Tag Archives: illustration

Things are coming along (the end of the world, that is).

As you can see, work on the ‘I Spy’ book is well on its way. This one is based on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It also recounts the story of “The Twa Sisters,” an early murder ballad, a subgenre of music that fascinates me simply because it exists. Why do we have so many songs about dead women?!

There’s not much I could say that hasn’t already been said about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. God bless her soul. I’m Canadian, but I’m aware of how much of an impact she’s had on women’s rights in the United States. There’s also not much I can that’s hasn’t already been said about Republicans in the US Senate trying to quickly fill her seat in less than six weeks after they delayed for nine months and didn’t even bother having a hearing to consider President Barrack Obama’s nominee back in 2016. They’re going to try to put a lifetime appointed judge to heavily lean the courts into the conservatives’ favor for decades to come. They’ll do it before the election; and even if Trump loses, they can still do it during the lameduck session after the election. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order. But what I find more galling is the weakness that the Democrats are demonstrating at the moment.

There are several ways Democrats can delay the Republican-led US Senate from confirming whichever right wing zealot Trump nominates to replace the iconic titan that was Justice Ginsburg. It is amazing that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with ABC, already gave up on one of the most reasonable things the Democrats can do, withhold budget negotiations and shutdown the government. No one wants to shutdown the government. Millions of people could potentially be hurt by such action, but the last time I checked, the government was already shutdown twice during Trump’s term, once over immigration and another over border wall funding. Essentially stealing the Supreme Court for the Republicans is more than enough reason to shutdown the government. A right wing court could strip the rights of workers, voters, unions, and women. It would be a gift to corporate interests as well as religious zealots.

Democrats could also impeach Trump a second time, not that there’s a lack of reason to do so. There’s campaign finance violations, violating the Hatch Act, conspiracy to corrupt the upcoming 2020 elections, advocating political violence, abuse of power by pardoning his crony Roger Stone, attacking the free press, or deadly incompetence in the face of the coronavirus. Putting up articles of impeachment would force the Republican-led Senate to take it on before any other business.

Other than these, they can also eliminate the filibuster or expand the Supreme Court to include more judges. Heck, appoint Hilary Clinton as a Supreme Court judge. She’s an excellent lawyer outside of her political career. That would drive the conservatives nuts, especially the Q-Anon types who believe she’s part of a pedophile Satan-worshiping cabal.

But so far, the only strong voice I hear from the Democrats comes from AOC who says that the death of Ginsburg should be radicalizing people at the moment. The day Justice Ginsburg died, I read Sen. Chuck Schumer “calls on Sen. Mitch McConnell” to withhold appointing her replacement. “Calls on?” He should be demanding it! Then we have Nancy Pelosi not only giving up one of her cards on a televised interview, she almost skips the problem as well as her active role in the process and just goes to the viewers and urges them to vote. Yes, people will vote. In the meantime, the Democrats don’t do anything about the Republicans stealing another Supreme Court seat. It is absolute weakness. It’s great to see tributes online and on television about the impact Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on the judiciary and the lives of ordinary women, but tributes are a dime a dozen. That’s Instagram nonsense that doesn’t cost any political capital. What we have right now is abject weakness after the loss of someone so strong and courageous. Shame on the Democrats.

Continuing with politics, this time in Canada, RIP former Prime Minister John Turner. He only served for 80 days but he was still our leader for a time. He served right after the first Trudeau and was followed by Mulroney who famously instituted Canada’s Goods and Services Tax in the 90s. I didn’t know this, but John Turner became Prime Minister despite being born outside of Canada. Yes, us Canadians don’t limit our highest leadership exclusively to native-born Canadians.

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A New Project

Someone floated to me the idea of making an ‘I Spy’ book. This sounds quite daunting, but having a project that would last me a good while actually sounds very appealing to me. Like my previous piece, it would mean drawing much larger images in order to be much better for print. I wouldn’t rely too much on text because viewers could easily see them and psychoanalyze me to death. And come approximately five to six months time, I would have enough images for a small collection for print. The only downside is planning and coming up with images, but that’s already something I struggle with on a daily basis.

