“My life is in the pictures, and my life soon becomes a work.”
Discovering Art and Nature: The Origins of Seongwon Yoon’s Passion
Seongwon Yoon, a South Korean artist hailing from Busan, specializes in painting and is a university professor while overseeing an art institution. Yoon’s academic background includes earning a degree in painting, which helped further fuel his passion for art.
Growing up near a scenic hill and mountain adorned with diverse flora, Yoon often found himself exploring the captivating landscape. As a child, he would search for insects, relax on the flower-covered slopes, and gaze at the vast, blue sky. Although the immense sky sometimes evoked a sense of loneliness, Yoon discovered solace in embracing the solitude during his frequent forays.
In his artistic pursuits, Yoon primarily uses oil and acrylic media on cloth and paper surfaces. Occasionally, he also engages in performance art to directly convey his ideas to audiences and cultivate shared understanding. His creative process begins with constructing a narrative derived from alternative perspectives of everyday spaces. Through the power of imagination, Yoon immerses himself in these spaces and conveys the wide range of emotions and sentiments experienced through paintings, illustrations, videos, and performances.
One of Yoon’s recent works, “Story in the Show Window,” was inspired by an encounter with a mannequin display during a leisurely walk. The faceless, inexpressive figures seemed to convey their unique worldview in hushed, subdued tones. Much like individuals in modern society, the mannequins stood resplendent in their vibrant attire, enticing passersby to admire them. Interestingly, the transparent glass of the show window captured Yoon’s attention. He juxtaposed the ostentatious glamour and beauty of the display with underlying emotions of anxiety, desolation, and melancholy resulting from detachment. His artistic representation of the scene seeks to capture a “dreadful beauty” infused with sadness and sorrow.
The Balance of City Life and Nature: Seongwon Yoon’s Ideal Workspace
Seongwon Yoon’s artistic practice is deeply inspired by the nuanced traces of human presence within urban landscapes. Drawing from elements such as clothing store mannequins, abandoned chairs in closed shops, once lively alleyways now devoid of activity, and vacant interiors of relocated businesses, Yoon uncovers a wellspring of creativity. At the core of the South Korean artist’s work lies the exploration of inner emotions felt by contemporary individuals, including himself, who inhabit the same temporal and environmental context. Yoon’s art is directly informed by the collective imprints left within the city, establishing a powerful connection between his life experiences and the foundational concepts of his creations. In this way, his life and art are intricately intertwined, ultimately materializing in his work.
For Yoon, the ideal workspace harmoniously coexists with the natural world, situated in close proximity to mountains, seas, and rivers, allowing for complete immersion in nature’s majesty. This setting proves especially conducive to his creative process. However, he also emphasizes the importance of living in or near a city, where interactions with individuals from diverse backgrounds and professions can enrich his perspective. As his work delves into the complexities of modern life, consciousness, and shared experiences, Yoon envisions a future home on the outskirts of the city that balances the tranquility of nature with accessible communal spaces for his family and himself to engage in artistic pursuits. Additionally, he aspires to establish an exhibition space, showcasing not only his own artwork but also that of fellow artists on a regular basis.
Tracing the Artistic Journey of Seongwon Yoon
In his 20s and 30s, Korean artist Seongwon Yoon embarked on a journey of artistic exploration, experimenting with various mediums such as painting, installation art, video, and performance. This phase enabled Yoon to discover his unique artistic identity and conceptual framework, eventually transitioning to a more focused approach in painting. His work revolves around three key concepts: 1. “Hurt” (2014-2019), 2. “Mass” (2018-2021), and 3. “Show Window” (2020-present). At present, his art synthesizes the themes of “Story in the Show Window” and “Dive.”
The “Hurt” series (2014-2019) aimed to embody intangible wounds that elude human perception. Subsequently, the “Mass” series (2018-2021) sought to envision, quantify, and convey the emotional weight inherent in various feelings, such as wounds, sadness, solitude, happiness, hope, and love. During these exhibitions, Yoon engaged with the public through performances involving large balloons and air-filled plastic bags. Since 2020, his creative focus has shifted to the intersection of “Story in the Show Window” and “Dive” (refer to the content of the work in Interview No. 2).
Two of Yoon’s most gratifying creations include “Hurt-1,” produced between 2014 and 2019 as part of his seventh solo exhibition. Before completing this piece, the artist faced challenges related to identity and financial stability for an extended period. Despite limited time and workspace, he persistently questioned himself, asking, “What should I create?” and “Why must I create it?” Driven by fervor and determination, Yoon sought to uncover his own unseen image within the world. The initial manifestation of his introspection and the contemporary human condition was the wounded human figure, which led him to explore and depict the invisible wounds that we carry. This exploration culminated in the creation of “Hurt-1.”
Seongwon Yoon’s Poignant Reflection of the Pandemic Era
Titled “Story in the Show Window-1,” Seongwon Yoon’s second piece emerged from an encounter during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The South Korean artist was struck by the poignant reflection of his own existence in a city immobilized by the virus when he saw a mannequin in a vibrant dress behind a transparent show window. Captivated, Yoon swiftly returned to his studio to immortalize the scene in a painting, resulting in the evocative “Story in the Show Window-1.”
Throughout his illustrious career, Yoon has participated in numerous projects, but the Kassel Documenta in Germany remains the most profound and inspiring for him. This extraordinary event transformed the city into a living exhibition, inviting visitors to uncover dispersed artworks as if embarking on a cultural odyssey or a leisurely urban exploration. If given the chance, Yoon would collaborate with fellow artists to choose a village, engage with its residents, and curate installations or displays that resonate with the local community. For the artist, such an endeavor would be immensely gratifying and fulfilling.