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Meet Eddie Kang, The Buzzy Korean Artist Bringing Pleasure Via Artwork

Meet Eddie Kang, The Buzzy Korean Artist Bringing Pleasure Via Artwork

As his solo exhibition Like A Guiding Star opens at Lucie Chang Fine Arts this month, we catch up with Korean artist of the moment Eddie Kang.

Since he shot onto the scene in 2007 with his signature Animamix style, Korean artist Eddie Kang has been on a mission to bring joy, happiness and comfort through his work. And his latest exhibition, Like a Guiding Star, which opens at Lucie Chang Fine Arts this month, is no exception.

Split into three different sections, the new body of works showcases Kang’s talent for both painting and sculpture. His positive messaging manifests literally through his vibrant canvases, which feature phrases such as “You are not alone,” “Good vibes only,” and “Don’t stop pushing,” as well as through his recurring character of Yeti, who appears in different forms in Kang’s work, this time in a large bronze sculpture. He sees the character as akin to a guardian angel, who protects its loved ones.

Eddie Kang

It was always predestined that Kang would go into the art world. Born in Seoul to a creative family, his mother is a professional painter, and she would take Kang along to her studio and exhibitions when he was young. After attending school in Vancouver, Kang went on to study in the United States at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he majored in film, animation and video, elements of which continue to shape his aesthetic.

Now working from his studio in Gangnam, Kang is known for his playful Aninamix style – a genre that combines elements of animation and comics –which Seoulites evidently can’t seem to get enough of. He counts J-Hope and Jun Ji-hyun as collectors of his art.

And although his work has been exhibited around the world – Kang’s held solo exhibitions in Shanghai, Taipei and New York – he always loves coming back to Hong Kong, where he finds there’s a genuine passion for art and culture among its people.

While in town to open his exhibition, we catch up with the artist to hear about his new works and his thoughts on the Korean art scene, and he spills the beans on his forthcoming collaboration at Complexcon.

Tell us about the name of the exhibition, Like a Guiding Star?

The main character I focused on for this show is called Yeti. A Yeti is a mythical being with big feet, believed to live in the Himalayas and forests in North America.

Ever since I first learned about Yeti from a science magazine as a kid, I’ve always imagined that, if Yetis do exist, they would be warm-hearted beings who could rescue people when they’re lost in the woods. So, in my view, Yetis are like guardian angels.

Living in today’s world full of challenges, I often try to convey positivity and affirmative thoughts using my works. This time, Yeti is being highlighted as a symbol of protection and guidance. And that particular point is how I came up with the title Like a Guiding Star. Creating my own guardian figure was one thing. Then I wanted to share it with audiences.

Installation view shows Yeti (2023) courtesy of Eddie Kang and Lucie Chang Fine Arts

Would you say the show is a departure or an evolution from what you’ve done before?

I’m thrilled that these are all new bodies of work created specifically for the show and it’s about showcasing the gradual steps and studies I’ve undertaken since the breakout of COVID back in 2020. Some of these studies started during that period, and the works have evolved over time. I wanted to share these bodies of work – Upside Down, Draw Your Own Map and Three Seconds – that originated from the time we started facing all the uncertainty.

Let’s talk about the Draw Your Own Map series. Can you explain the concept behind it?

It’s about the journey I’ve had since the onset of COVID. Initially, it felt like all the lights in my life went out, and I struggled to find motivation. So I started a series called Upside Down, where I departed from my usual bright, whimsical works and explored a darker palette to navigate myself back to creating. Then, as I regained my desire to paint, I transitioned to Draw Your Own Map, where I added colours and symbols on top of real city maps, metaphorically rewriting my own story in a changed world.

You’ve mentioned that you want your art to convey happiness. Can you tell us more about that?

Artists are all different. They talk about different paintings through their works. But for me, I believe art should be something people want to live with, surrounded by happiness and positivity. The reality can be harsh, so I aim to bring a sense of naive joy and positivity into my works, allowing people to find solace and happiness in them.

Draw Your Own Map (2023) courtesy of Eddie Kang and Lucie Chang Fine Arts.

Your work is often described as Animamix. Can you tell me more about this genre? Do you see it as an emerging genre?

The term Animamix was coined by the Taiwanese curator Victoria Liu back in 2008-2009. It refers to a blend of animation and comics. I was part of a group show which she curated and the term was used then to describe artists who combine elements of animation and comics in their work.

Would you ever say your early works were described as doodle art? Or is that something your work has never really been associated with?

Doodling is an important part of my practice. It’s how I preserve my ideas before they develop into larger pieces. As I travel all the time I always make sure to carry sketchbooks with me, and many of my doodles eventually evolve into finished artworks.

Installation view of the Draw Your Own Map series, courtesy of Eddie Kang and Lucie Chang Fine Arts.

Tell me about your upbringing. Was art a big part of your childhood?

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My mother is an artist, she works as an abstract painter, so it all came quite naturally to me. And thanks to my her, I was fortunate to be surrounded by a creative atmosphere since I was young, she used to bring me to her studio and take me to various exhibitions regularly.

How did you navigate leaving art school to become a professional artist? When you were just starting out, what was your biggest break?

I had a great four years of learning new creative techniques and philosophies at art school.  After graduation and military duty, I had a meaningful conversation with my parents, and they always knew my heart was in creating art. So I set up a small work space at the corner of my mother’s studio and began to create on my own works. After almost 16 years, I’m still painting.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Hong Kong?

Although it’s not easy to define simply, I always felt this genuine passion from Hong Kong audiences for culture and art. My first show with Lucy Chang Fine Arts was back in 2017, and then my second show happened during COVID which meant that I couldn’t come and I missed it very much. Especially when I know how vibrant and how genuine the collectors, art lovers and audiences are. Even though times are changing, I still believe this genuine interest will always be here.

A preview of Kang’s collaboration with Osocool, which will be available to buy at Complexcon

Although it’s been growing for a long time, in terms of international recognition, the Korean arts scene has exploded, with many Korean artists having major shows abroad as well as Frieze now having a fair in Seoul. Do you feel like it’s an exciting time for Korean art and artists?

Korea has had a solid art market for some time now. We have a mature, well-functioning system. On top of that, with all the great fairs happening and overseas galleries opening their branches, I believe there will be many more avenues and successes for the art market in Seoul.

Any exciting new shows or projects coming up this year?

I will have a booth at Complexcon Hong Kong this March, where there’ll be a chance to buy some products which feature my work. In April, I’ll also have a a small exhibition in Seoul collaborating with a fashion brand named ‘Kuho’, where I will be showcasing a new installation piece for the show. And on top of that, my work will also be exhibited as part of a group show in LA which is scheduled for this summer. 

(Hero Image: Installation view of Yeti themed works)

Source: Prestige Online

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