This wouldn’t be my first foray into making a book. I once published a collection of my thesis works. It was a way for me to exhibit small works and have people examine them at home at their leisure as opposed to being in a gallery. I didn’t really have any expectations when I made the book. I just wanted to have all of the works in a collection, and then I could move on. What I didn’t realize is that once I had it registered with an ISBN number, the Canadian book archives would also want a copy for their collection. It’s been years now, and many of the images in that collection is not as strong as I would like and not really representative of what I do these days. Looking at the image above, this isn’t really what I do now. I would like to think I am better than this. It would be a shame if I die and the only thing that survives of my work are those images in the Canadian library archives somewhere in Ottawa.

I think making an ‘I Spy’ book would be very much the same process as my previous book, but simpler due to the planned number of images. My previous book had roughly 60 images in it, while an ‘I Spy’ book would be more like ten images. It would barely be a comic book and more like a pamphlet. Due to the small number of pages, I’m hoping I could design the book and have it print to order, as in print them whenever someone buys them online, instead of having a minimum of 250 copies printed in the initial batch which would leave me with so many books I have no idea how to sell. I remember having my first book and looking at stacks of them and wondering, “Now what?” Do I call Barnes and Noble?

This “Now what?” situation is notorious especially living in Seoul and having no storage for anything. This is why I avoid doing sculptures these days. On my previous projects, I had all of these works and not know what to do with them. As pleased as I am with materializing what I imagined in my head into actual physical objects, they end up becoming more burdensome than anything. This is why I stick with small drawings.

In my previous work, the hunt for words and images is just a collateral activity. The main goal was to collect my works and present them to the public. Looking back now, it was obnoxiously arrogant of me. Who would want a collection of my works? I’m an unknown artist. Anyway, the purpose of an ‘I Spy’ book is the hunt for images, the artist and viewing his work (and knowing him) are the collateral. Older and more experienced, I know that no one gives a damn about me. Just make interesting images.

The biggest fear for me here is that it would mean stepping away from my usual style of work for a while, a style that I’ve been comfortable with for so many years now. But I guess we all have to change things up a bit sometimes.

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Filling the Page

FullPage

Someone asked me to fill an A4 page with images that I normally draw in my artwork. I understand they’re for tattoos, but the problem is, my images are a tad too small for tattoos. I decided to enlarge my usual imagery and use them to fill a page. I skipped using text; instead, I filled the negative space in order to obscure most of my images. The images are much, much bigger, but viewers still need to squint and look closer in order to wade through the chaos and see all of them.

The result is more frenetic than I initially expected. It’s very pulpy, much like Robert Crumb. But I still think it’s still quite similar to my usual style of work. For those looking, here are the things I managed to squeeze into the image:

The final moments of Elisa Lam

The Queen of England

Vivian Ward getting picked up by Edward Lewis (Snakes and Ladders)

The secret life of Vivian Ward (Snakes and Ladders)

Rising politician (Snakes and Ladders)

Gimp (Snakes and Ladders)

The noble raccoon

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

Bob Ross

Pikachu

Peak at you

The death of Osamu Dazai

The death of Tantalus

Bored nun (The problem with Mariaaaaaaaa!)

