Blurring the lines between the realms of digital and reality, photography and sculpture, 2D and 3D, Korean contemporary artist, Gwon Osang produces the kind of work that is at once, beautiful. But the closer you get, the more you see and the more you see, the more magnificent it becomes. Case in point: The current Hermès Sydney Store, where a fantastic commission between the Fashion House and the artist is now on show.
The installation, entitled The Art of The New Image_New Sculpture is a brilliant commission that spans the stores six windows, drawing in views who may or may not realise the intense depth to at which Osang works. The works include a to-scale photo sculpture of male model Sung Jin Park, various animals, including an albino tiger and a falcon, and of course, some the house's most wanted accessories reimagined (including the chic Bolide 45 Shark bag).
Ahead of the opening, Osang sat down with me to talk about his incredibly laborious practice which, at heart, aims to capture some kind of curiosity. Much like the appeal of the shop window, no?
You've been working with photo sculpture for 16 years now, How have you developed this practice and why do you love working with it?
Well, my major when I was in university, was sculpture, and materials for this are very heavy, so I wanted to create and use very light materials. That was the initial factor and motivation that I got in to this field. At the time, sculpture majors used material like marble or wood, I'm small, so it was too difficult for me to handle those materials. Also I didn't like and breathing in the dust. [laughs]
It was 1998 when I first used a photograph to create a sculpture. At the time, I took photos myself, but in the year 2005, I saw a photograph of a car in the internet and I started to create an artwork from that, as I was inspired by that photograph. I would search for them on the Internet and I created artwork based on my Internet searches and these photographs would influence my work directly, even though I had never seen these things in person. Currently, my work involves half and half. I take photos myself and the other half I google and source from the internet.
Can you talk to me about the elements you have used in the installation for Hermès?
My artwork combines many materials and objects joined together. They are a combination of modern objects as well as ancient architectural objects as well and some of them are actually a combination of my work tools that I use in my workshop, my studio.
If you look at ancient, traditional sculptures, the man's ankle is very weak because it's marble. So therefore to station the weak point of the ankle, objects are attached - this is for structural reasons, so the sculpture can stand up. Sometimes even they use a baby angel, grapes good or sometimes an animal. That inspired me and was why I started to create many items that were joined together. However, when people look at the artworks that are combined with many other objects, it stirs the imagination outside boundary of the artist's imagination, and that's why I like it.
I included many of Hermès' objects, work tools from my studio appear and even the national treasures held by the National Museum as well. They are all mingled together and they create very beautiful structure and I hope that when people view this structure that will ignite their imagination.
Was that part of the concept then? Curiosity?
Rather than calling it curiosity, the most important concept for me was the structure that originated from traditional sculpture. And when a person looks at that structure, that ignites and stirs their imagination is similar to when people look at fine art. The product that I'm displaying now in the windows is like Hermès' version of contemporary artwork, as well as my own art as well.
You had model Sung Jin Park work for you as well, why did you want to work with him? He looks like a warrior.
That's right! Mr Sung Jin Park is the best model who can represent Korea and it appears he is the best model wanted by Hermès as well. [laughs] He has a very contemporary feeling, and when he mingles with the animals that appear in my sculpture, that actually generates a classical impression, so it seems he is playing a very good classical role. But when I met him in person, he had such a beautiful lovely shape; also I felt he tended to have a very gentle side like a teenager. I just heard that he is also a boxer as well, he boxes.
This work is similar to your famous work, "Deodorant Type". Does the Hermès installation tie in to this work at all?
They are in the same series. What I wanted to achieve in that series is to reflect modern contemporary life in this city and reflect the lifestyle. Because photos are two-dimensional, when I use them to make sculpture, they are converted to three dimensional sculpture images and it becomes distorted. I believe that when they become distorted they become something different and something new from the object itself.
How would you describe your relationship between fashion and your practice?
Fashion is a kind of art genre that pursues contemporary beauty and, in a similar way, also deals with the contemporary era. Hermès represents a company that values spirit and craftsmanship and the value of artwork as well and also furthermore the contemporary values and beauty so in some perspective I believe Hermès has a similarity to my artwork process in which I create my artwork. So it seems that is why we ended up working together after all this time.
Contemporary art is usually relegated to museums and galleries, how does it feel to have your art in a store window for everyone to see?
It is very natural that people spend their own time to go to a museum and look at contemporary artwork. Also, it is part of daily normal life that people walking on the street will look into windows and look at goods and products and items and things. However, it seems that this time I will be displaying my artwork in a shop window where people on the street walk past and can see - I believe that is a very contemporary and modern thing and also it is a great innovation for Hermès, and for me as well. I believe it is a fantastic thing that when people walk on the street, on their way back home and then they will look in to my artwork and if it can ignite their imagination, that is fantastic.
Gwon Osang's installation, Art of The Image_New Sculpture, in collaboration with Hermès is on display at the Sydney store (135 Elizabeth St, Sydney) until November 25.