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In the Studio with Yoso Koh

South Korean artist Yoso Koh draws inspiration from the human form, exploring themes of gender and identity. We met with Yoso to tell us more about the character's he depicts and what inspired Yoso to pursue his practice.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
 
I have never really thought of myself as an artist. I think the expression “Painter” fits better. If you ask
me when I started thinking I was a painter, I think it was when my paintings were first sold. It was
probably around 19 years old that I came to recognize myself as a painter.
 
 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?

I was born in Korea. When I was young, my aunt lived in a neighboring country, Japan, so I visited
there often. I went there every vacation until middle school. Korea and Japan have a lot of
confrontation and competition. This is a deep-rooted history that has been passed down for generations for a long time… Actually, I grew up feeling both cultures and emotions, so I didn’t think about those
problems that much. Rather than taking either side, I was an observer, seeing, feeling,
comparing and observing various cultures, emotions, people, and things from both sides in the
middle. This part especially seems to have had a great influence on the neutral attitude the work I pursue.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?

I grew up watching my dad draw at home. And there were a lot of very thick Classic art collections at home. So naturally, it seems like I have been following and stacking those pictures from my childhood. It was just a fun game, so I didn’t think there was anything special about it.
As I was drawing, I heard praise from my parents and others. I was excited and it made me want to draw better.
The same is true since becoming an adult. Drawing itself is fun (of course there are painful parts), and as I learn new skills and develop them, it still feels like a game.
 

Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?

The important moment when I felt I was on the right track… was it around 21 years old? Around that time, I got a message on Facebook. It was a message from a high school girl who cried at my drawing and said that it was a great comfort to her. Then I thought that I may not be on the perfect path, but at least I’m on the right path.
 

What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose?

I try not to put a specific message in my paintings. I’m just trying to draw a picture that is wide open from
the observer’s point of view. Of course, private stories can be involved there, and themes and
narratives will naturally permeate. Maybe the purpose of my work is love, and I advise you to live by
pursuing the spirit rather than material. In fact, I don’t know the correct answer because even I don’t have
any answer from the beginning of my work.

Where do they come from?

The characters I draw are usually people who have a close relationship with me, or people or objects
that have nothing to do with me and that I might have seen in books or social media. They become collaged in my mind and come out of my fingertips. They are entangled in the form of a person, but they also
want to appear as objects or other things that have broken relationships.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I think that the aesthetics I pursue can be a little completed when emotion and reason subvert each other and create contradictions.

Who/what are your greatest influences?

My Lover and of course Francis Bacon.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

The unexpected inspiration comes mainly from music. If even a verse of music hooks on me, I keep
listening to that music. When I start working with the inspiration I got from it, I keep listening to that
song over and over again until I finish the work.

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?


I think the planned work and the impulsive work are half and half… I want people who watch the work
to feel the whole process of feeling rather than taking something. So, of course, I have the audience
in mind, but I try not to be too conscious.

How has your art evolved? Do you experiment?

Since I was a child, my common theme has always been people. It seems that various branches are
spreading around the large pillar called People. The painting style has changed several times, but the
fundamental one has not. For example, before or now, I do not draw shadows. And in the beginning, I
drew neatly with acrylic paints, but gradually light or contrast entered the figures, and as I used oil
painting materials, I took into account the properties of the paints and used them actively. It doesn’t
show off every time I work, but I always experiment little by little.

Do you see any parameters to your work?

There are many parameters in my work. We want those parameters to intervene by chance.

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?

I’m not sure because I haven’t made a “good” enough work that I’m satisfied with yet… I think I can fill
the first button of the ideal condition if the problem of money and work space is solved for now. After
the realistic part is resolved, you can grow the ideal part to your heart’s content and act without
restrictions.

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