[April 213 – Cuvism] Mari Kim – Interview

Mari Kim (2)

I know you went to college in Australia and you even went to grad school there. When did you go to Australia?

I went right after graduating from high school.

Your major was “Creative Media”. What did you study exactly?

Arts made by computer, like videos or music. I studied various things. I think I studied everything about what creativity is about. When I was undergraduate, I studied everything about multimedia. For my master, I studied “Animation and Interactive media” in detail.

You’re drawing without being a major in fine arts. That must have made it a bigger issue.

I was ignored. (laugh) That’s because this drawing genre based on my way of thinking doesn’t look like fine arts. I think that even if people from the fine arts world wanted to talk about my art, they weren’t able to because they didn’t know what to say about a new field they absolutely knew nothing about. That’s why they couldn’t talk about it by comparing it with what was done before. I think they didn’t know what this new form of art was.

When did you think “I’m going to create my own art”?

There was not a specific moment when I told myself “I must definitely do it”. I think I just did and it came to this. I liked drawing, so I kept drawing. I uploaded my art on my blog. I released a book in 2008 and it was titled “EYEDOLL”. From that moment, I called my characters “Eyedoll”. Other artists became more famous, so more than telling myself that I should be one of them, I just kept doing what I liked and I didn’t think too much about being an illustrator.

Was there a particular occasion for you to come working in Korea?

I was living in Australia, so since I didn’t live in Korea, coming to Seoul was exactly like going to another country for me. I had no friend because I didn’t go to school here either. So, going to Australia, then Seoul, then Europe or the US, I was thinking along those lines. I thought it’d be fun to go to Europe or the US, and since I hadn’t gone to Seoul, I told myself to stop by Seoul first. And I’ve been here for a long time now. (laugh)

Do you like Seoul?

I do. It’s fun. (laugh)

So now this is your mascot now. How was this””EYEDOLL” big-eyed character concept born?

I’ve been drawing like this ever since I was a child. I kept drawing with this style. I just added the name “EYEDOLL” when my book got released in 2008.

Your résumé mentioned the fact you were invited to “Pictoplasma Art Festival” in Germany while you were writing your thesis.

The field I was doing research in is about appearance more than inner purity. For instance, you have this image in the “Exorcist” that is scarily similar to children’s faces. My research was about very evil images that represent the loss (not in a sense of debauchery) of innocence. Young children must be cute and pretty, so it wouldn’t work. To be honest, this is quite a popular concept in horror movies and it’s often used. This is what my research was about.

You’re still working in this field, so you must have a lot of interest about youth and children.

I think it’s more because I’ve been working on their image. And I’ve always been interested in the weak in our society. I keep wondering if there’s anything I can do for them. My interest doesn’t only go to children, I’m also interested in animals. I’m in contact with the Korean Animal Welfare Association. I think human beings can be evil because they can be pretty harmful to animals, Nature and the Earth. And I think the fact that human beings die just by being harmful to themselves this way is the most absurd thing. That’s why I relate more to such small and big life issues. I always wonder if there’s anything I can do about problems like this.

Is there any connection between your “EYEDOLL” and what we know as “idol”?

When I was working on my book, my publisher said to use the name with the meaning “idol of the art world”. So it was written “IDOL” in the beginning. However, it got changed because I maintained that it had to be “eye doll”.

Your “EYEDOLL” really looks like you. Did you draw it by looking at yourself in the beginning?

It wasn’t like that. I didn’t take drawing lessons, so I started drawing by using the manhwa-style. I couldn’t draw slim and pretty-faced characters. I drew round faces with big eyes and I polished this form a little bit. I wanted to draw big eyes, but the ratio didn’t work with slim-faced characters.

I heard the reactions about your art when you came to Korea were cold. How was it?

They said this kind of art wouldn’t do well in Korea. 10 years would be fast. That’s because my style of drawing itself is made by computer. However, there aren’t many people who draw by computer in Korea. The illustration field exists, but there aren’t people in the pure painting field who can work by computer and there’s no one using the replica technique. And just like I did with “EYEDOLL”, I used this replica technique. Although it’s drawing by computer, there are people who just limit themselves sometimes. There are a lot of people who have a complex about working by computer. Still, I had no idea about this perception because I just didn’t know about it. I couldn’t think “it won’t work”, “it’s bad”. It was a taboo for art people at that time as they said it wasn’t fine arts.

So such cold reactions didn’t really affect you.

