I understood that I am a person who strongly resists a pre-understanding of the world… paintings can always be the clue for this whole process.Younsik Woo
The following interview forms part of a series where I invite contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning, and philosophy, and how those are embedded throughout their creative process. This week I talk to Younsik Woo, a Seoul-based South Korean illustrator.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Both my identity and my work lay in a sort of cyclical relationship. At first, I drew what I saw and what I liked. However, as the works accumulated and differed, I could find my unique way of perceiving the world. I studied how I perceive the world, and it permeated my life. Also, the things that I experienced in my life were reflected in my paintings. It isn’t easy to take any part away from this whole process.
From this process, I understood that I am a person who strongly resists a pre-understanding of the world, which is the structured thoughts by tradition. In relation to this, I try to do some practicable actions in my everyday life. And paintings can always be the clue for this whole process.
What motivates you as an artist?
The previous experiences, especially affairs within close relationships, greatly influence me. The everyday occurrences in our society also inspire me. Since the feeling about causality can be the ground of my works, I particularly try to pay close attention to the real events which can be discovered in the history books and news. I think the world is not about each individual or thing but the sum of causalities. By reading books, I encounter authors who empathize with me as well as bolster my thought. The philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze have deeply influenced me. Also, I’ve been considerably inspired by Buddhist philosophy.
How important is it to make a statement with your works?
It can be important or not important. I think not every piece of work needs to be made known. The foremost part that I always keep in mind is making my work’s image more attractive and fascinating. I think it is enough if there is sincerity in my works for me, not for other people. When I repeatedly do what I focus on, the works, the attitude toward life, and the studies will be combined. Only then, the works can be declared.
Looking back at these works, what you do think about them now?
As an artist, I had a turning point in my drawing style. At that moment, I drew paintings as I pleased, not considering the outcome of the work. From that moment, I started to draw characters who were impassive and also to use limited colors and geometric shapes. Before then, I had drawn commercial paintings, so I was afraid that such an attempt would negatively impact my career. However, it rather became an opportunity to unfold my cognitive potential. I am thankful that I was able to overcome that concern. I think being honest is a good thing.
Who are some emerging artists you think we should be paying more attention to?
I have an old friend, Jaeyeol Han, of 20 years. Since we were teenagers, we have watched each other’s works, learned how to draw, and provided feedback against each other. I thought that we were in different fields and had different tendencies. However, recently, I reckoned that we maybe wanted to tell similar things via our paintings. Recently, he had a solo exhibition in Korea.
If you were given enough money to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
I would like to open a museum about belief. I think it would be nice if it could be the place for anthropological research about how people’s beliefs systems were differentiated by collecting items related to various religions, occults, and rituals.
See more of Younsik Woo’s works and keep up to date with upcoming exhibitions: Instagram