One to Watch

Woojung Son

Woojung Son is an emerging artist based in South Korea. She received her BFA from DanKook University in 2012. Her artwork is inspired by dreams, fantasy, and the world of the imagination. Her compositions are constructed imaginary spaces that are populated with surreal imagery, such as floating deer heads and flying polar bears. Woojung hopes that through her artwork, people can tap into their childlike imagination.

Woojung was a finalist in “The Painted World” Saatchi Art Showdown Competition in 2015, and she had her first solo exhibition at Artspaceknot in Seoul in 2014. She has exhibited extensively, including in the Seoul Open Art Fair, Kidari Gallery, and Ilho Gallery.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Imagine. Have a dream. Be free. These are the most important elements in my work. As a little girl, I loved spending time daydreaming. My parents and teachers used to say it wasn’t a good habit. But I couldn’t stop. I enjoyed imagining things and the things I imagined often appeared in my dreams. Sometimes I felt my dreams were much more realistic than reality itself, and that notion thrilled me. I’ve always liked to paint, and I’ve made my own imaginary space through my work. In my imaginary place, there was no concept of time or space, and everything was free.

Everyone dreams of breaking away from reality. However, making that desire come true depends on each person’s individual decision. Breaking away from reality is not easy. In our society, we have many rules and laws designed to tie us to community life. Also, various customs and standards for social maintenance exist. Many people say that we have to follow the majority. Different thoughts and different behaviors are often considered wrong. Thus, as people grow older, they forget their own thoughts and ideas; they even forget how to imagine. They just live their life like an old habit and repeat the same routine endlessly. Moreover, they don’t know how to escape from this meaningless trap in which they find themselves. And that kind of life makes people deny new experiences and fear freedom.

But craving freedom is human nature, and I think it’s that nature that makes people enjoy fantasy novels and movies as well as traveling. Think about this. When we were little kids, we imagined things freely, and we talked about those things. Maybe all of this was possible because children aren’t influenced by the external environment much. However, as people grow older, everything changes. The external environment influences them continuously, and that makes people rigid and inflexible.

People lose their own nature as they grow older. But we are different from robots. We can think, imagine, and make things happen. That’s what made our collective society progress, and that is the fundamental characteristic of humankind. Now, I want to make my own imaginary space and create stories and build my own kingdom through my work. Also, I want to find my own nature through my work and I want to communicate with people. My hope is that people can freely imagine, as they did in their childhood, through my work. I want to invite everyone who dares to imagine. You’ve got an open invitation.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

I need to develop my ability of liberal thinking without being stuck in a groove.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

Music is an indispensable part of my work. Music inspires my imaginative power and raises my emotion to the maximal point. I usually listen to Alexandre Desplat’s music when I work because his music has the strength that draws me into the world of my artwork. I love his music with such power.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Albert Oehlen’s FM 35. It is because I happened to engage myself in the artwork that I’m working on right now when I got inspired after seeing his artwork for the first time, and I don’t want to forget the feeling that I felt then. I look at his art even now when my artwork doesn’t turn out as I wish.

Who are your favorite writers?

My favorite writers are Bernard Werber, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling. I’m struck with admiration at their boundless imagination whenever I read their books. I feel really connected to their writing because I always believed that there is another world. I always have one of their books when I go to sleep because when I fall asleep after reading their book, my imagination and their imagination collide in my dreams, and a whole new world spreads out in my head.