To be honest, most of artists are narcissist. Just like a film director thinks his movies are the best, artists see their art as the best. Since people said my art wouldn’t work, I thought people had low standards. (laugh) Like “so they can’t see that it’s beautiful”.

How are the reactions now?

People say they found my art scary at first. Although my drawings now are similar to what I did back then, they say it’s cute now. I also do stuff for my blog. I think that the fact that I kept it up and showed my artwork gave me a positive recognition. Especially these days. Young people don’t have inhibitions about new stuff. I don’t think they find it scary because they’ve already been exposed to it a lot. Calling something scary turns a culture into something countrified.

As an artist, it must be really meaningful for you to see how Korea’s conversative perspective is broadening.

There was no such thing as drawing big faces like that in the past. Since I’ve been out there, it seems that other artists have been working with this method too. These artists should be talked about too. I think my art style created a trend that can turn into a classical form. Creating something like this makes me wonder if I should create something else. I’d rather have people being shocked or puzzled by my art more than having them accept it comfortably. I like doing new things all the time. It’s even better to get surprised reactions. It’s fun. (laugh) There was also a lot of surprised reactions for this show. People strangely think the video has a problem.

How did this “The Boy in Red Shoes” show project start?

It’s my 3rd collaboration with Lee Kyung Ok’s dance company. Lee Kyung Ok alrealy liked my drawings. For this third collaboration, we’re working at the National Theater of Korea. I joined the project because the dance company offered me to show a video on stage.

You also opened various exhibits with singer Naul. I think one thing you have in common is using the theme of “children”. Naul also has drawings about children, but you mostly worked on the Bible topic. It can be standard work, but what do you think of Naul’s artwork?

We created an artwork by using the Bible, but Bible work aside, I really like his work itself. There aren’t many artists with this style in Korea. I like his work. Since the Bible words were included, I think it was an amazing work with true finality.

Do you talk a lot about your artwork?

Naul also uses the collage technique. He did additions with numbers from the Bible. That’s why I told him once I would reduce the addition. If there were too much additions, when it’s time to buy, people might be inclined to avoid this artwork. However, he told me these were not random numbers, they were important numbers in the Bible, so he couldn’t change them. I thought this was a true artist’s answer.

Your work on 2NE1’s album artwork and “Hate You” music video became a hot issue. How did you get to work with them?

Yang Hyun Suk-sajangnim called me and offered me to work with them.

How did the work process go?

There was no difficulties. I really had fun. This collaboration outcome was good and the relationships with the people I worked with were nice too. I think it became an occasion for me to do collaborations with other people after that. I think it was something important for me. Before, I had never gotten the opportunity to collaborate with major musicians or Korean artists. I had done a lot of work overseas.

Did you get many offers of that kind after that?

No. My work with 2NE1 was my firt attempt at something like this and I realized that offers don’t come if it’s not people who have as much as awareness than 2NE1 has. (laugh) But there’s no reason for me to do something similar to my work with them. I don’t think about doing this kind of collaboration with bands or singers in Korea. I want to try another type of collaboration.

This goes for the song “Hate You”, 2NE1’s styling at that time, there was this fierce feeling about it and I think it really goes well with your own style. What did you want to express in priority?

I tried to reveal my art as well as expressing 2NE1 members’ personalities. For instance, Park Bom eats corn in the music video. (laugh) I tried to keep this kind of little funny details. For CL, I put the highlight on the leader aspect. Gong Minzy is the youngest, so her brave heart gave her the most important role in the end. Sandara Park has this beautiful face and it was highlighted here too. There’s a scene where a flower boy and her look at each other.

From dance company, shoes designer, music videos, you’ve been doing a lot of various collaborations. What kind of collaboration would you like to do in the future?

I hope I’ll be able to collaborate with foreign musicians. I really like Lady Gaga. I think it would be fun to work with fierce musicians. And I’m thinking up of creating big sculptures. The ratio will be important, so I hope I’ll be able to work with a company. I have a lot of overseas activities this year. I’ll go to Hong Kong in June and open an exhibit to spread the word about Korea. After that, I’ll go to Germany and I’ll go to Miami’s art fair in December. Once this video collaboration with Lee Kyung Ok dance company is over, I think I’ll keep working and go overseas.

Are you doing such various activities because you’re doing “pop art”?

I see myself as an media-friendly illustrator. And I think an artist should have a life full of art. For instance, Van Gogh’s artwork is good, but his life was quite dynamic too. I think their lives are as interesting as their art. I think being an artist is about letting know how you live, your personality, what you like. Some people don’t think this way, but I’m aiming for a life as artistic as my work.

