In Korea, among the zodiac animals, the chicken is the only bird. It used to carry auspicious meanings, such as heralding the arrival of morning and symbolizing government and fertility. However, nowadays, chickens, along with cows and pigs, have largely come to represent merely ‘chicken’ as a food item. I work on creating diverse forms by repeating numerous animals, each with distinct characteristics. It wasn’t that the same subject was repeated from the start. It all began with the desire to depict a single subject well. Through numerous observations, I completed one subject and gained confidence in its final form. This process was repeated once more, aligning with my personality—stemming from a aversion to mistakes and a fear of failure. Just as everyone wants to showcase their strengths, I put in my best effort to avoid failure by incessantly repeating tasks. This inclination underlies my work.
One day, I experimented by layering several cows to create a wave-like shape, which turned out to be fascinating. While repetitive objects provided a sense of comfort, the visual pleasure emerged from the shapes formed through overlapping. My work, initially initiated by the seemingly mundane task of layering shapes, unexpectedly led to rigorous labor. Through this repetition and the labor-intensive process, my perspective on the subject underwent a significant transformation. What began as a primarily visual examination shifted to a deeper, more genuine interest and assimilation of the subject. In particular, as I drew cows, I felt I was becoming one with the essence of a cow. In the past, when cows were used for farming, there was a saying that cows perform their duties relentlessly, embodying diligence and hard work. While drawing, I feel a similar assimilation into the animal’s essence without conscious intent. Recently, I found myself drawing a tiger and unconsciously embodying its characteristics. The act of drawing continually reshapes the form of animals, rather than rigidly fixing them. This metamorphosis occurs through the labor of painting animals. Repeatedly drawing animals prompts the question, “What do I want this animal to represent?” Various queries lead to evolving paintings. Among the same animals within the image, I incorporate an animal with a distinct appearance, representing ‘me’ assimilated through drawing animals. These forms take various shapes—stars, hearts, mountains, and more. They signify my aspirations for happiness, love, and a return to nature. The red crest of a chicken, the black and white fur of a cow, the stripes of a tiger—my study of the subject commences with the commencement of labor. I search for and study information about the subjects I diligently repeat. In actuality, when we observe animals, we label them as chickens, cows, monkeys, and so on. Even though Chicken 1 and Chicken 2 are different, their names remain the same. This realization struck me as peculiar one day. Despite differences, these animals are categorized under a single name, devoid of individuality.
I aspire to paint animals in varied colors and utilize brushwork to express their unique attributes. Among the zodiac animals I depict—chicken (phoenix), cow, dog, rabbit, and tiger—each held positive meanings and served as protectors in the past. However, these connotations have faded, and the animals have become confined to collective identities rather than individual significance. My aim is to challenge the stereotypes we hold about each animal by gathering them in ways that highlight their differences.