Won Young Chang
“All of my work is a futile trial to hold the faded afterimages.”
What is your artwork about? Tell us about your subject matter.
I record the moment gone by my practice. All of my work is a futile trial to hold the faded afterimages.
My painting is the process to rebuild the specific scene which left an impression to my memory. The images of the scene are common but, they are one of a kind in my mind; ruins, natural disasters, dark forest, a cat looking at me, etc. In the process of painting I imagine, crushing, blurring and exploding the scene. What I want to find out in the process of painting is the moment instant, raw, passing by and volatile unless I hold it just now. I re-construct the moment on the fragile paper or canvas with various materials, such as oil, acrylic, gouache and watercolour.
Tell us about your background, where did you grow up and where did you study art?
I was born and raised in Seoul, Republic of Korea. I graduated from Seoul National University (Seoul, Republic of Korea) and got my Master of Art degree in Painting at the Royal College of Art (London, UK). I currently live in New York, USA. I have been traveling around the world since my childhood, exposed various cultures. These experiences make what I am creating at the moment.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you or effected your work?
I get often inspired by the scenery around myself. I was interested in leafy parks in London, stars in Italy, abandoned houses in Portugal.
Specifically, when I was in Portugal to make art at Obvia Residency, I stayed at the suburban town called Setubal. The town was under the redevelop trend. There were a lot of abandoned and under-construction places. I think I found empty houses more than the places in use. These abandoned houses are not only desolate but also beautiful. Layered paints on walls, broken tiles, exposed bricks, a massy balcony and loads of beautiful chaos from the houses inspired me. Thus, I recorded the scenes of Setubal, November, 2018, by creating 112 (+some more) watercolour and acrylic paintings.
Can you tell us about your approach to a new project? How do you find a starting point?
My practice starts with the desire to rebuild the scenes which negatively, positively, or somehow, unconsciously had a subtle influence on my mind. First of all, I put colours on the surface without any plan or sketch. I instinctively decide tones and colors before every other aspect of painting. For me, memories are stored merging with my emotion into the form of colored scenes. Thus, it is crucial to present the right colour.
In the process of painting, I feel it is almost the moment of absorption. Mind and the physical movement of mine collide and / or combine together into the surface.
Tell us about your studio and your routine?
Although I have been living in various places, the way of my living is almost the same anywhere. I exercise, spend around six hours in my studio and sleep in the late night. This is what I have established as a manner of my ordinary days.
When I get to my studio, the first thing I do is changing my shoes into working slippers. I get a cup of water for watercolour and then I am all set.
At the moment, my studio is 15 minutes walk from my home. And this short travel to commute between the studio and where I live is definitely refreshing and helpful. I sometimes find interesting objects and scenes: a broken umbrella, faded roses, flying bugs, etc. These inspire me very much. Looking at these is an important part of my work.
Do you have any news, projects or shows coming up?
I couldn't make oil paintings after the graduation from my MA course, since I always had to move around. I participated in artist residencies in Italy and Portugal but only painted in acrylic and watercolour. It has been impossible to make oil paintings because they are too slow to dry and hard to carry all the stuff.
Settled down in New York, I started to make oil paintings again. Because I had almost one year gap in using them, I was panicked at first about drying speed and characters of paints, but now I am having fun. I used to paint with a lot of oil to make smudges and drippings, however I am experimenting thicker paints, less oil and neater surface.
This experiment will be showing at the group show called Rising Stars of Korea in New York at Flushing Town Hall, New York, USA. Please come by, if you are around!