Artist Seol Cheong Kwon will be presenting an exhibition at the brand new Sang Bleu gallery in the Sang Bleu London space in conjunction with Frieze art fair. The private view will take place on the 16th of October from 6-9pm.
To celebrate, we’ve interviewed Seol about the work she’ll be exhibiting, her relationship to Sang Bleu, her career and where she wants to go.
What do you hope the viewer will get out of your work being shown at Sang Bleu and what do you want to get out of it?
I would like the viewer to enjoy the work on an aesthetic level, to question the limits and processes of photography as a medium, and to consider the ramifications of a singular photographic based image in a society where the proliferation of the same repeated images is rampant.
My interest in Sang Bleu started during a point in my life when I had very little capacity to understand the world outside of my own created one. But when I stumbled upon it, I immediately felt a connection: first with the title of the magazine, because of this notion of nobility, blood lines, not only on a level of economic class, but on a tribal level, and then for my individual relationship with its’ aesthetic of tattoo, drawing, style and fetish. As a multidisciplinary forum anchored by an underlying thread which speaks to certain “rites of passage”, I connected to the structure and topics, since I never worked with only one medium and one subject and didn’t follow the mold of how an artist should work or establish themselves in the art world. Today I feel differently, being less contrarian, I am willing to take certain steps if it enables me to have more time to create in the long run, such as working jobs just to pay the bills or being friendly with people I don’t particularly like to be polite or not burn bridges. One of the things I do hope showing at Sang Bleu will help me with, is to reach a broader audience and open other opportunities for my work. What I want to “get out of it” would be to be taken more seriously. Unfortunately, as an artist, no matter how long and dedicated you are to creating, most people simply do not take you seriously until money is involved on a real level. And since the art market has become
about investment shopping today, it’s just not enough for someone to love the integrity of the work on its’ own. But aside from perhaps selling some work, which I don’t count on, it would be a welcome change to have more discourse and critical press. In the end, what matters most is that I’m doing it.
How do you decide who your subjects will be?
Sometimes I’ve just met someone, other times it can take years until I will take a photograph of someone. It boils down to an unspoken alchemy of presence and magnitism. It can be a public or private person. It is usually someone who raises questions in my mind, or that I would like to know better, or even who makes me anxious. Taking photographs in this way, calms me. The context and situational circumstance also has an influence on who I photograph. At a nightclub I may intend to take portraits of Amanda Lepore and Kenny Kenny, but end up photographing other people and skipping Kenny Kenny altogether because the moment wasn’t right. Certain series, such as the series on artists are of course planned, and I specifically put myself into a particular surrounding to have the opportunity to photograph the person. As for which artists, I generally stick to artists whose work I both personally appreciate and to whom I find access. In order to photograph Yoko Ono, I had to chase her all over the Venice Biennale, and finally was able to get a private shot of her through the window when she boarded the boat.
Why have you chosen to show portraits of these particular subjects in your show at Sang Bleu?
I find showing these particular works at Sang Bleu is a logical fit. Although my portraits tend to be subtle and less shocking than perhaps what Sang Bleu often does, it speaks to the same subjects: fetishism, underground life, dualism, and translates the medium of photography in a way not unsimilar to tattoo, in that it is about creating something unique, personal, by hand, and questioning the process of doing so…..no 2 tattoos are alike, just as no two human beings are like another or no two rocks found in nature are the same. For me, this is what I want to express in these particular portraits, to take the medium of photography, which has been watered down and over-used, and push it to make a unique individual statement which is sometimes about drawing, sometimes about erasure, and always about a certain aspect of spirit found in a person or object.
What photographers have inspired you?
Generally, I tend to be more inspired by other visual artists and writers, but inspirations from photographic based artists have been from William Eggleston, Vik Muniz, Helmet Newton, Marcel Duchamp (self-portraits), Alfred Steiglitz (portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe), Matthew Barney, Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus and Sigmar Polke.
How do you drawings relate to your photographs?
The drawings relate to the photographs and vice versa on several levels…..because I’ve always worked on them simultaneously, sometimes the connection can be so simple as drawing a photograph I’ve taken, or drawing a person I’ve photographed. Both are, on some level, about portraiture. Other times, I’ll do a photo transfer on a drawing, or draw on a photograph. The multiplicity of the back and forth between the two mediums grows inevitably. Drawing for me is not only about the creation of lines, but also the erasure of space.
How do you feel that your career has evolved?
Touchstones for me were my formal education, childhood drawing, and slowly stealing my first camera away from my mother. I started as a painter, but then with moving too frequently, it became impossible to transport the work and financially support the habit….I lost a lot of work along the way, due to my vagabond lifestyle. Photography won out of pragmatism because it was easy to transport years of work in the form of negatives. Over time, it just became a more and more important part of my practice until it took over. I began to photograph because I felt the camera protected me from people, and because I didn’t speak much, it allowed me to have communication with people outside of words….so for me photography is about people, talking to the human face. And black and white is an important consideration because of my inquiry and struggles with trying to find a way out of binaries and “isms”…..I am always testing the boundaries with a medium. Although it’s taken nearly 20 years, I’ve finally reached the point where the painting and photography have cohered.
My first solo show was this year in Karlsruhe, Germany. I have work placed in private collections of interesting people I’ve known. Group shows have been in Boston, Berlin, Geneva, New York.
Where do you want to see your work go in the future?
Into the permanent collection of MoMA and the Schaulager!
I will continue with the new work which will be first shown with Sang Bleu for the near future, perhaps for quite awhile, as there are many variations which are in my mind, working with scale and other images and techniques. On the back burner, I’ve amassed a large archive of video footage, which I eventually plan on re-photograhing in film and translating them to into “painted prints”. Another project in the making is with sound footage from a conversation I had with Louise Bourgeois many years ago, around which there will be an installation comprised of objects, drawings, and photographs.
See more of Kwon’s work here