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Artist Hong Ki-won Speaks on ‘Translated’ Exhibition

‘Doing What I Like to Do, I’m Really Happy’  Artist Hong Ki-won Speaks on ‘Translated’ Exhibition   Hong Ki-won, 33, says he still wonders if he truly deserves to be called an “artist.” In the wake of the group exhibition, “Translated,” held simultaneously at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center Gallery and the Changdong Art Studio from November 18 to December 10, 2011, the up-and-coming artist shared various thoughts about his recent endeavors undertaken in collaboration with the Foundation.



Appeal of Kinetic Art

Studio 9, a workspace of about 40 square meters where Hong Ki-won also resides, looked a little different from the ateliers of other artists. Three pieces of his work resembling amusement park rides took the place of a painter’s easel and canvas. Built with pipes, pulleys, and ropes, they looked like some kind of machinery equipment at first glance.

kinetic Artist Hong Ki-won As I looked puzzled, Hong said they were works of “kinetic art.” As an art form, he explained to quell my curiosity, kinetic art involves works that feature moving parts and utilize motion for desired effects. With much of the characteristics of a work of sculpture in most cases, the art has evolved from such art movements as futurism and Dadaism. “Bicycle Wheel” (1913), by Marcel Duchamp, is said to be the first kinetic sculpture, Hong added.
He further explained, “Even a piece of art won’t have any meaning of existence if no one appreciates it. Kinetic art is very attractive in that it can interact with the viewer in tangible ways. The viewer can become a part of an art work’s expression of its physical and spatial significance through movement.” For instance, “Untitled,” one of Hong’s kinetic artworks exhibited at the KF Cultural Center Gallery, included a sensor that initiates movement when it detects the approach of a viewer. With the work programmed to perform its function in their presence, viewers become a vital element of the intended message.

Then, what in particular motivated Hong to focus on kinetic art? Noting that he hopes to have viewers derive enjoyment from his works, Hong said he took up the genre for the same reason that people seek to look at things from a fresh viewpoint by, for example, decorating a rice bowl with wild colors or changing some familiar object’s common properties.

Naturally Attracted to Kinetic Art

“As a matter of fact, I didn’t intend to major in art. Originally, I wanted to do something that could help people and I planned to study acupuncture at a medical school in Shanghai, China,” Hong recalled. “Immediately after gaining admission to a Chinese college in 2002, I returned to Korea for a family affair, but suffered a serious injury while riding a horse, and was laid up for several months. After my recovery, I went to Britain for a language training course in order to upgrade my education. While taking a language course there, I drew some sketches and took them to a nearby art school and begged them to allow me to learn art.”

After many twists and turns, Hong managed to graduate from Chelsea College of Art and Design in London in 2009. During his art studies, he had an opportunity to experience “a boundless world of art” at the school, which offered an integrated education of painting, sculpture, and design. Perhaps, it was natural for Hong, whose body still contains six steel support pins due to his injury, to be attracted to kinetic art pursuing physical movement of structural elements.

“Untitled 2011” by Hong Ki-won, mixed material, 180x45x180cm


Inspiration through Interaction

Hong was awarded the Celeste Art Prize for young artists, which included a six-month post-graduation work program at a school studio, but he returned to Korea in 2010 when the U.K. economy slumped. “At first, I was really at a loss. I had no school connections here and was not known, either,” Hong said. “But I found some kind of direction when I joined the Goyang National Art Studio. Working together with foreign artists from Germany, France, and other countries, I could learn about various art forms and different perspectives of other artists. Especially, I’m really happy because I can both work and live at the studio.”

Since moving into the art studio along with 17 other artists in January 2011, Hong has been prolific enough to produce so many works that he could hold a solo exhibition in Germany. As his one-year residency program is coming to an end, he will be leaving the studio soon. The 2011 International Residency Exchange Program, titled “Translated,” was his final project at the studio. Hoping to see more international art residency and exchange programs available to aspiring young artists, Hong believes that Korea will be able to develop into an artistic powerhouse, like Britain and Italy, through the positive feedback and results of such programs.

He said: “It is hard to define the meaning of art in my life with a few words, but I’m making art because it gives me pleasure. Before I suffered my injury, my life had been focused on pursuing my personal desires. But I’m now trying to live a life that involves interacting and sharing with other people. I don’t envy those, who have stable jobs. I shouldn’t mind having economic difficulty if I really want to do the work that I like. I don’t compare myself with others. I believe that happiness comes when I do the work I like to do and can do well.”

About this evolving artist and his talent, the exhibition organizer Yang Ji-yun remarked: “Works by Hong Ki-won are fresh. He doesn’t beat around the bush but directly applies to his works the special features or existences of the world that he beholds. Hong’s installation works contain a variety of scenes, which are not necessarily complete but are fragments or stage settings predicting his next moves. They make us look forward to his next works.”

Kim Sung-hee Columnist

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