Which kind of artist would you like to be ten years from now?

Ten years from now, I hope I’ll be doing a lot of activities for KAWA. (laugh) I don’t know. I might change and help microorganism and not animals, but I hope I’ll be able to do a lot of relief activities right now. However, it’s hard to do such activities when your personal life is difficult. So I should do well first, right? To be honest, I’m not the type to worry that much about my life. It’s not because I’m living such a comfortable life. I think I have no interest about real life stuff. It might be strange to hear, but I’m always daydreaming.

I have this vague impression that art is something you can’t do if you don’t have money.

Unless you’re from a wealthy family, where do you see people who are rich when they’re young? I didn’t have money either. I think it’s nonsense to say you can do something because you have money. If you have money, what can you do? You just have fun. (laugh) I think not having money can become a reason for some people to work hard at something. I think what they’ll do depends of what each person wants.

If you’d like to say something to those who dream of being an artist?

Among people who want to become artists, some do it because their drawings look cool, others do it because they like drawing itself. The common point about these two categories is that it won’t work if you’re lazy. Whatever your job is, you can’t succeed if you’re lazy. Our perception of what working hard is is subjective. So it’s important to find your own pattern or cycle. Being an illustrator is a job with a lot of freedom. That’s why you can unconsciously become lazy if you’re not diligent. Besides, it’s easy to become famous nowadays if you do a lot of PR work. As I kept working hard and steadily, I used to say that I’d be famous in two years. It’s not something a lot of people can do. I think opportunities come to those who work hard. Unless you’re a genius and can do anything, I think you must be diligent.

What do you say to your students about what’s the most important thing about this?

The field I’m teaching isn’t pure fine arts, it’s media. Anyway, you can be taught about it, but don’t cling onto your grades. I couldn’t study either. Still, when I look back at it now, it didn’t really matter. Really, it didn’t. I think being honest with yourself is good. If you’re not yourself, can something good come out of it? I usually thell them stuff like this. I’m usually running out of time, so I can’t really talk to them, though.

The lifestyle of innocent dreamer Mari Kim

What is your usual work style?

Because I’m always a dreamer, there are many things I want to do. I think wanting to do many things to fix problems is also a problem. (laugh) I feel like I have never enough time and there are so many things I want to do. To be honest, it’s not good to be this way. Sometimes, I need to take a breath and I lose energy. I’m always doing something even when I’m at home. When I’m like that, I don’t sleep and I tell myself “why am I like this?”. Still, I think the process itself of seeing new outcome is quite fun.

Do you have your own way to find inspiration?

I’m trying my best to have an active cultural life. I watch nearly every movie that is released. I reall like liberal arts, but I can’t really read novels. I’m struggling to relate to someone else’s imagination. Yet, I read a lot of information books. They’re really interesting because [I get to know about the] many things I don’t know.

What kind of books would you recommend to students?

I’m not good at recommending books because students have to read many books for their studies anyway. People say to have fun, but I can’t hear it sincerely. What I think is that this word isn’t about having fun because you say “have fun”. I think what I say can be stressful, but I’m just used to talk lightly because I can’t be responsible for everyone’s life. Going in the direction that is for you is the right thing to do, but when I look at my own experience, I think having fun is nice.

How do you have fun?

I like going to the club and music festivals. I’m really anticipating this year’s UMF (Ultra Music Festival). (laugh)

Are you into electronica?

Yes. I usually like electronica or any fresh music. I like intense music more than quiet stuff.

What kind of movies do you enjoy?

I like strong movies. (laugh) I’ve been into cult movies since I was a child. I like strong movies like Quentin Tarantino’s.

Which movie would you recommend among “Cloud Atlas” and “Stoker” that you’ve seen recently?

I enjoyed “Cloud Atlas”. “Stoker” was interesting too, but it was weaker than I thought. (laugh) It should have been stronger. I felt that director Park Chan Wook was catching up his breath. On the other hand, I think there were more detailed aspects to it. Personally, I like strong visuals.

What do you usually do during your free time?

I mainly do something. I watch a movie or something. I’m not really good at not doing anything.

Do you often see your friends?

I don’t usually do, but when I’m ready to have fun, I see them. Director Lee Sa Kang is a close friend of mine.

How would your friends describe your personality?

