EK Interview: Ji Yong Ho

Ji Yong Ho (featured on EK in the past both here and here, and also on our Top 100 of 2011) is an amazing sculptor from Seoul, South Korea. Through a multitude of dirt, clay, and tire parts, Ji has amassed a collection of impressive and larger-than-life naturalistic beast-mutants. Why the mix of animals and rubber you may ask? Check the full Q&A spread that Mr. Yong Ho graciously contributed his time to to find out.

Wild Boar Head.

Hello hello! Thanks for contributing your time! First off, how about introducing yourself to our readers.

Hello, I have lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea ever since I was born. And as you know, my name is Ji, Yong-ho which means “very strong.” The name ‘Yong’ means ‘dragon’ and ‘Ho’ means ‘tiger’ (derived from Sino-Korean words). Such like the meaning, I have lived a rough life, haha.

What made you want to become a sculptor?

In the beginning, I drew pictures. But when I first touched soil, I knew I would like to make or produce sculptures. When I realized the power of sculpture, I shifted my major accordingly. A sculpture’s magnetism cannot be felt by mere observation. By using a variety of methods to feel the artwork, the sculpture becomes dynamic. For example, you can place your hands on, or even smell, a piece of work instead of just viewing it. By doing so, I can see the innocence within the artwork.


Did you go to art school or receive any formal training?

From an early age I loved to draw with crayons. I grew up in the countryside so I’ve had a lot of chances to make something from what I wanted or thought (I was raised in the same manner). I began my formal art education from the start of my sophomore year in high school, and afterwards attended university in order to receive regular training and earnestly work toward my artistic credentials.

Hammerhead Shark.

Were you always magnetized to the idea of using old tire parts? What was the motivational spark or moment of inspiration that had you choose the path of tire sculpting?

I wanted to express strong living things under, what I thought of as, the term ‘Mutant’. So I looked for some stuff which could express the concept of both soft and powerful. Also I thought that life belonged to Mother Nature, so I brought that into consideration as well. At the time, I had found tire scraps stuck behind my jeep, all roughly cut and stuck between the surfaces of the wheels. I felt that these grooves and slivers could be controlled, and soon enough, they became the body of my actual work. After a few years, I’ve been able to establish my style that you see today. I don’t think there is only one way to expression. The tire was just the best material to express my vision of ‘Mutant’, there isn’t any more meaning to the material other than that. If I change or vary the theme or concept, it is because I have changed the medium I’m working with.

Who or what have been major influences in your work? Any role models or the like? Other artists that you revere?

I like the artists who play the traditional style. I love Buonarroti Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin when it comes to formalism, and also Constantin Brancusi when it comes to substance. I can say that I also like Jeff Coons (a living artist), because of his ability to create such clean and finished works of art.


What is the process in which you go about creating one of these massive beasts (from inception, to conception, to creation)? Maybe using one of your hybrid projects as an example (I’m in constant awe with those in particular)?

In my work, the process is extremely important. Especially if I make use of traditional methods. For example, when I created ‘Wolf man’, I first made a drawing of the overall shape before creating the basic form through soil. I then sculpted the tire parts onto clay. In that respect, utilizing traditional procedures helps in processing the creative aspects of my work. But sometimes I put my emotions ahead of my intended plans. I keep holding onto a feeling of tension and nervousness throughout the duration of the sculpture. Sometimes these feelings affect my original image, even with thorough planning, and ultimately change the ending product.

Are you continuing to explore more of the animal kingdom? Or is there a new material you’d love to start working with?

A lot of people ask me, “Are you going to use tires in your artwork from now until forever?” And my answer is “Yes!”. But I am also planning some new work under another theme, of which I am currently collecting several new materials to undergo testing.

Wolf Man.

What do you feel, from the creator’s perspective, is the message you want to deliver to your audience with your sculptures?

My activities are based on science, society, philosophy, morals and so on and also I hope that my work is reflective of modern times. I think, the feedback is the responsibility of the audiences to understand. I hope that they will comprehend or feel my work emotionally, and not cerebrally.

Is there any specific creature that gave you a hard time? Maybe even an animal design that you eventually scrapped?

Mostly, my pieces are big, so I constantly pay attention to the process with respect to safety. Not just mentally but physically as well. When I created the piece ‘Buffalo’, it was too huge to move out from the workroom, so I had to remove the studio doors completely in order to properly transport it.


Alright, enough of the serious stuff. Any favorite movies, TV shows, video games, bands, websites?

I’m a lover of sports more than watching TV or movies. I especially enjoy doing weight training for my strength. Might be because I’d like to be strong like my sculptures ;).

Have any interesting dreams / nightmares you’d like to tell?

I don’t dream that much but I have experienced déjà vu. Though strangely enough, I’ve only had very enjoyable dreams.

Care to share any new developments or potential projects in-the-works?

I always do my best to create better works. For now, I will do my best to create pieces that tap even further into people’s emotions.


Ji Yong Ho