Hockey

Put the lotion in the basket

The birth of Venus

Confused Moses

Ultraman vanquishing evil

Dancing pallbearers

The Man from Another Place

Gord Downie dancing by the photocopier

The logdriver dancing so lightly

The Vetruvian Man

The fear of umbrellas poking my eyes out

Sumo wrestler

The Flying Nun

B-17 Flying Fortress

Surfing man

Skating man

Dragon reaching for the prize

The assassination of JFK

Cerberus

Hidden panties

The Apollo-11 launch

Shooting needle

St. Michael fighting a serpent

Cat person

Mahjong time

Prison tattoo machine

Gobbling meds

Octopus because there must always be tentacles

A creature from Bosch’s hell

The Devil

Dr. Strangelove

The Three Principles of Alchemy

Cool-Aid Man

Rats

Booby mermaid

The human digestive system

Voltes V

The noble deer

Smoking man watching everything

A family of giraffe

Waldo

Bigfoot

Cherubs

A centipede

Typhon the Titan

A murder

A birdcage

Dr. Pepper

An alligator

The piece was fun but I’ll probably go back to drawing small in my next piece. Ideas and commissions are always welcome since they tend to present me with problems which turn to opportunities for exploration into unfamiliar styles. Also, they tend to free me from the burden of artist’s block. The only problem is, the works sometimes tend to stray away into something a little too alien from my usual style.

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Where Religion and Covid Meets

Abstinence

Back in 2017, after years of scandals and people protesting everyday in Seoul, Park Gun-Hye, the conservative president of South Korea and daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-Hee was ousted from her position, formally impeached, and sent to prison for corruption. She was sentenced for twenty-four years. The protests, which was key in removing Park, was fueled by the president’s inept response to the Sewol ferry disaster where 304 people, mostly high school students, died. This, plus her government’s push for censorship and the discovery that the daughter of a cult leader was unofficially acting as her right hand man and was privy to state secrets pushed people to the streets. It was a natural groundswell which started from journalism, to the Internet, to mainstream media and some celebrities openly pushing for her ouster, and down to the streets. The impeachment of Park Gun-Hye was even seen as a model for how some countries *cough, United States, cough* should handle massive abuse and corruption by the government.

Conservatives in the country afterwards saw these events and tried to emulate it. They tried to push for the impeachment of the current president on made-up charges. Coddling to North Koreans, being inept, being a criminal, anything. The charges were extremely inept since none of them were based on provable facts, and the current president was enjoying an extremely high approval rating when his opponents started to encourage the rallies. Every weekend, they rallied their supporters, mostly made up of senior citizens, to the same place where the former protests used to take place. The protests became a mixture of confused ideologies, Internet rumors, and religion. People walked around with the Korean flag, the American flag to symbolize freedom from the supposed dictatorship of the current president, and the Israeli flag for whatever reason. In some instances, there were even signs asking Donald Trump to bomb North Korea. So much for being patriotic and Christian.

I work near where these protests occurred. They’re supposed to happen only on weekends, but sometimes I would see them on Thursday and Friday afternoons as well. The place I work at is also close to a park popular among retirees. There, old people would congregate, wander about, and shop for useless wares and snake oil. I notice that the same people that walk around the park, are basically the same type of people going to these protests. Often, the people around the park would be carrying Korean and American flags as well.

See, these protests have become more like a social gathering for people. It’s a thing to do in the afternoon. I passed by these protests a couple of times and many people are just chilling. There are even snack and liquor vendors. The frustration and rage that political and religious leaders are fueling, I believe, tend to be more rooted to longing for a feeling of being in control, longing for a time when they were younger and more relevant to society… which is ironically back when the country was under a dictatorship. And really, there is no concrete reason to any of their demands.

A: Impeach the president.

B: Why?

A: Because he’s corrupt.

B: Really, why?

A: Because, uhm, *Insert this politician under him* was corrupt/caught in a scandal/etc.

B: Okay, but he was let go. That’s not the president.

A: Well, uhm, look at the economy! (and on and on we go.)

The people attending these protests are at best bored. At worst, they are stubborn, brainwashed morons. They are being taken advantage of by political and religious leaders. A few days ago, these protests and the mega church where one of their leaders con his followers became the spark that started another spike in covid-19 cases, much worse than the previous ones we had in the country. The religious leader, Pastor Jun, was diagnosed with covid-19. And even after being diagnosed, he was caught walking around, smiling, and not properly wearing a mask. Asked about the disease, he claimed that it was spread by North Koreans who aimed to sabotage his church and the movement. In Canada, this would be seen as a false claim of terrorism. It is irresponsible and illegal.

