Interview with Kwon Kyung-yup for “Melancholia”


Thinkspace Gallery is proud to present Kwon Kyung-yup’s latest body of work with her solo exhibition “Melancholia.” In anticipation of the show we have an exclusive interview with Kwon Kyung-yup sharing with us her love for oil paint and connection to her work.

What do you like about oil paints as a medium?
I work with very slow breathing as though I meditate. As oil paintings dry slower than other paintings, I complete my work for one to two months, observing the progress of the work. I enjoy paintings made with great effort for a long period. I would love to be a master artisan before I am an artist. Oil paintings are appropriate to depict abundant colors of the skin. They are also excellent materials to adjust degrees of gloss and transparency.

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What themes or ideas were you exploring in this new body of work?
I wanted to draw a character who reviews one’s life while dreaming of something behind the reality. My characters are immersed in deep contemplation or meditating. In the painting “Red Moon” and “Romance”, I wanted to draw the image of a human withdrawing into one’s inside, contemplating or longing for the ideal beyond the reality. The red color appearing here expresses the energy that pursues beauty while trying to fill in the deficiency and casting an immortal spell on the human body.

The title of the painting “I lock the door upon myself” was taken from that of the painting “I lock the door upon myself” of Fernand Khnopff, a Belgian symbolist painter of the 19th century. I wanted to express the melancholic emotion bounding towards the inside world, being disconnected from the outside world.

The painting “Primavera” ‘s theme is spring. Recently, I have been learning and enjoying the beauty of daily things while drawing a series on spring. The flowers and plants surround the character have the meaning of healing just like the bandage I have been drawing so far.

In the paintings “Strum”, “Surreal Memory” and “Cherish”, the girls are drawn as if they were discolored by the long flow of time; this is the metaphor of the memory’s nature of fading with time.

In the expression of loneliness and loss, I extracted and expressed only certain traces left by the memory while hiding personal narratives.

Instead, I made it possible to interpret the painting in various ways by filling the void space with the language of “silence” or substituting with specific colors or symbols; the scope of interpretation was extended by placing metaphoric elements inside the painting.

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Can you explain what a day in the studio would looks like?
I get the best paintings when I concentrate on painting in my studio the whole day. And I get the inspiration for the next work at that moment.

Do you use models as a reference or do you paint the people from your imagination?
I describe characters with a realistic grammar; however, I emphasize imaginative elements and fantasy above all. There are paintings in which my family and friends were models while many other ones were drawn from imagination without a model.

This time, I painted two pieces with boys as models, they are Chanyeol and Sehun, members of the K-pop star group EXO. Based on the experience of having drawn Girls Generation’s members while doing collabo work with SM Entertainment in Korea in 2012, I realized that the images of the singers fit well with those of my paintings and found a new possibility for my paintings.

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What do you do when you’re not painting?
I like reading books. I get the desire to create something through literature works rather than works of art. I get inspiration from Russian literature such as Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy which expose human nature while also give the feeling of magnificence and nobleness. I enjoy reading Japanese novels intergrating realism and surrealism, the romanticism literature of the 19th century including Goethe and the illusionist literature of Borges.

What is your favorite food?
Sincerely prepared food

Is there a piece in this show you are more connected to than the others?
Bandaged works. I cannot exactly explain why but I had a special feeling when I painted the works. I cannot logically explain for that. I was 100% immersed in the work depicting my feeling at that moment very well.

In “Primavera”, I was able to enjoy the painting while using orange, green and yellow color during the course of drawing flowers and plants.

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How have you grown as an artist over the last 5 years?
I feel how precious each day’s work is.

What do you think is the biggest blessing and challenge of being an artist?
I think that art means expressing the world with one’s unique perspective. An artist must reconstruct one’s view of understanding the world in a unique way. That is, a unique view of the world is needed and that view has to be always refreshed. In addition, aesthetic experience is also required as it is important to add aesthetic quality. Artistic experience does not just occur inside art but can occur in various areas.

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Attend the opening reception of Kwon Kyung-Yup’s “Melancholia” exhibition this Saturday, April 30th from 6-9pm. Visit the Thinkspace Gallery website for additional information on the exhibition.


Me seen by myself, me seen by another person. There is a room of mirrors, endlessly looking face-to-face. One is my mirror while the other is that of another person looking at me. Just as many images are formed when the two mirrors face each other, how can I explain the many images of myself? I can’t know who I am, which one of these is my real image.

I become different depending upon which state, situation and reality I am facing or which philosophy and attitude I have in my life. That is, I can see myself only indirectly through something else then myself. Just like most artists. a work reflects its artist in some way and thus can be interpreted as a mirror of the mind with the internal myself projected on it.

I see one side of myself through my paintings; however, the work’s meaning changes continuously according to my varying emotional states and their changes. Just as my image inside the mirror changes with the flow of emotions, The figure in my painting is a Melancholiker who is always silent and many secrets are hidden in that silence.

The feature of my job is the visual expression of a human’s feeling, emotion, and mood that is hard to express; the expression is based on the fundamental experience shared by all humans. As the work was expressed in a wide context, the detailed meanings of each work can change according to the emotional line of the human looking at the painting.

As my self-portrait hides a private narrative, it can show my mother or sister or become a mirror of the mind showing the painting’s viewer. Thus, a painting is the space for thinking. The viewer of a painting can discover one’s present or past view through my painting and also project one’s own inside on the painting then retrieve it again to read it subjectively.

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