Milk

SAMBYPEN Is The King of Fake Art


words by me; images courtesy of InHee Chung

MILK.XYZ PRESENTS: SAMBYPEN from Milk on Vimeo.

SAMBYPEN is an appropriation artist in the truest sense of the word—taking brands and cultural objects and manipulating them for parody’s sake—but his work is in no way unoriginal. On the contrary, SAMBYPEN (born SeDong Kim) is taking Seoul’s art scene to new heights, challenging South Korean cultural norms and traditions with the simplest of questions: why?

After dropping out of Parsons and returning to Seoul (in his own words, “my desire for self-expression was more important than making my parents happy”), SAMBYPEN launched into a career focusing on identity and culture—with parody his preferred form of communication. Now, Seoul is getting a firsthand taste of that penchant for farce—with a brand new exhibit appropriately entitled “EXPERIENCE”. MILK.XYZ visited the spot at Gallery Stan for a window inside the artist’s mind; check the video above (and the interview below) for more.

What initially drew you to art as a means of expression?

After I made a decision to quit college, my parents weren’t very happy about it. I had to stand on my own. While struggling hard with my life, I realized speaking through artwork was the only thing I was good at, and the only way I could express my feelings and thoughts to the world, at least in Seoul as a part of the society.

You left Parsons because you felt your art was only being created for the grade. Where do you now find purpose in your art now that you’re not in school?

I can fully express myself as an individual after quitting school. Of course I learned a lot in school, like techniques, knowledge, the way I think in general, etcetera. But the most difficult thing during school was that the majority of people around me were concerned about getting jobs. It’s not wrong to get a job and have a stable career. My biggest concern was that if I take risks to finish school and get jobs, I’d just rather fuck school and start my own stuff as an individual artist. My desire for self-expression was more important than making my parents happy—by getting a job and having a stable life.

What inspired you to create the “EXPERIENCE” exhibit?

Basically the main image was a bunch of cherries and dotted lines, that might look like stamps or even LSD. I wanted to talk about how people react to my drawing based on their experiences, whether they be from childhood, or educational, traditional, religious, etcetera. For instance, people who have experiences of LSD, they might ‘judge’ me relating to drugs, which is one of the most legally and culturally sensitive issues in Korea. Some will be like, ‘Oh, those cherries are so cute;’ so I get a lot of different reactions to this. But until I specify what it is, it’s nothing. It’s just nothing but an image, and people take the meanings based on their own knowledge, thoughts, and attitudes. Through this exhibition, I wanted people firstly to enjoy it, but most importantly to have experiences that affect the way we think life is happening within a social paradigm that is already structured. By just letting them think and take meanings on their own, I tried to give them experiences of understanding a certain thing. Instead of telling them that the way that they think is not flexible enough, I let them realize and be aware of the ways we think—why do we only think this way? What makes us think in certain ways? People are different from each other; thus, before we judge someone or something, we first must try to understand the ‘why’. It’s hard to summarize my whole idea behind this exhibition, but it’s basically ‘Letting people interpret the meanings on their own.’

Can you talk about the cherry as a recurring symbol?

Cherry is a ‘relationship’. Initially I was visually got attracted to the cherry… but as I was drawing its face, I made two facial expressions that were opposite to each other: one is expressing love, while the other one is expressing disgust. I think it represented what society looked like to me. Before we understand each other, we judge based on financial powers, educational levels, appearances—all of which could be defined as social prejudice.

How does “EXPERIENCE” include and relate to the FAKE ART movement?

FAKE ART is basically the moment people experience something new through an artwork that might be judged as ‘not real art’ in Korean society. Apart from art, a lot of things are highly determined by social ranks in Korea, and the society is following it like a strict law. I want to say to them, ‘Ok, this is my artwork that does not follow the guidelines that are provided to us by the society. But why do we have to follow these rules? What are all these rules about? What do these rules mean to you?’ Something like that…

What are you working on for your next project?

I’m working on more paintings with the theme of ‘outside of the box’. Expressing my ambition to escape the set standard that the society has made and delivering my ideology is my next objective.

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