Now people who attended the rally as well as the police they clashed with, who had no choice but to be there, are now at risk of having the disease. Thousands of police officers are being tested, but tracing all of the people who attended the rally and members of the church is more challenging. Before all of this, doctors were already on strike, demanding significant change in the country’s medical infrastructure, as well as an increase in pay for working in remote areas. Just yesterday, a member of the church who was diagnosed with covid-19 escaped from his quarantine and was caught in a coffee shop. These people are insane. Things were already bad. Religious nuts, craven politicians, and brainwashed senior citizens just made it worse.

Again, South Korea is on high alert. People in Seoul are advised not to travel outside of the city. Masks are required in most workplaces and allowed to be taken off mostly only on one’s desk. Gatherings after work are discouraged. Gatherings of more than fifty people are discouraged. Church services are canceled, as well as afterschool academies. My Korean class was again canceled yesterday. I’m not sure when classes will resume. Many stores were closed yesterday. Clubs, sports facilities, karaoke bars, and PC rooms are closed. Personally, this virus has already cost me money this year, and Pastor Jun and his followers just cost me even more. The economy was going back up but this recent resurgence has brought the economy back down again.

The first case of covid-19 in the country was brought by missionaries who traveled to Wuhan and kept their actions a secret for days. It has spiked several times in many churches. And now, the latest spike is caused by one of the most politically influential churches in the country. I don’t know what it is they do in these churches that they often become vectors for the disease. I’ve gone to coffee shops, bars, schools, company buildings, and restaurants, and they don’t become vectors for the disease as often as these churches.

The nighttime landscape of Seoul is dotted with so many neon red crosses. Unless the government cracks down on these churches, which are technically businesses, this virus will spike again and again. The wonderful thing about God is that he is omnipresent. People could still talk to him at home.

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I Notice There’s a Lot of Suicide in My Entries.

Fountain

So a neighbor committed suicide on Monday evening. She jumped from the 13th floor of the building and landed on someone’s car. This was after a series of fights she and her husband had been having, at least according to the security personnel in the apartment. Apparently, she didn’t pass away immediately, instead, they lost her on the way to the hospital. I only hope she immediately lost consciousness and was brain dead by the time she hit the ground. What keeps most people from committing suicide is the dread of immeasurable physical pain on the way to dying. The thought of suffering through minutes, seconds of dying horrifies me.

Compounding the tragedy, she leaves behind two children, both no older than 10 years old.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced suicide around me. I still remember a few years ago seeing someone’s leg twitching after falling a mere four floors. What’s always constant through these experiences, and I guess with death in general, is the surreal feeling, the numbness. It takes a while for things to register. For one, it takes me a while to realize that the building will now be haunted, and elevator rides (with the window peeking into every floor hallway) will now be a tad creepier.

Korea is consistently high on the suicide rate list, surpassing its neighbor, Japan. It’s not unusual to hear about high-profile suicides happening. Just recently, I wrote about the mayor of Seoul committing suicide after sexual harassment allegations. I believe these high-profile deaths only fuels more suicides in the country. And as someone who suffers from waves of depression and anxiety, I must admit I occasionally toy with the idea of dying in my lowest state, often approaching dying much like an engineering problem: how does one do it quickly and with the least pain? And I always end up distracting myself or my cowardice overcoming my despair (a win?).

Anyway, there’s been a couple of interesting artsy developments that happened this week (a couple of commissions, being included in a magazine), but a stranger dying close by just kinda overwhelms everything at the moment. 2020 continues to be a shit show.

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Dadadadadada

Fountain

I’ve been really busy this week, so just a quick posting of a drawing, or as I like to see it, a self portrait. I’m a urinal of a human being.

