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Osang Gwon

Osang Gwon 2013 exhibition


I am very delighted that Mr. Osang Gwon, one of the top contemporary artists in Korea, will be holding his maiden solo exhibition in Singapore.

In recent years, Singapore has hosted several major international art fairs with the goal of transforming Singapore into a “distinctive global city for the arts”. For instance, this year’s Art stage attracted 131 galleries from across the globe with 11 of these galleries being Korean galleries.

As cultural exchanges between Singapore and Korea increase in frequency and scale, the works of leading Korean artists are also becoming more of a common sight here in Singapore. A niche market for Korean artwork in Singapore is also developing with the establishment of art consultancies that specialize in contemporary Korean artwork. As a result of such efforts, there has been an increasing awareness of and interest in artworks done by Korean artists in Singapore.

Mr Gwon’s exhibition will provide Singapore’s art lovers with further insights into the works done by one of Korea’s current generation of contemporary artists. The artworks in this exhibition will also showcase how his stay in Singapore in January this year, as Temenggong’s artist-in-residence, had influenced his creation of new sculptures. His exhibition provide us with an opportunity to see how he was inspired by his experiences in this multi-cultural and dynamic country. As such, this exhibition is expected to arouse a great deal of curiosity and interest among Singapore’s art lovers. It will also highlight the growing cultural and artistic interactions between Korea and Singapore.

The opening of Mr Gwon’s exhibition also comes at an opportune time with two other major festivals – Korea Festival 2013 and Singapore Biennale 2013 – taking place in Singapore.

I sincerely hope that such cultural and art events will promote greater understanding between the people of Korea and Singapore and help bring our countries even closer together.

—H.E. Suh Chung-ha
Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Singapore

Another well-received opening at Temenggong!
H.E. Suh Chung-ha studying details of Osang's photo-sculpture


Photography and sculpture, mediums that are often seen as distinct, have been given a new interpretation by Osang Gwon. A trained sculptor, Gwon is able to emulate classic sculptural forms and blur the lines of the two media: exploring possibilities of sculptural photography and bringing these wonderful works into the Temenggong Artists-In-Residence (Temenggong), Singapore.

As Temenggong’s artist-in-residence in January 2013, Gwon drew inspiration from his experiences in multi-cultural Singapore, leading him to fuse varied Asian identities into his latest works.

“Osang Gwon Singapore 2013” will be Gwon’s maiden solo exhibition in Southeast Asia. An internationally-acclaimed artist, his artworks have been featured in international arts collections at Singapore Art Museum; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art; and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. Next month, Gwon will participate in the 2013 Asia Art Biennale.

Since its establishment in 2009, Temenggong Artists-In-Residence has produced high-quality artworks from established artists, whilst nurturing exchanges among emerging artists. It is encouraging to see artists at Temenggong gather together in full support of the arts fulfilling its objective of ‘artists-helping-one-another’.

I wish Temenggong every success as it continues to contribute to our arts landscape.

— Mr Hsieh Fu Hua
Chairman, National Gallery, Singapore

Our artists, curators and writers who supported the exhibition with their attendance.


21 works are displayed at the Temenggong Artists-In-Residence premises. They are creations by Osang Gwon from thoughts, impressions, observations and resources gathered during his attachment to Temenggong earlier this year. Even as they are spurred by encounters in a new place and environment, the works bear the hallmarks of Osang Gwon’s art, identifiable by technologies he employs for fabricating and forming objects, and by the striking imagery that each composition proposes or represents.

I refer to his art as consisting of objects. This is not to diminish its status or to deplete its appeal. It is to call attention to his art’s material make-up, to the physical impact of his works and to the alluring properties that sustain our seeing his productions. When we pay attention to these matters we are prompted to approach each work closely, pore over details and take delight in the svelte rendering of surfaces. We also are induced to step back so as to view each object as a whole in space, and as presenting an image that is intangible, impressive and quite extraordinary. When seen with such interests, each work appears as a figure, although not conventionally disposed and recognizable. Each appears as if it is in and of this world and yet not ordinarily so.

Yes, the world is Osang Gwon’s resource, the world he encounters daily in all its everydayness, and the world as he represents in his artwork. The former slips into the latter by being painstakingly transformed, playfully re-articulated and becoming something else. The familiar yields to the creation of the uncommon. In seeing Osang Gwon’s works, we behold these re-formations with immense delight and rapt attention.

