_2009

 

Gangsanmujin 강산무진 江山無盡-462X145cm_Acrylic on canvas on board_2013.jpg

 

Gangsanmujin 강산무진 江山無盡-462X145cm_Acrylic on canvas on board_2013

 

 

This is the first solo exhibition held in Korea in 4 years. Did you have so many works that you needed to show them in 2 parts of the exhibition?

 

To put it briefly, Part 1 is the ‘paintings’ of the plantain series, and Part 2 is the ‘drawings’ of the Dongguri series. In fact, there is one more series that we did not release because I judged that the exhibition would be too voluminous. This was the ‘Chongseok (叢石)’ series. Chongseok refers to the rock masses that stand upright on the seashore. Paintings in this group look like landscapes, or at first glance, like a forest of apartment buildings. The Chongseok series compares the formal sense of nature to modern structures. It has a double meaning. I think it’s essentially from the same desire, whether we go to see a landmark building in the city or to see the scenery in nature.

 

 

What did you want to tell in this exhibition <Plantain; Permanent Blue>?

 

I wanted to represent the implications of freedom. Personally, the process of putting a new plant on the canvas itself has been an opportunity for me to broaden my view of the world. As the composition itself varied, the arrangement of colors also changed. Changes in arrangement made the expression richer. It wasn’t until I drew it myself that I came to fully love the plantain.

 

 

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Vase Serises

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Installation view, Atelier Aki

 

 

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written by designpress2016@naver.com

 

 

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