Myoungwook huh

04.20 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Artist

Cheoin-gu, Yongin, Gyeonggi-do

Myoungwook huh is an artist who firmly believes an artist’s studio must embody the work of the artist and the artist alone. His studio took a full 3 years to design and build and was brought to life with his own hands. It displays his old and precious collections along with the wide range of his works, from photography to craft and fine art. As we placed our footsteps into the doorway, we instantly discovered that all of his works established from his almost-life-long collections intersect into a single, coinciding realm.

Seung Na

You’ve got a lot that describes who you are—a photographer, a painter, a craftsman and so on.

My practice blends borders of all genres. To be exact, it’s more like realizing my emotions through diverse genres, rather than simply aiming to break the boundaries. Observing fragmentarily on a single otchil (Korean calling of lacquer) plate or a photograph won’t allow you to comprehend the overall meaning that spreads throughout my works. With that said, I address myself as simply as I can—just an artist and I exclude all the education backgrounds or my college major that may add biased views towards me.

 

That might sound a bit strange for people that are used to divided genres.

I make photographs, I make paintings and furnitures but all of these are just a mere process of journeying to a single work. If you look at them separately, they each seem to be lying in different criterias but they’re actually connected to one another, like the mobius strip, and all point to the same direction and become a single work that portrays an identical emotion of mine. All my works are born from my emotions and all of those emotions are scattered everywhere in this place, where you’d be able to witness the stages of my practice accomplished through the act of collecting, as well as the final outcomes.

 

At first glance, your studio reminded us of a gallery.

I always long for a show that would allow people to find a clear understanding of my works that come to life with a variety of mediums. In terms of presenting where I began, the methods of working and the thoughts and perceptions that cross my mind, this space of mine is just another stage of the whole journey. I really do think of my studio as a crucial element of what I do. And I’m not just talking about a fancy-looking studio that scratches the surface. I believe an artist’s studio should stand as some sort of a mark, or a symbol of the artist that tells you all about him/her and the work, without having to explain down to the last detail.

 

Which of your collections give most influence to your work?

The vintage model cars. The collection started off with the one my father gave me as a gift when I was little so it’s been adding up pretty intensely. As a kid I collected these just for the pure joy toys would give, but as I grew up it became a collection of my childhood memories. It brings up the emotions I had of my younger days and their faded colors or scratched-off paints parallel with the nature of otchil, which gradually changes color with time.

 

We were curious why you frequently use otchil in your work.

Otchil has temporality. Colors deepen as time goes by so in order to find the right hue, it requires good amount of time. So this otchil is a perfect technique for a person like myself who merge traces of time with the artwork. Can you notice the faint intersection of the otchil colors and the colors of the vintage model cars?

 

What’s the reason behind such interest in vintage?

New things are too flat and boring. I think I was born with it. I obviously had no idea what vintage was in elementary school but for some reason, whenever I had new pairs of sneakers, I hated the shining cleanness so I would scrub them on wet dirt to make them look worn out. And I would keep going with such effort like rubbing my plain jeans against rocks to create a cool wash effect.

 

How did you come about finding this site?

I accompanied a friend who was in search for a land and I took a casual walk around the area and found myself up here, and immediately I was picturing two individual buildings. So I rushed to the real estate but the landlord hadn’t any plans to sell it. With little hope, I left my number and luckily they called me up just after 6 months. I paid twice the market price and that was how assured I was with the land’s spirit that felt just perfect for me. The construction went through many twists and turns but in the end the land provided me great energy, supporting my practice and allowing me to develop my works a step further.

 

Is there a particular reason for separating the space into two individual structures?

The larger one is entirely for work and the smaller one is like a guest room for gatherings and meetings with other artists. Now I’ve got my collections and artworks all mixed up but when I’m engaged with my otchil pieces, the studio is rendered into a perfect otchil studio. In the middle of summer I would lay my otchil works over the wet floor and shut all doors to create a hot and humid interior, allowing the lacquer to dry in a completely natural drying environment.

 

We are told you yourself took charge throughout the whole process of building this place, from designing to constructing.

From designing to constructing it took me 3 years to complete it. Doors, electric switches, radiators and speakers, all appliances that consists this place are hand-made, including the table and dishware.

 

You could’ve at least agreed to use existing light switches but you went on to go through the trouble to do the opposite—why choose the harder way?

Well, I ended up making every single appliances myself because I had the specific designs and necessary functions in my head but apparently couldn’t find them in stores. I dismantled existing products to study how they worked and based on the understandings I created my very own.

 

Creating everything with your own hands is remarkable.

I seriously believe that an artist must engage him/herself entirely in producing one’s own artwork in order to make a satisfying result. For instance, majority of the artists abroad who make creations by combining different materials compose ideas and leave the production to artisans of corresponding fields. There are groups that praise the initial idea as the heart of one’s artwork but my opinion is that an artist should jump into the production also. And this is because most of the time when you’re bringing your idea to life, you discover an unexpected possibility of expanding the idea along the way, which in the end a better work is created.

 

It just occurred to us that your personal life might be as diverse as your work.

During the 30 years of holding down my photography career, I never stopped running side jobs in order to make a living. I dropped out of high school at the age of 18 and left Jinju(Gyeongnam Province) and came all the way to Seoul and found jobs at carwashes, milk deliveries and all sorts of hard labor. My very first job was at the carwashing place near the Bogojae Gallery and even till this day, I get this faint memory of the tough old days whenever I go past the area.

 

That is some unique life you had in Seoul.

The school grounds of the high school I went to was exceptionally beautiful. One day in May, I was seated in the far back of the classroom and I thoughtlessly looked out the window and happened to see this early summer haze, shimmering against the warm landscape and I immediately quit school and left for Seoul. It was a leave without my parent’s knowing. I think it was a sudden epiphany, with a strong realization that the place I should be at that moment was Seoul instead of being locked up in class.

 

Was that your first experience of Seoul, when you were 18?

Not exactly. I had once been to Seoul by accident, by getting on the wrong express bus during middle school. The forest of high-rise buildings on the other side of the window was a whole new world for me. And it was then when I began to dream—a dream of living in Seoul one day. Occasionally I hear rumors about me, that I was able to make artwork with easy circumstances due to a wealthy background, but since my run away from home at 18 I hadn’t received a single penny from my parents.

 

Seoul must have a special meaning to you more than anybody else.

Seoul is the largest city in Korea and my lifelong belief is that one should pursue their career in a big world. And today, Seoul has become too small and is now a stepping stone for me to move on to a larger world. My next goal is to attract the overseas market by using otchil as my core medium and creating works that shines within the mellowing time.

 

huh’s solo exhibition < Myoungwook huh> is scheduled to be on view at the Arario Gallery Seoul, from October 27th to December 4th 2016, presenting a full range of his artworks that are created with diverse mediums.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Anguk-dong

Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Anguk

“Regardless of the missing vestiges and atmosphere of the past, it’s always pleasant to walk amidst the Anguk-dong area.”

 

 

huh’s photography studio ‘Munch Studio’ lies in the streets of Anguk-dong. He opened his studio way before Anguk-dong became flourished and he still recalls the first muddy impression of the area as if it were yesterday. There were hardly any cars or people passing by so when it snowed only his own footsteps would follow his path, which is regretfully no longer an experience he could expect to have, but a calm walk in the streets of Anguk-dong still offers various angles of thoughts and inspirations, as it always had.