I think they’d say I’m nice. I don’t know. I think it’s because they can’t say I’m mean. (laugh) And if I meet someone that I know just like that, I won’t say weird stuff, but I can talk to someone about my dreams if this person can understand me. If we talk about my dreams, if I say one thing wrong, some people may think it’s scizophrenia. However, I have good self-control. I don’t get caught up or let myself go too deep. Some people look crazy from the outside, but they’re not and I’m not like that either. I just organize my thoughts only in my mind, so I focus completely on my art or on fine arts.

Can you introduce a Korean or foreign artist you like?

Right now, I like Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei. It’s not that being a dissident is a good thing, but I think he’s someone who interferes just like I do. I think that when a fight arises in our society, it’s usually something about our own interest. Even without being concerned directly, there are children, animals. I have a lot of interest in the darkness individuals can’t break. In Ai Wei Wei’s case, I really feel his sincerity in his work because there are issues he believes in and he brings them into his art. I think it’s even better because he doesn’t do it on purpose or to become a hot issue.

You’re famous as an ulzzang artist. What do you think of the fact this is hightlighted?

Am I the one who spread the word? (laugh) I think it’s better than being “ulkkwang” [t/n: ugly]. I think an artist’s visual is very important, so I worry about the way I present myself. In one word, I doll myself up a lot. (laugh) More than doing it for people, I do it because I like the fact itself of prettying myself up. However, I think it’s nice that this got me some feedback. Of course, I don’t know what kind of influence it can have, though.

You said you like prettying yourself up. The fact that it’s in the media will make you worry even more.

There’s something I worry about. Medias upload many strange pictures. (laugh) One day, there was even a picture in which I didn’t recognize myself. I wish things like this could be prevented. These pictures never caused a problem, but they are really weird. I often hear that my pictures and my appearance in real life are nothing alike. I don’t want to worry about things like this, but once the pictures are uploaded, it’s very hard to get them down. (laugh)

You think artists must also care about their looks?

I think everybody should. Anyone. Style isn’t about prettying yourself up and purposely say “I have to be this way”. I think if you like prettying yourself up, you should do it the way you want to. If I want to show my personality, this is how I must do it. I think it just comes out naturally. I think hiding yourself within some kind of system takes away your freedom and it’s not a good thing.

What are the latest things you were interested in?

Animals. I share a lot of info through my SNS. When I did exhibits in the past, I always helped out children. I donated some of my salary or some of my artworks. On the contrary, I used to help animals in a passive way. Now I’m really planning to do activities to let people know about their real conditions. It often happens that people make mistakes because they don’t know what they’re doing.

If there’s something we can do for animals, please tell us about it.

It is usually seen as normal to skin animals for their fur. There are things like that people don’t really know about, but you can make woolen sweaters or woolen hats. If you go to China, almost every fur item you see is made of dogs or cats hair. They’re mercilessly skinned alive for their fur. Sometimes, they’re still alive when they’re being skinned off. It’s a very sad reality. In the past, textile wasn’t as developed as it is today. People were very cold, so this is what they did. Nowadays, even if we don’t wear such items, there are many clothes to keep us warm. To be honest, I think wearing something like this to look pretty is vanity. It’s like walking around with your own pet on your head. It is also said that killing them through euthanasia or with anethesia costs money, so they beat up the animals to death. I think it’s a very serious problem.

[t/n: so I was a bit confused about the vocabulary between hair, fur, wool… but I think her point comes across]

How would you like to be remembered as an artist?

I think the most important task for an artist is to have a beautiful influence. I’m trying my best to change the world and make it a beautiful place. I hope people will remember me as an artist with a beautiful work.

Is there something those who dream of being artists should do beforehand?

I think you must be persistent and keep working hard. I’m not saying to study hard. I just hope that people figure out what they enjoy and just work hard on it. I think it’s more important to work hard at something you like regardless of the outcome than being hopeful about a possible outcome.

Please say a last word to our Cuvism readers.

There aren’t only important people who do nice things in this world. Even if you don’t think of yourself as someone important, you can make the world beautiful in your own way. And people become who they are according to who they think can be. If you only think about small things, you’ll become the person according to these thoughts. Even if your actions don’t apply to the world’s problems, if you just think about it, this is the kind of person you will be. And it doesn’t matter if it’s profitable for your life or not, I think it’s important to at least try to think carefully about things like that. Even if you can’t take responsibility for things like that, I think worrying about it and the fact itself to think “shouldn’t I take responsibility?” is important.

Cuvism
Translation: @onesunnylady – thesunnytown.wordpress.com

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