EK Interview: Kwon Kyung-Yup

Kwon Kyung-yup is a Korean painter who creates stark, delicate portraits of exquisite loneliness. Read on for a glimpse into her fantastical mind …

So who are you, and what do you do?

I am happy when I introduce myself saying, “I am a painter.”
I paint, and my Korean name is Kwon Kyung-yup. I born in Seoul, majored Painting at Sejong University. I believe that artists should speak about the most desperate and desirable issues for humanity.

Is art something that has always had a firm grasp on your soul, or was there a point in your life at which it truly came into being? Can you tell us about it?

I have enjoyed drawing and painting since I was little. I used to draw and paint whenever I had spare time. When I flashback to back in my elementary school years, I remember I drew and painted and my classmates came around me to watch my drawings. After school, I went to an art institute to draw and do crafts. I feel like painting is something I must do when I paint. While I paint, I am very comfortable and feel natural.

Art Blog - Kwon Kyung Yup - Empty Kingdom

Do you believe that geographic or cultural origin or location can have an effect on one’s arts education? Have you found perhaps that being educated in art in South Korea has influenced your work in a different way to artist educated in other places around the world? Is there a cultural quality that tends to imbue the work of artists from a similar background?

The culture of society decides big part of paintings as it influences on individuals regarding their ego. As I received the art education in South Korea, I practiced realistic descriptions. This has become the base of my paintings. Moreover, Korean, Japanese, and American animations I have watched since I was young also influence on my life and artworks.

How would you describe your particular style of painting; what would you say sets you apart from other contemporary oil painters – would such a distinction come down more to style, theme, or are just distinct as a matter of existence?

I like various genres from western paintings to illustration, Japanimation, and contemporary art. Although I hope my paintings are placed in between pictorial element and animated element, I have tried to make sure my paintings are not categorized to any genres. My current painting style has begun in 2006. I usually adopt themes of my paintings from my life; many of my paintings are about recalling memories.

Art Blog - Kwon Kyung Yup - Empty Kingdom

Your paintings have a very particular, sensual aesthetic to them that we at EK find absolutely mesmerizing. Where do you find the inspiration for your pieces? Are there any underlying themes that reverberate through your work? Is there anything you find yourself returning to when beginning a new piece?

Eroticism is a behavior to approach the nature of human beings through human body. Human body is an attractive subject matter. When I start new work, I get the biggest chunk of energy from the paintings of great artists in the past. Klimt’s voluptuous beauty and the tragedy shown Caravaggio’s paintings always stimulate me and make me passionate. The primal themes of my art are ego, women, and human body as well as deficiency of them. I try to have my own time alone when I start new work. I recall some events occurred in the past and intend to make me feel lonely.

Can you describe the process that you go through when creating a new piece? Does inspiration tend to hit you vibrant, full-fledged and kicking or is a slow, smooth development – and how do you keep it from slipping away? We know you have a multifaceted but very methodological approach to your work – could you explain a little about why you work the way you do?

I work with very slow breathing as though I meditate. As oil paintings dry slower than other paintings, I complete my work for one to two months, observing the progress of the work. I enjoy paintings made with great effort for a long period. I would love to be a master artisan before I am an artist.

Art Blog - Kwon Kyung Yup - Empty Kingdom

Have you experimented with other styles or artistic mediums in the past, and is a there a reason why you have chosen to work with oil paint specifically? What are you able to communicate through your individual style and technique that you could not express as effectively in any other way?

Oil paintings are appropriate to depict abundant colors of the skin. They are also excellent materials to adjust degrees of gloss and transparency. I emphasize a pale skin tone and bloodshot eyes. Through an unrealistic figure of a girl with pale skin standing at the boundary between life and death, I depict the will to overcome trauma and cure along with and the shadow of death that wants to give up a life due to pains. That being said, I try to approach the overall human life by metaphorically depicting a causal relationship between Eros and Thanatos.

One of the things that really captured our eye was the sublime emotional depth to your paintings, despite an unusually bare chromatic palette. Can you tell us a little about your relationship with color in your work? Is there a reason why the environment surrounding your subject rarely features in your pieces?

I paint human body focusing on a delicate change of colors. I want to contain heartrending feelings in colors. I would like to see serenity in loneliness through the colors. I paint somewhat dark colors first then I adjust skin tones by adding different levels of brighter colors as though I bleach the body. Color means purification for me. White is transcendental color and the color of purity and cure. It also means self-quenching: death. I empty backgrounds rather than drawing something on because I want to leave there as the space of thinking. What I like to do is to place one person in the screen without making stories so my audience can take a contemplative view on the work.

Art Blog - Kwon Kyung Yup - Empty Kingdom

Quite often one of the most difficult point for a creator is knowing when to step back- how do you know when a piece is finished? How would you describe the sensation that follows the completion of a piece?

Completion is decided by degrees of completion of details and color formation. As I sketch with a pencil, I already decide the degree of completion for that work.

And your relationship with a piece of artwork afterwards – has there been a piece that you have felt a particular connection to? And if so, why does it hold hold significant meaning to you?

It is the work “Tearful.” I cannot exactly explain why but I had a special feeling when I painted the work. I cannot logically explain for that. I was 100% immersed in the work depicting my feeling at that moment very well.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the new series your featuring this weekend at the Artery Show at Cabinodd Gallery?

I tried to depict the memory that infinitely dies away when trying to catch, although it was too vivid and felt catchable. I also expressed the feeling when recalling a specific moment in the past.

Art Blog - Kwon Kyung Yup - Empty Kingdom