— T.K. Sabapathy
Art Historian

Student musicians from Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music
Osang Gwon, Venus, 2013

Sculpture and Mass

Gwon Osang created a unique sculpture using photographs. He captured objects from various angles and cut/pasted the prints. Photographs realize three-dimensional objects on a two dimensional plane. As cubic structures become flat, the actual materiality of the object cannot be faithfully represented. To reinstate the sense of mass, he built a cubic construct by pasting countless pictures as if molding a sculpture. The idea was unprecedentedly original and creative in contemporary art history. His work immediately fascinated the Korean art world.

Korean art in the 1980s can be categorized into modernist and realist schools, which reflects the socio-political conditions at the time. A military administration led economic development and industrialization under dictatorship, but people’s desire for democratization and human rights continually increased. The ‘80s was a time when the two sides were in critical conflict, but the society was gradually yet persistently changing. With the advent of the direct presidential election system(1987), the 1988 Seoul Olympics, liberalization of overseas travels (1989) and the distribution of PCs and internet infrastructure, Korea enters the era of globalization, mass consumption, and information. A new age had begun.

Up to the early ‘90s, the sculpture scene in Korea was also divided into Modernist and Realist trends. Abstract sculptures that either elude or faithfully represent social reality were considered mainstream. Traditional materials such as bronze, steel, wood, or stones were often used, and the techniques were more generic than original. The time was demanding change in the art world – this is when a new generation arises with unique sensibilities. Gwon was a representative figure among these new elements.

Gwon did not produce conceptual or ideological sculptures. He used interesting objects that were mass produced for public consumption, people around him in his real life, explored three and two dimensional spaces across the boundaries between photography and sculptures, and built light-weight sculptures that could be lifted by a single individual, or works with a wide variety of colors. This doesn’t mean he simply followed the new trends and demands in the ‘90s without any reflection of his own. Although his photograph-collage sculptures may look very different from traditional works, his meticulous and obsessive use of sculpting techniques fell short to no other artist, through the process of which he sought new possibilities of contemporary sculpture.

One keyword in his sculpture work is “molding.” He cuts and pastes photographs, building a form, a mass. This process consists of constructing an object by adding on, rather than cutting out. He even sees multi-layer dressing as a form of molding; elbow and knee protections for motorcycle riders are also molds, from his perspective. Creating through a process of accumulating and adding-on is molding, and the resultant mass could be the very essence of sculpture.

Another object of Gwon’s attention is the pedestal. His earlier works do not have any. He simply places his photograph sculptures on the floor. In his solo exhibition held at Cheonan in 2005, he placed a pedestal in the hall, the size of which was identical to that of Rodin’s The “Burghers of Calais”. “Burghers of Calais” is famous for the low height of its pedestal. By producing various sculpture pedestals that expand the meaning and role of the pedestal as an object in itself, he examines the relationship between sculptures and their pedestals from multiple perspectives. Sculptures erected on high pedestals, pieces with lower pedestals, sculptures leaning on pedestals or placed on bulky pedestals, or even those that lie on the floor without any support. His exhibitions house a wide variety of poses, heights and pedestals.

In his “Sculpture” series, Gwon featured the body of a motorcycle as a conceptualization of a torso, and painted the surface of sculptures with oil paint. He presented the simplest sculpture in his “The Flat” series, and introduced a performance that borrows the artistic nuance of the sculpture in collaboration with a fashion designer. , a piece presented at this exhibit, also highlights the concept of the mold. Gwon builds animals and objects out of compressed Styrofoam, lays them out and sticks the pieces together in accordance with their formal compatibility, producing ten sculptures (at times, he also adds common objects found in our daily lives). Different objects and animals are fused into a new mass, both in form and meaning. The separate objects would have never come into such intimate contact had it not been for Gwon’s artistic experiment (Gwon had already practiced the combination of heterogeneous objects in his “The Flat” series.) and show unique approaches to mass. Artists often refer to illustrations of the anatomy when sculpting the human body. One aspect in the human anatomy that doesn’t appear in standard reference books but are in fact crucial in realistic representations is the body hair. Unlike muscles or bones, which have fixed forms, head or facial hair tend to be more fluid, and are therefore difficult to express in a mass. Representing facial hair in a sculpture depicting the human body means adding the “mass” of hair on to the existing mass of the face. By strategically utilizing head and facial hair, one can make sculptures appear more three-dimensional, generate a kind of flow, and even reinforce fragile parts such as the neck (other elements such as clothes, objects, animals, halos, or even little human figures could also be added to the body, serving roles that are similar to that of body hair.)

Sculpting is the artistic act of creating three-dimensional objects. To do this, one needs mass, which is why a mass is the basic component of sculpture. As most objects are three-dimensional, we are already surrounded by all kinds of masses that are not necessarily sculptures. The moment we perceive their existence, we get a step closer to the sense of sculpture.

— Hanseung Ryu
Associate Curator, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea