We recently curated an online group exhibition titled “Mind asleep, Body awake” and you can view it here. We asked four artists to be a part of it and Leegan Koo was the first artist to come to mind. His dream-like dark surreal paintings captivated me at first sight and I haven’t been able to get my eyes off of them since.
What is your first memory of being creative? (Project, specific artwork, etc.)
My first memory of being creative is when I built a chair with scraps instead of the wooden trivet I was supposed to make in art class. I was about ten years old.
When do you realize what you were making was art?
I painted a piece called “The J Train” in 2011, and it was the first painting I created with what might be called artistic consciousness. Although I’d painted quite a few pieces before that, I’d painted them as I pleased with a sole purpose of self-expression, not caring much about how I paint and what the result may be, and certainly didn’t consider them art. With “The J Train,” I was for the first time acutely conscious of what I was trying to create on canvas, how to go about it, and the skills that are needed to achieve the goal. I struggled so much with the piece and learned a lot from the process.
Do you have any official art training or are you self-taught?
I dropped out of college after one semester and took a couple of workshops here and there. So I guess I had some official training, but I mostly studied and practiced alone at home.
What’s the process of creating like for you? Do you have to set the mood? What goes on when creating a new piece?
I usually watch tv shows and have drinks while painting. It helps me to focus and finish the job.
I once said in an article your works reminded me of ‘fever dreams.’ So when I was planning a show about dreams your work immediately came to mind. Do you see your works as dreams? Do dreams inspire any of your creations? If so would you say these works are pleasant dreams or nightmares?
I can see my works as dreams. Like a dream we don’t remember but wake up with such a strong feeling that we keep thinking about it, I hope my paintings’ atmosphere stirs up the viewers’ deeper emotions and provokes imagination. Also, they are similar to dreams in that the characters in the paintings are placed in many alternate realities just as we experience different realities in dreams.
I can’t think of a painting that came to be as a result of any specific dream, but I tend to dream a lot and find them to be powerful tools of self-understanding. I think my paintings can be both pleasant dreams and nightmares, as the line between them can be ambiguous.
What’s the significance of Spongebob in your work? We often see characters in very somber or dark settings but with a smiling SpongeBob head.
Spongebob’s bright yellow color and smiley face helps to create the contrast, and I like the jarring effect that comes from it. It’s up to the viewers to see the big smile as genuine or something more insidious.
Could you tell us what the meaning or inspiration is in the work “Late-Night Raman” featured in this show?
I got the idea from looking at the microwave in my house. I was imagining a microwave turning into something like a time machine or a teleporter. I wanted to combine the everydayness of eating ramen at night with a surreal quality of a machine that teleports cup noodles infinitely.
What’s something you hope viewers and collectors experience when viewing your works?
I hope they savor the mood of the paintings and find an emotional connection. I also want them to have fun, imagining what’s going on in the painting or simply enjoying the characters in unlikely settings.
(If you are an artist and would like to be removed from our website simply email us and we will be happy to take down the article. We claim no ownership of any of the images featured, all copyrights go to the artists we feature.)
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