Pour cette deuxième rubrique, c’est l’illustrateur coréens Minho Khon qui a répondu à mes huit questions dans l’enceinte de l’école PaTI où il préparait trois oeuvres pour la biennale de Changwon. Je me trouve toujours en Corée du Sud, à Séoul et il me reste encore un mois pour profiter pleinement de cette expérience..
Bien à vous.
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Minho Kwon is an illustration teacher at PaTi, Paju Typography Institute of Ahn Sang Soo. I met him at PaTi, and I interviewed him there on drawing studio where he was working on a big draw for the Changwon Sculpture biennale 2014.
In your drawings, there is a lot of questions about power, government, and consumer society. For you, drawing is a way to show a cain of reality?
Yes for sure. I always want to tell a story, I wanted to make graphic novels but when I had the opportunity to make one I immediately realized telling stories in a graphic novel doesn’t really fit me. So I decided to go back to my main interest which was technical drawing. My drawings don’t really work as technical drawing but that format which separates each side views of the object, façade view, side view, is my way to tell a story. When I was a student in Korea, all the students has to go through this very old fashioned way of drawing, which is criticized by a lot of people. Personally I like that, and I don’t really understand how other asian students are trying to change that style to fit themselves into european or USA style. That old fashioned korean style of drawing was developed in the last 50 years, Korea was a Japanese colony for 50 years before the Korean war, Korea had not enough time and money and cultural background to be able to develop their own modernity, all our modernity has been implanted by other countries such as Japan and the United States. You can not actually say all the cultural things here were born and culture built by Korean people. So I kept that old fashioned style of drawing like a cain of statement to be able to talk about those social issues, because I don’t think Uk or USA style is going with social criticize.
You studied in London, and now you are working in PaTi in South-Korea, your own country. That experience has a influence on your vision of human reality?
Yes, that made me understand that Korean people don’t need to glorify western culture. Korean people fantasize about the German-style typography, and it became huge and very popular in Korea. I didn’t feel like I had to be influenced by that, that made me more objective about western culture. In terms of British art education, they are pretty much open to every thing. There is no gap between art and design, and students are given a lot of freedom to prepare them to whatever they want to do. I like that freedom, especially in post-graduate levels. I want PaTi students to experiment that kind of freedom, but ironically it hasn’t really worked so far… I’ve been a teacher here for 5 month and since I came here I changed the « curriculum » to be more focused on what students have to develop, that is to say their own visual language. But students want to have more structure so I try to mix those two ways of teaching.
In your work The Neo Tower of Babel you used video to project it on your drawings. Is movement important in your work?
Yes really important. I don’t really use colors in my work, so I put colors in a different way: with video.
When I look at a painting, I always feel that colors make the painting static, like… too solid. It’s a really personal feeling. So, I reflected about how to put colors on my drawings, and I’ve always enjoyed making moving images, and I love the glittering like a « bling bling » thing. With moving images I found a way to put colors on my drawings without ruining it. At the same time, It can reverse the movement you want to put in, you can change the statement in a more interesting way. With moving images I can talk about the history of light — on The Neo Tower Of Babel for example.
A lot of your illustrations are very big, the size of your drawings is an important point for you?
Yes, I don’t know why I’m keeping that big size now but at the beginning it was just to show-of. That’s because of my personality, when I was a child I was not very brave enough I was intimidated by tough movement. I think that it is a little bit because of my mother who was a very emotional person, always crying. I’ve got that blood in me as well and I didn’t really like it, especially in korean society where the man has a certain status…
And to be able to resolve that side of my personality maybe I wanted to push myself to make really monumental things, to cobble down.
I think that, if you make images you don’t really have to think of the size you want to work on, it’s more as if you start to work on something and then it becomes really, really big because you need more space. But two or three years ago I understood the importance of drawing size in illustration work since I made illustrations for book covers. For that kind of work I always think about the size first because drawings have to fit with the size of the book. When I work on book covers I don’t like to work alone in my own studio. I actively work with editors and designers, at one time I even asked if I could work in their own studio. I really wanted to use their space, I wanted to feel the atmosphere and be close with designers.
Let’s talk about your book covers. When you do illustrations for book covers, do you work the way you usually do?
It’s totally different. When I worked on « book covers », I was commissioned by the Korean studio Everyday Practice, and before beginning to work I already had the exact size of the book cover. We discussed about image first, then I gave them a sketch of the illustration, they put types on it, and then I worked on the details on the drawing. We decided to give most space on the page to the drawing. Working on a book cover is really different from art work, it’s really interesting to work with graphic designers and book designers. It’s like a table-tennis game, I love that.
The illustration you made for « The Pilgrimage » is very different from the illustrations you usually do. You used colors and lines, and a letter as a dropped initial. Is that the influence of Zigmunds Lapsa with whom you worked on that project?
That’s a very different process. I worked with this Estonian designer, Zigmunds Lapsa, because he asked me to work with him. He spent a long time in the Netherlands, so he has in his blood those cains of minimality in typography. That time he wanted to change his style. Our idea was really simple, it was The letter « S » which is the first letter of the novel, which would look medieval. The novel is about the crusade wars in Europe. We didn’t want to make it exactly look medieval, just a little bit more modern. We worked in a ping-pong game too: I would first draw something very complicated, he would simplify it, then I worked some more, then he simplified it again, and we would end the game once we found a mid-term solution. He converted my hand drawings on Illustrator. The process was really interesting.
When you worked about he future of the poster for the V&A with Song-eun Lee and Yeni Kim, what did you want to say about the posters’ future? As a drawer, what kind of relationship do you have with posters?
Nothing deep to be honest. There was that project in my studio at college, and that was a period where I was thinking deeply about how I could introduce movement in my images. I was just starting to enjoy the glitter of the moving image. We wanted to make something visually interesting. When I look at the posters now I feel they are static images. And when you print a poster and put it on the wall, 10 days after you find it on the floor and people step on it. Our idea was to play with the physicality of the poster, to make it unphysical, we wanted to make it moving without any fixed form. We wanted to keep the physical presence of hands making a poster and analogy (old fashion thing) but at the same time, to make it very trendy. I think there are some answers in there, about the future of posters.
What do you think about contemporary Korean illustrators? Do you think Seoul is a good place to be an illustrator?
Not really… Normally things are going on, there is no key-star place… I mean there are some young illustrators who import the UK or the USA style into Korea, but they haven’t really made a big trend out of it. Groups of illustrators are all separated, one group is more focalised on children books, not much money is going on. And there is an other group of illustrators who are young, who studied abroad, and there is an other group who is a very commercialized illustrator. Their work is not visually stimulating it’s very conventional and commercialized. I think that kind of work boring. If you take the underground in Korea, the illustrations you see there are not interesting. It’s just very tacky some times, conventional. But they are making money. Those three big groups of illustrators don’t really communicate with each other.
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