PROFILE | Minho Kwon
We are excited to announce that we will be showcasing work by Minho Kwon at An Undelivered Postcard From The Edge Of The World, Jotta’s exhibition at the Affordable in Art Fair.
Minho Kwon’s produces large format drawings, often using pencil, ink, or charcoal. They are intricate, graphical and incredibly detailed, often with complex and imaginative narratives running through them.
His Korean background has lead to much of his work carrying a political undertone, specifically with reference to South Korea’s conflicted identity. It was only upon coming to the UK that Kwon became aware of the interesting visual language that he had been exposed to back home: “The UK has developed it’s own modernism, whereas Korea did not have that opportunity. It was hugely affected by Japanese occupation, civil war and an American presence.” In Koreas Mansudea Shopping Centre, he charts the progress of an imaginary renovation scheme, exploring the transition of South Korea into a country oppressed by westernised commercialism.
This is one of many artworks by Kwon that emulates architectural drawings. As a child, and whilst his uncle was studying architecture at university, Kwon would go into his uncle’s room and pore over the architectural drawings that were scattered around. He was particularly drawn to the work he would find drawn on tracing paper, a medium that he continues to use in his current practice. Kwon believes architectural drawings offer something unique to the viewer: “I think they communicate something quite specific. It gives the viewer the opportunity to see the inner workings of the structure; it’s functionality. It can also be seen from many different perspectives and angles. Something can be revealed, it’s very suggestive.”
Minho Kwon’s education within the arts has no doubt had a profound impact on his work. The authoritative approach of his Korean graphic design school forced him to work within limitations and focus on craft before concept. His professors were overbearing and commanded respect: “It was really difficult to discuss your own ideas with them, I had work out how to fit my work into their vision, or to their tastes”. Perhaps partly in response to these limitations, Kwon dropped out, and came to the UK to continue his studies. Whilst appreciating the freedom that this offered, in terms of the opportunity to develop his own structure, ideas and practice, he still found himself drawn to using his technical abilities to make work: “I’ve been trained to draw. I want to use the skills I learnt in South Korea, even if I’m in a completely different environment now. It’s part of my visual language.”
One of the reoccurring themes in Minho Kwon’s work is the way in which we interpret the past, present and future. This is apparent in his series entitled The Neo Arts & Crafts Movement, in which he combines objects from different eras into the same drawing. He succeeds in drawing parallels between a Ferrari 360 engine, the module ship of Apollo 13, and Victorian architecture, in the sense that despite the fact they all hold a very different place in history, they all connected by the way in which they were created; they were crafted by humankind. “By combining these old and modern objects together I wanted to suggest a ‘new artifact’. I hope that my drawings, which depict this artifact, can incarnate the beauty which all these hands had tried to achieve through their work.”
He continues to explore themes of past and present in his current project, in which he investigates the conflict of past and present in London: “If you head down Dean Street in Soho, there is a very posh and expensive restaurant called Quo Vadis. Karl Marx used to live above the restaurant. It’s where he completed his most iconic book, ‘Capital’, as three of his daughters starved. I’d like to include these historical facts in the same drawing.” Kwon imagines that these drawings will bear some similarity to work he has made in the past, in the sense that they will be elaborate, large format drawings, punctuated by intricate detailing. These aspects of his work are instantly striking, and owe a lot to his approach to making art “It is incredibly important for me to create work with my hands. If someone is going to be thought of as an artist, they need to have the ability to create their own work.” Kwon does so with immense precision, showcasing his incredible technical ability. However, it is not limited to its technicality, and is always successful in communicating a clear and focused narrative.
Perhaps this ability could be partly attributed to his time spent as a carpenter in the Korean military: “Every line you draw, as a carpenter, has to have a meaning, it implies that you’re going to do something more, whether it involves a hammer, or a saw or whatever. This continues to influence my work.”