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Posts from Coward Town

Spacecraft

Back in 2017, a man in BC was eating cherries and he happened upon a couple of cracked seeds. He ended up eating the pits inside He later experienced stomach and chest pains, dizziness, trouble breathing, and disorientation. He was hospitalized and was later found to have symptoms of cyanide poisoning. The two cherry pits, chewed and reacting with digestive juices, essentially produced cyanide in his stomach.

I’ve always heard rumors about apple seeds, almonds, and cherry pits having a bit of cyanide. Later, I learned that so many fruit pits do contain toxins. I guess it wasn’t just me because watching Ozark (Spoilers!), one of the main characters dies after being poisoned with two ground up cherry pits in his coffee. Looking it up online, many people have been curious about cherry pits’ toxicity and “experts” have either been warning that only two pits could kills a person or that one would need to chew around 30 pits in order to get a toxic effect. Fortunately, cherry seeds have a very hard shell and it’s very difficult to crack one inside your mouth. Most people who swallow cherry seeds probably pass them with the toxic pit inside unmolested.

Last Thursday, I bought a pack of cherries. Planting so many cherry seeds, I have experience cracking cherry seeds open. With a vice grip, I got the skill down pat. Looking around online, it seems that 30-40 pits chewed would be toxic to humans. I’ve seen a video of a person eating one cherry pit, so I’m thinking if the body can neutralize one or two pits’ worth of naturally-formed cyanide, 30 to 40 or so would probably overwhelm a person’s liver. Now after an hour of enjoying a bag of cherries, it took me less than thirty minutes to have over forty cherry pits extracted. It’s simply not that difficult. And looking at my harvested pits, they are so small, they look like a handful of pine nuts. I could probably mix them with regular nuts, eat them while mindlessly watching a dumb Youtube video, and I’d be on my merry way.

As written by Hammerstein and Kerr, and famously sang by Paul Robeson, “I’m tired of living, but scared of dying.” The scariest thought is not so much as the quick deterioration from poisoning but the idea of surviving it. Nerve damage, losing organ functions, brain damage, etc. I already wrote a will long time ago, which despite not being the intent, the document reads like a really passive-aggressive suicide note. It would be super awkward to have tried suicide, suffer damages, torture people around, and have them really know what you thought about them. As if life wasn’t unbearable enough.

To a determined person, cracking 30-40 seeds isn’t so much a deterrent. It’s not a hurdle. Chewing the pits might even be pleasant. They might taste good. However, it’s the cowardice. The cowardice is the deterrent.

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Coronavirus Life

Heart_apple

I didn’t realize that most of 2020 is going to be me reacting to the coronavirus. It’s been six months now since Korea woke up to Valentine’s Day with a spike in infections. Though New Zealand has been the only country to fully be rid of coronavirus infections, Seoul has been regarded by many as the gold standard in dealing with the pandemic, especially in terms of contact tracing, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. However, to this day, Korea is still struggling to have infections lower than 30 a day.

A few weeks ago, the country was on its way to having zero daily infections, but after relaxing on rules on bars and clubs, a few clusters popped up. And now ironically, we’re experiencing occasional clusters cause a rise in infections, most often from religious gatherings. A lot of recorded infections are getting caught via the immigration process and are coming from foreigners, but those are at least getting caught coming in.

What’s annoying, is that many foreigners don’t seem to care much about local regulations regarding the virus. It’s not unusual to see foreigners walking around with no masks on. I was planning to go to Haeundae Beach in Busan, but then I see that the beaches are not only super crowded, foreigners are lounging around the beach insisting on not wearing masks even when prompted by authorities to do so. Just a few days ago, a group of foreigners with US military were shooting fireworks at buildings and people, basically ignoring the police who meekly tried to stop them. Ugh. Youth + coronavirus + hooliganism = gross.

Just last week, my evening Korean classes were canceled for the month because one student from a different morning class was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Fortunately, they traced the virus and found that he contracted it from his workplace, which unfortunately is just a few blocks from where I work. They traced his actions using the mobile app we use to enter our class, and through his credit card activities. They also looked at CCTV footage of him and found that he was wearing the mask the whole time he was in the building. This raised a big alarm for my company and I was worried that it might affect me or my job. It still might. I tried to get tested for the virus myself, but I was told that I needed to exhibit symptoms first in order to qualify for a free screening. If I was “just curious,” I would have to pay the equivalent of $120 US.

Now, I’m quite relieved at the amount of surveillance available to track the one person who canceled my classes for the month. I do realize that a lot of this would be impossible in the US or other countries. Not only is the infrastructure not there, but people would also be unwilling to have their privacy or personal freedoms breached.

I mentioned that I was planning to go to the beach. I’ve been looking to travel outside of Seoul for vacation this year since I won’t be able to travel overseas. I don’t really travel around Korea since it can be just as expensive as traveling abroad. Why pay big money to travel in Korea when you can use the same money to travel somewhere more exotic? And yeah, I’ve already done as many exotic things in the country as I can. It takes quite a bit to excite me. So yeah, I’m not too excited getting stuck in traffic going somewhere crowded within Korea this year.

Aside from my vacation, Korean education, and work being affected, I haven’t worked out in a gym for six months now. Though I try to watch what I eat, I could say I’m currently in the worst shape of my life. Living in a small Korean apartment, I don’t really have the space to work out. As for working out in gyms outside, that would still be ill-advised due to the coronavirus. We’ve been ordered to wear masks even while we’re working on our desks at work, and it’s been quite uncomfortable. I can only imagine how hard that would be in the gym or anywhere working out.

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A few interesting things of late.

The mayor of Seoul disappeared last Thursday. And after hours of searching he was found to have committed suicide due to the pressures of a recently opened investigation into allegations of him sexually harassing an assistant. An ally of feminist and progressive causes, it was a bit of a turn especially in the age of #Metoo.

I wasn’t aware of the allegations when I found out about the mayor missing. I remember I used to work with one of the mayor’s assistants, so I shot her a message, “Hey, where’s the mayor?!” just as a way to keep in touch. A couple of back and forts later, I moved on to other things. The next day, I learned that the mayor passed away. I also learned that he could potentially be a monster to women in his close circles. Then I go back that woman I was messaging the day before. Does she know? Has she heard rumors before? Surely, she must. Do I message back, “Hey, sorry about the news”? How do you respond in that situation?

An odd thing about Korean law is that once a suspect of an investigation commits suicide, the investigation is immediately dropped. Now, I have no dog in this fight. The left in country seem to be suggesting that the mayor was a victim of a smear job while the conservatives are trying to press for more investigations. As a westerner, I figure this shouldn’t be the end of the investigation but the beginning of one. A person is dead, and at least one crime might have been committed. Couldn’t the victim still press charges on his estate for damages if the allegations are true? Couldn’t she press and claim damages on his office? How many victims are there? Alternatively, if he is indeed the victim of a smear, isn’t that a crime in itself? I know defamation is a serious crime in Korea. They should be trying to root out this conspiracy if it exists. This is why there should be an investigation.

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ICE in the US is an evil organization. It has canceled the student visas of all international students if they’re only taking online classes due to the pandemic. They are thus trying to pressure schools to open classes and force the students to take the classes in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This is pure evil. International students are a big source of revenue for schools so they are facing a risk of losing a huge chunk of funds for this year and the foreseeable future. Students on the other hand are now on a limbo. Trump has screwed with their future.

And as I was learning more about this, I also learn that ICE will now be training people on how to make citizens arrest. Great! Empower racists to make citizens arrest on brown people. As if things weren’t bad enough as it is with the police getting carried away with the power they have. Now they’re going to let loose a bunch of overeager racists with their guns on brown people just trying to get by in the middle of a global pandemic. Ugh. Maybe those international students are better off studying elsewhere. The US under Trump is becoming a hole.

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The City’s Limited Funds

Cherubs

When I was training as an artist, I had my heart set on being a sculptor. My first professor was very encouraging. He taught me how to weld and work with steel. I didn’t have much money back then, but he allowed me to make pieces out of the scraps we had in the sculpture studio. I really enjoyed making small pieces of metal art. I was often in the sculpture building early in the morning hammering and shaping steel like a prairie anachronism.

Come second year, I had a different sculpture professor, Gordon Reeve. I didn’t like him one bit. He wasn’t shy in showing his favoritism to a couple of the female students. He tends to be quite cliquey with the thesis students as well. Suddenly, it was like high school all over again. Only the professor was one of the asshole kids, and I have to prove my worth to him. Instead of challenging me, I was uninspired. The only thing I learned from him is that when showing your works during a review, make sure to have good lighting and environment. Get ready to amp up the bullshit. If the only thing a student learns is how to sell works instead of how to make good art, then the 120 hr program was a waste. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him. I say it was him.

Fast forward a few years later and I learned that he was commissioned by the city to create a sculpture in Assiniboine Park. This was a park near my old high school. I used to go there all the time. I would eat lunch there, take a walk, visit the zoo, or enjoy the Leo Mol sculpture garden (Leo Mol was a Ukranian-Canadian sculptor, superior to Gordon Reeves.). Reeves already had several public sculptures in the city. This one however, was the worst. Named ‘Agassiz Ice,’ it’s a set of aluminum sculptures modeled after a glacier in Nunavut. In the grandest of imagination, they would be imposing structures conveying the relentless force of time and nature. Instead, the city got a set of humble figures which look like aluminum sheets the size of a couple of minivans.

I was upset about it. Not only was I hearing about Gordon Reeve again, but I was terribly unimpressed at how the city spends its money on public art. The piece looks like any mediocre government-mandated corporate art in front of buildings here in Seoul. They could’ve used that money to fund other art programs instead. Heck, they could’ve used that money to fund better artwork. It’s illegal, but I had half a mind to have taggers paint a price tag on it, making the piece mine, much in the same vein as Marcel Duchamp. But I also wanted to send a message to viewers as to how much the city was spending on mediocrity. I mean, Google it yourself. Doesn’t that sculpture look like any sculpture one would find prior to entering a golf course? Anyway, I was convinced by artist friends that it was a bad idea. And since they’re the ones who have to put up with it and I just simply have to not read any news about Winnipeg for a while, I decided not to commit any act of vandalism.

But why am I writing about Gordon Reeve and Agassiz Ice? I just thought about them because recently, I had to explain one of the cultural ‘attractions’ in my hometown, the Canada Museum for Human Rights, a $350 million project sitting in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. It is a museum designed to educate visitors about the sufferings in the world. If the news and the Internet is not enough for you, then drive over to downtown Winnipeg and learn about all of the atrocities in the world! Ironically, from its creation, it was rife with controversy. Not only was it built in Indian sacred ground, the inclusion of what was to be exhibited has turned into a suffering Olympics among the city’s different cultural groups. Not to mention, it doesn’t even include the current Israel/Palestinian conflict. That’s our cultural attraction, folks. A museum built to either infuriate or depress visitors.

So yeah, that’s what bugs me about my hometown sometimes. We spend so much money on things that don’t make anyone happy. So much money on grand visions that end up either being incredibly mediocre or simply a headache. It’s not cultural, but for less than what they spent, they could’ve built the largest indoor water park in the Western Provinces. That would’ve at least brought in some tourists into the city. I mean, seriously? Outside of school field trips, who will drive to Winnipeg to get depressed?

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The Hobbyist

Hands Up

I don’t mind when celebrities later on in their career fancy themselves as artists and try to take up painting or photography. What gets to me is when they rely more on their celebrity status and the art they create and sell is clearly BS. I remember Richard Grieco, an actor who was famous in the 80s, had an art show with works clearly inspired if not poor copies of Pollock’s work. When asked about Pollock, he denied ever being inspired by him. Ugh. What a hack! Shows like these with garbage art amount to nothing more than expensive autograph sales.

