In Search of the Beyond | Artist Hyunmin Ryu

Hyunmin Ryu

Born in Daegu, South Korea, artist Hyunmin Ryu graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London with an MFA in Fine Art Media in 2012. Winner of a Slade Award, Hyunmin's contemporary practice includes photography, film and installation. At times urban and mundane, at times fantastical, his work explores human longing and a sense of failure and emptiness, capturing the humour, sense of humility and repetition that characterises everyday life. We caught up with him on his return home.

Hyunmin, how did growing up in Korea influence and encourage your creativity? What kind of art, photography and film did you see as a child?

When I was a child, I was not exposed to art except in school program. I also wasn’t really interested in art. Instead of the influence of art, I suppose that the conservative atmosphere of Daegu and my reaction to it influenced me to build my artistic sensibility. (Daegu is the most conservative city in South Korea.) In the atmosphere, I felt sort of anxiety and discomfort from the relationship between individual and society. I suppose, doing art is helpful to relieve and reveal the feeling. When I tell my childhood friends I am an artist now, every single one of my friends cannot believe it. I couldn’t distinguish myself in the art class like fine art, music or literature, but I was an extremely mischievous boy especially in elementary school.

In your writings about your art you talk of the feeling of ‘loss of human beings who have been frustrated to face the reality in pursuing their ideals’ and how your work captures the concept of the human being ‘continuously seeking perfect ideas’. Tell us more about how you developed the themes and ideas behind your work?

Only human beings are capable of reason and each other’s reason is limited in the specific physical condition that he or she belongs to. The thing is, the reason is almost always towards somewhere beyond the physical condition, so we live in the gap between the reality and the beyond.

What is it like working as an artist in South Korea? How is the art scene different to London?

I have participated in a residency program and several group exhibitions in South Korea and UK. Actually I don’t really have experience of the art scene in Korea but I feel South Korean art is dynamically growing and the public is becoming more and more friendly to art. But, I think compared with UK, the diversity and infrastructures in South Korea are not enough yet.

In your day to day life are you and others aware of the political situation between South Korea and the North or does everyone remain largely unaffected?

Yes, when the North Korea nuclear issue is happening, Korean mass media crazily broadcasts it. So, of course we are aware of it but people in South Korea seem to choose to turn away from the issue, except politicians. South Korean has been through so many North Korean risks and we might be numbed with it. One issue covers the other issue and the issue covered by another issue. Eventually something happening is becoming daily life. With the sense, I think everyone has anxiety from banality of everyday life.

What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any projects you have coming up?

At this moment, I am preparing my solo show in Daegu Arts Centre. For the show, I am making some video and some object works. After I finish the show, my plan is to do a project with my father. My father and I are going to have absurd journey. We will try to find the way through North Korea to explore the continent (to go to beyond). The result of the work is going to be documents of the journey. With the work, I want people can think about intersected feeling between the intimate relationship between father and son and the political situation which is impossible to transcend.

Can you tell us one thing that has inspired you, whether it be today, this week, month, or in your lifetime…?

I am inspired by so many mundane things, like the many different compositions of traffic cones on the street in my town. Ah, most recently I’ve really got into my 2 year old nephew.

© All film & images Hyunmin Ryu