INTERVIEW WITH HYUN WOO LEE


Creatures and objects: Korean artist talks about his experince with obsessive-compulsive disorder and his way of finding himself. 




A00

Where did you grow up?


H.W.L

I grew up in Seoul, South Korea.




A00

Can you describe South Korea using only 3 words?


H.W.L

X




A00

What was childhood like?


H.W.L

I went through a tough childhood. Due to my severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, My obsession with numbers has always bothered me. Fortunately, my OCD is much better now. Also, I was really into insects and animals. When I was young, my dream was to be a rhino... and a helicopter.



A00

Did you start art at a young age?


H.W.L

When I was younger, I used to enjoy painting, I often drew dolphins because they were my favorite creature in the entire world.




A00

Did OCD somehow help you create those wonderful works? Or was it just a really bad experience?


H.W.L

OCD gave me waves of incredible concentrations. It gave me the ability to interpret objects and creatures in a special way. However, keeping up with social standards and norms was difficult due to my OCD. Things like social commitment, ethical standards, etc...




A00

Why did you become an artist?


H.W.L

Art was always fun. But I don't feel like I'm doing art myself. It's more of an act, or an effort, of trying to get to know myself better. People who see this practice defines me as an artist. This notion is important to me. Knowing that what I'm doing is not intentionally art, prevents me from feeling awkward and it helps me to stay truthful to my act. Then I can find myself.




A00

Any favorite artist(s)?


H.W.L

David Altmejd is one of the most unique and wonderful artist I've ever encountered. He inspires me to think the way I think. I think he was the pioneer and the sole creator of his own genre, and I admire that. Lots and lots of respect for him.




A00

What is it like being an artist in Korea? Are there any limitations? Or advantages?


H.W.L

I think art in Korea lacks a sense of freedom...perhaps more accessible in western countries. Many artists in Korea are facing financial difficulties, and I'm one of the many.




A00

If you had to relocate to a different city, where would you go? As an artist.


H.W.L

I want to go to a place where there's a lot of nature. The ocean, the mountains, the forests. I need a beautiful view and an environment where I can genuinely enjoy life as it is. I want to be in a place where I can have a diverse experience of life to help me discover more about myself. And happiness would be a necessity.




A00

What sort of theme are you exploring?


H.W.L

I am primarily inspired by the appearance of creatures and objects, and the harmony between them.




A00

Your work has a beautiful mix between life and material. Animals and metal…wood…glass…etc. What’s the story?


H.W.L

I view those things as matter. Just pure matter. I am slightly detached from how society may perceive them as. It doesn't really matter to me. In fact, it bothers me that the creation of this type of work (using animals) comes with an ethical and moral dilemma. It's strange that yet most of are willingly taking animals life through consumption. The double standard there often gets in the way of doing my personal work. But this challenge I face sometimes inspires me to go beyond social standards.




A00

Why are animals/creatures so fascinating for you?


H.W.L

Their texture and form are not artificial. 100% natural, yet composed of natural laws and rules. When it's combined or replaced with manmade forms and objects, strange energies and tensions are formed.




A00

Your work tends to have symmetry as a characteristic. Would you say that this is due to your OCD?


H.W.L

Perhaps. I used to have a strong obsession with not setting a correct viewpoint for my works. This means no front, no back, no right way, or the wrong way. It took some time but I overcame this obsession, and now I have confidence in creating something more beautiful.




A00

What do you like about your own work?


H.W.L

I feel like it shows that I have become more and more distinctive.




A00

Where/How did you learn woodcraft and metalwork?


H.W.L

I learned all the technical aspects from my experience at art school. Was easier back then, where I had access to all the heavy machinery. Since graduation, I've been working directly with factory craftsmen.




A00

Do you have any daily rituals or routines you do before work?



H.W.L

Before I start working, I always waste some time doing random things. It actually helps me work more effectively when I work. And before leaving the studio, I always think about the next process I need to take for the work.




A00

What's your studio like?


H.W.L

There are currently six artists in my studio. It is very comfortable to work in because the studio is very spacious and has a high ceiling.




A00

Do you listen to music while you work?


H.W.L

I don't listen to music when I work, I think it's a bit of a distraction. I prefer to work in silence, but my friends in the studio tend to play music...




A00

You’re one of the many artists living through the Covid pandemic. Would you say that many have changed? For the better or worse?


H.W.L

What has changed in my life due to the Coronavirus is that my life feels more isolated than ever. People seem to change due to the lack of communication.




A00

What sort of role do artists play in society? And why is it important?


H.W.L

If there's a particular role, it would be to inspire others. At least that would be the role I want to play. To dish out unimagined thoughts, to be that nudge to get them going...or wonder.




A00

If you could travel back in time, what era would you visit?


H.W.L

I want to go back to the Mesozoic era and encounter other creatures. The shapes of those gigantic plants and animals inspire me.




A00

What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?


H.W.L

There is no better attitude than believing in yourself.




A00

Have you ever fell in love?


H.W.L

Love is like a beautiful mirage.




A00

Tell us a secret!


H.W.L

I think I'm crazier than I look.


 
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