Now back to 2016, there’s a story about a Korean singer-turned-artist who was charged with fraud. Cho Youngnam was “indicted of fraudulently selling artwork with his signature on it after having other people create most of the work and “doing only a small portion himself.” He was accused of paying a man surnamed Song to paint 21 pieces from 2011 to 2015, 17 of which he sold for a total of 153 million won ($126,000).

Cho claimed that it was common in the art world to have artists hire assistants to create most of the work. Initially, the court found that it was fraudulent for Cho not to divulge that his paintings were mostly done by his assistant. But then a higher court reversed the decision and proclaimed that buyers don’t need to know that the works were made with the assistance of another person, and the fact that there was an assistant was not an essential information in the sale.

A public plea session was held and it’s upsetting to hear Cho’s side argue that it’s customary for artists to have assistants do most of the work. For one, it’s not common. Second, their argument showed a lack of knowledge of art history or perhaps relied on the general public’s lack of knowledge of art history.

They cited artist Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ which was a simple store-bought urinal. The only thing the artist contributed was it’s positioning and the fact that Duchamp signed it. Duchamp was a pioneer of the Dada movement which used found objects in creating art. It was no secret that he was using objects he didn’t manufacture himself. Instead, he manipulated them and gave them new forms. ‘Fountain’ was created as a form of mockery of the Society of Independent Artist’s rule which accepted all works of art as long as the artist paid a fee. And honestly, looking at the number of pay-to-play galleries in Seoul. “Fountain” would serve as a biting critic of how the art world is, particularly in deciding who gets to have a show or not.

Cho was not making any statement regarding the material nor the process of his work. The fact that 90% of the work was done by a more skilled assistant was not part the work’s story. If Duchamp acted like Cho, Duchamp would have pretended to have moulded the urinal himself. It was a ridiculous comparison. If Cho wants to position himself as someone who thinks up concepts and hires other artists to fulfill his vision, he could very well have done that. Doris Salcedo is a famous installation artist who uses furniture. She famously stacked hundreds of chairs in an alley in her piece ‘Istanbul.’ She didn’t build all of the furniture herself, nor did she stack all of the chairs by her lonesome. Cho could’ve started out by doing the same. Instead, he marketed himself as a singer who found he had talent painting. He didn’t market himself as a singer who had ideas for paintings other more talented people could paint.

I grant that artists will have assistants and apprentices. One of my favorite sculptors is Camille Claudel, who was the student, mistress, and assistant to Rodin. Some may speculate that some of Rodin’s famous works have Claudel’s hand in them, but it is undeniable that even before Caludel, Rodin was already a known genius. Also, both artists shone as separate great artists, though Rodin’s shadow loomed large over Claudel. Cho is no Rodin. He is a rich singer who found a hobby.

I haven’t read the book in the article, Aesthetics Scandal, but I want to look at the pull quote, “The manner of conduct that the Korean art world showed during the process was regrettable. They provided the wrong information to the judiciaries for the first hearing. Saying that physical execution is crucial to art, that authorship lies in the skills of the execution, that fine art does not use assistants, that one is only allowed to use an assistant when the process of the work takes the theme as a meta experiment […] All pieces of wrong information that stemmed from a lack of understanding of contemporary art were used as evidence for the first court’s ruling. The art world is in need of self-reflection and introspection.”

I agree, there is so much nuance to art that it is unwise to say make sweeping rules regarding authorship. However, when it comes to law, defining fraud is much clearer. In Canada, “Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence… defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service” commits fraud. How were the pieces sold? What was Cho’s compelling story regarding finding a new passion in visual art? Did he say he discovered he had a knack for painting of did he say he had a knack for coming up with ideas for his assistant to paint? Isn’t this just a visual arts version of Millie Vanilli? Someone else sang and recorded the songs, while two guys lip-synced and danced to them. For Cho, someone else did most of the hard work, while he painted a few corners and acted like an artist.

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