It could be said that the goal of modern art is to surprise viewers and force them to stretch their understanding of “art.” By using completely new methods and/or materials, artists cause us to reevaluate our expectations. That’s exactly what Korean artist Osang Gwon does with his sculptures. They are completely unlike what you’d expect from a sculpture, yet they are as expressive and beautiful as more traditional sculptures.
Gwon’s sculptures aren’t chiseled from marble or cast in metal; they are made up of hundreds of photographs overlaid on a light core. Gwon takes a two-dimensional art form – the photograph – and fuses it with a three-dimensional art form – sculpture – to create an entirely new type of art. His sculptures redefine the very genre he’s working in; in fact, he’s had to defend their status as sculptures on many occasions.
Gwon’s unique style was born out of a simple concern: traditional sculpting materials were too heavy. He decided that he would never create a sculpture that couldn’t be moved by him and one friend. The desire for a more mobile sculpture, coupled with his dual love of sculpture and photography, brought about his unusual artwork. He has named the innovative sculptural style “Deodorant Style.”
The method Gwon uses to create these life-size replicas is complicated and can take two months per sculpture. He starts off taking thousands of photographs of his subject from every imaginable angle. He then sculpts a life-size core out of lightweight foam and begins the painstaking process of attaching the photographs, then coating the entire sculpture. The result is somewhat reminiscent of a cubist painting, but with much more depth and character. He doesn’t aim for ultra-reality; he instead wants to portray the way that everything we see is distorted somehow.
But photo-covered foam isn’t the only medium Osang Gwon is known for. One of his installations, The Flat, was created using images cut out from magazines, then stood up with wire to make sculptures. He arranged the individual sculptures into larger sculptures of grouped objects, then took photographs of the resulting display. This exhibit caused more controversy for the artist, because while the artist defined it as sculpture, many viewers refused to accept it as anything other than photography.
(images via: Arario Gallery)
Gwon’s inspiration often comes from real life. He likes to sculpt people that he knows, like friends and family members, but has often been approached by others. In 2008 he created sculptures of the band Keane to correspond with the release of their album Perfect Symmetry. The artist has said that he doesn’t like to put too much of his own emotions or opinions into his work; rather, he strives to portray the world objectively as it is at that very moment.