brilliant 30: Seoungwon Won
Allegorical Landscapes of Fiction and Reality
Seoungwon Won, A Contemporary Fable Situated on the Borders of Fantasy
Seoungwon Won’s work depicts a real world; its image is derived from 500-600 photographs taken by the artist. Won reflects on relationships by combining dissonant elements, creating a sense of phantasmagoria. Her exposure to various social conflicts and issues serves as an avenue through which to empathize with the feelings and emotional experiences of others. Won’s body of works is characterized by its visual references to solutions for social conflict. Ultimately, it may act as an agent for healing. Rendering these images in miniature and thus de-monumentalizing them suggests the artist’s role as an empathetic observer of her non-fictional subjects. These allegorical landscapes, configured according to the artist’s creative whims, interact in what appear to be both real and fictive ‘Wonderlands.’
Won’s exploration of real-life issues and their integration with art may be a prime example of the type of work most artists aim to pursue. Won’s work dips in and out of references to human relationships, successfully engaging the viewer on the basis of shared sentiments. The artist’s pictorial content is strictly a re-configuration of reality, recognizable to anyone seeing the images. Drawing a parallel with Robert Schumann’s “Of Strange Lands and People (Von fremden Ländern und Menschen),” Seoungwon Won’s artistic world is a contemporary fable marked by its transient familiarity.
Q. How would you describe your works?
A. My visual collage is a metaphor for the social issues and circumstances around me. I do not consider myself a storyteller, but rather a messenger. Thus, I only deal with subjects that I can relay on behalf of the people around me. My Age of Seven series deals with personal psychological issues; its images derive from old photo albums from my childhood.
The final product is an imaginary world, but the individual images are real. -Seoungwon Won-
Q. The subjects of your work appear to be derived from reality, yet the visual fragments are blended together to create an imaginary space. What inspired you to conjure up this kind of image?
A. I thought about possessions and ownership and, in all sincerity, wanted to represent where I stood with regard to this relationship. I dealt with the past under the keyword “exaggeration” metamorphosed into the theme of “imagination.” The final product is an imaginary world, but the individual images are real. My first “imagination” project was called My Life, and was created in 1999.
Q. What are some of the reasons why you chose photography and collage as your medium?
A. Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed doodling and had a tendency to tell exaggerated tales. I discovered drawing and image collage, and these became my main tools of communication. Between 2000 and 2004 I created the Dream Room series, which was my first full-scale photographic body of work. I am not a trained photographer, but I found this to be the most effective medium for freely expressing myself. Another perk of working with photography is that it is more suitable for my smaller frame compared with sculpture, which was my previous field of practice. But I do not intend to belittle the complexities of photography.
Q. How would you elaborate your working process?
A. The foundation of my art is my drawings. The initial stages of conceptualizing my work entail traveling and collecting images over a period of one year. Hence the process of coming up with sketches, researching, traveling and drawing up a draft requires a total of two years’ worth of time. Throughout this process, I manipulate and weave together selected images. I steer away from employing digital cameras, computers and other tools which may make the integration process easier. By approaching this process in an analogue manner, I hope to add weight to my work. I select overcast days for photographing my subjects in order to minimize glare and shadow which may interfere with the collage.
Q. How did your work expand from personal narrative to encompass the stories of people around you?
A. Within the process of creating My Age of Seven, I developed an interest in psychology. This gave me an opportunity to pore over related books and gain a breadth of knowledge in the field. And by studying microscopic details related to matters of psychology, I came to realize that its related topics could be applicable to any individual in society. By walking around in someone else’s shoes, I was able to empathize with their thoughts and feelings. I chose to exhibit this encounter as visual imagery.
Q. What is the seed of your imagination with regard to your subject and materials?
A. I am inspired by the relationships of and with people around me. Conflicts and misunderstandings with close ones act as prompts to reflect on our differences. These moments of confrontation lead to questions about why things are the way they are, and these eventually lead to ideas for my next project.
The Bridge of Ego. 2013. C-print. 138 x 195 cm
The Star Apartment of the Eldest Son. 2013. C-print. 180 x 144.5 cm
The Kitchen Garden of Parvenu. 2013. C-print. 138 x 195 cm
The Perfect Garden. 2013. C-print, 138 x 195 cm
Seoungwon Won acquired her BFA in Sculpture at Chungang University. Won pursued her MFA at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, Akademiebrief (Diploma) and Meisterschuelerin, and soon acquired her second MFA at Kunsthochschule fur Medien Koln in Media Art (Diploma). Won’s selected solo exhibitions began at Galerie Gana-Beaubourg, Paris in 2005, followed by <Tomorrow> (alternative space LOOP, Seoul, Korea, 2008), <1978, My Age of Seven> (Gana Contemporary, Seoul, Korea, 2010), <Character Episode I> (Artside Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2013), <Sceptical Orgy> (Podbielsky Contemporary, Berlin, Germany, 2014). She is currently busy preparing for her next exhibition. Out of sixty group shows, selected exhibitions include <Contemporary Korean Photography-Chaotic Harmony> (Museum of Fine Art Houston, USA, 2009), <Variety> (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea, 2009), <The End of the Dream> (Mica Moca Project, Berlin, Germany, 2011), <Constructed Myths> (Noorderlicht Gallery, Groningen, Netherlands, 2011), <CITY STATES> (Liverpool Biennial 2012, Liverpool, United Kingdom, 2012), and <Go-Betweens>(Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 2014) to name a few.