South Korea

Seulgi Kwon

2014 AJF Artist Award Winner

By United States

The winner of the 2014 Artists Award is Seulgi Kwon. AJF asked the four young Artist Award finalists, as well as Seulgi, to give us their thoughts on the future of the field. Their work represents a group of outstanding pieces of contemporary jewelry. This interview with Seulgi is the fifth and last one in the series.

Seulgi Kwon For this, the 14th annual AJF Artist Award, the jurors were Carin Reinders, director of CODA, Apeldoorn, Netherlands; Karen Rotenberg, founder and director of Alianza Contemporary Craft and collector of contemporary jewelry; and Sooyeon Kim, jeweler and recipient of the 2013 AJF Artist Award. The jurors met in October and selected the following five finalists for the 2014 AJF Artist Award: Attai Chen, Benedikt Fischer, Lauren Kalman, Heejoo Kim, and Seulgi Kwon. The choices were based on originality, depth of concept, and quality of craftsmanship. These artists are also all under the age of 35.

There will be a small show of the five finalists’ work at Platina’s booth in the International Trade Fair hall in Munich in the Frame area surrounding Schmuck.

AJF: Do you have plans for how to spend the award grant yet?

Seulgi Kwon: I’m planning to have a solo exhibition in America and Europe. Therefore, the award grant will be used to prepare for the show.

Both you and another finalist, Heejoo Kim, attended Kookmin University. Two out of five finalists in an international competition is a very strong showing. What can you say about the school, the teachers in the jewelry program, and what you learned there?

Seulgi Kwon: What was really impressive about my college is that we were basically provided with the physical environment as well as the emotional support in which we were able to be absorbed in our works. For instance, we could attend various special lectures presented by renowned artists, which inspired us and enhanced our creativity. Furthermore, open and close communication with our professors has been an important stepping-stone for us to develop our careers in the right direction. Sometimes special lectures provoked a number of reactions from students. Most special lectures are enough for me to feel fresh air. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Where do you think the art jewelry field is going?

Seulgi Kwon: A wide variety of materials and forms are used in the area of metalwork which is not limited to metal. These artists display their own oeuvres on occasion. The area of metalwork breaks out of its own traditional paradigm as art jewelry, encounters the radically changing fashion industry, and seeks methods to meet the public with its values as modern artwork. In Korea fashion is deeply related to personal identity and as such people proactively enjoy it. Metalwork artists are equipped with the internal strength to promote their own works and the situation is ripe for the modern jewelry field to develop under these market circumstances.

What do you think about that direction?

Seulgi Kwon: The cultural influence Korea exercises exceeds its geographical bounds. The individual artist has reached a level where we can have great expectations about artistic values and marketability. We believe that the current atmosphere will provide good opportunities for those who aspire to study metalwork and become artists. We are now talking about the trends of the times but artists are always faced with a time for a critical decision, i.e. giving consideration to the universality of their own personalities and the possibility of communicating with public tastes. I will endeavor to touch the heartstrings of all people through the visual language of my artworks and my inner world.

What excites you about it?

Seulgi Kwon: My artwork uses the motif of an organ of the human body or a marine creature. I like the fact that both of them have the common characteristic of a fluid image and a living thing. However, as I work, I do not use a particular target as a model or conjure up an image. I usually focus on the senses of daily life. For example, on the day I received flowers as a gift, I wrote in my diary about the meanings given to the flowers and then also our feelings about them, rather than just the flowers themselves. Even if it is a short memo or note, it is part of my efforts to be conscious of my senses and in the process create an image and transform it. I sense that the reason my work, with its exploration of fluid and unfixed images, instantly grabs the attention of people is probably because I go through this process of transformation by seizing a moment and altering it through thought.

What frustrates you about it?

Seulgi Kwon: I am delighted and frustrated for the same reason. It is “I myself.” You cannot overemphasize the strenuous and consistent efforts that go far beyond talent. However, unlike mass-produced goods at a plant, the process of creating an artwork by an artist constantly changes and breathes during the process. Breathing is a testament of being alive and a cause for creating tremendous fear. In addition, a feeling of fear may serve to wake up a feeling of existential consciousness. Even if we attribute the fear to money, working environment, lack of communication, and any other factor. Essentially, the root cause of frustration always comes back to me, myself.

What do you think your direction will be five years from now?

Seulgi Kwon: The process of preparing for an exhibition always imparts me with vitality and is a positive motivation. Exhibiting is not just a means of promoting artworks but a critical milestone of an artist’s life. I intend to use the exhibition as a growth point to formulate my identity and to expand, in much the same way as plants sprawl and grow. As part of such efforts, I am interested in the organization of exhibition. I want to show a wide spectrum of myself as an individual whose boundaries have widened through meeting with various artists and students.

Seulgi Kwon
Seulgi Kwon, Falling, 2014, necklace, silicone, pigment, thread, plastic, 100 x 210 x 65 mm, photo: Myoungwook Huh


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