Yoso Koh: Man On A Chair With Cigarettes

Yoso Koh

Artwork’s Title: Man On A Chair With Cigarettes

Materials Used: Oil pastel on canvas

Studio Based: Seoul, South Korea

Yoso Koh, Man on a chair with cigarettes, 2021, Oil pastel on canvas, 65x53cm

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

First one, work by mixing digital and analog. The first thumbnail sketch is drawn with a pencil or pen on paper. After that, move to Photoshop or Illustrator and develop variously. And based on the sketches I worked on digitally, I move them to the canvas and draw them. Even in the middle of the work, I take pictures and move them digitally to experiment with various variations and complete the canvas work. Second one is to intuitively draw directly on the canvas by impulse.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Love, contradiction, post modernism or I, can’t, define <– I think this is more closer.

Speaking about your new artworks, is there any particular story behind the ‘Death Drive’ (2021)?

Actually that piece title is ‘Man on a chair with cigarettes’. ‘Death Drive’ is just posted on Instagram. Anyway the sketch of this work has weed in his hand. However as it moved to canvas, it changed to cigarettes. Because I’m sober now. haha I am not conscious of it. But this work is my portrait. I usually draw a portrait. But I don’t specify a person. Then I find that I drew people surrounding me. Even if I don’t think of a person, I unconsciously draw the person. I later know I drew the person. I found that I drew myself in this work later. Recently I haven’t drawn the white of the eye including this work. I am testing this. When there is no white of the eye, it is not clear where the person in a portrait sees. I want the spectators to feel being stared at and think about ‘seeing’. When following the eyes of the person in the portrait, they can’t imagine a story. Even if this theme of staring and seeing was tried many times before, I think it should be tried more deeply and with different perspectives at the time we enter into the digital era progressively.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?

I try many tests in sketches. I freely do a test for drawing and materials. In the case of canvas work, I don’t think about a specific concept or narrative in detail. But I start to work after determining the overall concept. The concept changes during the drawing process internally or externally. My mind also changes a lot. A human being might be the same. But I try to keep the root of the concept firmly from the start to the end without a change. I sometimes draw a part of a drawing randomly and impulsively. I try to use a coincidence. It is interesting even if the success rate is low.

It looks evident that you are very keen on figuration. Is it like a current painting series that you aim to concentrate on this period or more abstract images and motifs interest you as well?

Both apply. Even if I don’t pay special attention to it, I think my subjective view and my attitude toward the current days could be described in my works. While I concentrate on the current situation and environment that I live in, I melt down my feelings and my ideas into abstract images and motifs. But I try to delete and stop any stories from my drawings as much as possible. I don’t want it to be descriptive. I want spectators to be impressed and vibrated directly with their sense organs in any way.

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

Resistant beauty, love and people. Unanswered and incomplete themes attract me every moment. And the infinite potential of painting and the materiality.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

Clean space which is not too bright and with nice music. White cube or just a space where people can focus on my works. The most important thing is an offline space where people can see and feel the real thing. Recently online exhibitions are more popular. There are many types of shows. But the impression from online shows would be less than 10% of the one from offline shows. It is similar to the issues of video media. Online streaming services like Netflix are getting popular. The theatre culture is disappearing. There aren’t many obstacles watching movies with a phone, iPad or TV. But they can’t concentrate on a movie fully and are hard to get impressed compared to a theatre. We have to accept the situation. I think online will overcome offline deleting the boundary between them. I don’t know what it will be like in the future. But I don’t think indirect experiences like online shows can’t satisfy me.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

 Lately, Frank Ocean (musician) and Michel Houellebecq (writer). Generally, Of course Pablo Picasso and Francis bacon, Philip Guston, Park Seobo. Also many great artists.

Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?

 Nope, that’s it when I’m done. If I see that further work is needed later, discard it and work again.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

I’m a bedroom painter now, so my studio is small and there are many restrictions. I like to work on 3-4 pieces at the same time. But this studio can be only 2 pieces. So I move to canvas every time. It’s like a little chaos. I like it.

What does your mum think about your art?

I think she won’t know, because I never showed to her. If mom sees my works, I believe she will like it unconditionally.

Which exhibition did you visit last?

I visited the Pablo Picasso exhibition last month. It isn’t easy to see the works of famous artists in Korea. So when there is a big show, I surely go there. I go to see the works of new Korean artists frequently. But I try not to go there, as I could get influenced by them blurring my color. It might be just my feeling.

Which are your plans for the near future?

 Quitting the day job and focusing on my work every day, every time and study English.

Additional Paintings

Yoso Koh, Couple in bed, 2021, Oil pastel on canvas, 65 x 160 cm
Yoso Koh, Man under the light, 2021, Oil pastel on canvas, 40.5x32cm
Yoso Koh, Man under the feet, 2021, Oil pastel on canvas, 65x53cm
Yoso Koh, Two people, 2021, Oil pastel on canvas, 65x53cm


All images courtesy of the artist

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