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Saturday,December 14,2019
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The charm of iron art: Artist, Kang Eun-goo

 These days we are so busy that there is little time to reflect upon the world around us.  Nevertheless, there is one man who has found an oasis of calm in metropolitan Seoul. Meet Kang Eun-goo, an artist who works on the iron and steel around him to create interesting three-dimensional forms.  Kang works in the 'Supyo Metal Culture Studio', an area in Seoul known for its hardware stores.  What makes him different from other artists is that he uses iron as his sole material and, by doing so, transforms this most functional of utilities into beautiful works of art. The Post interviewed him to ask about his artistic philosophy.

He said that he was curious about metal from an early age as his father worked in a metal-cutting store on Cheong-Gye-Chen street for twenty years.  Because of this, he was able to observe directly the whole process of metal-working. It was here, he said, where he began to see the artistic potential in using metal.  Later on, when at Dongguk University, he came under the influence of Professor Kim Hwang-rok in the Sculpture Department.  From this time on, Kang Eun-goo began to develop his life-long fascination with metal.

My first attraction to iron, he says, was observing the phenomenon of rust.  The effect of rust produces an interesting color pattern.  An example of this is the minute color-changing differences between metal on a hot and a wet day.  Furthermore, iron is very hard and is a much more durable material than other materials.

The transformation of raw materials into sensible pieces of art is the process through which an artist’s feelings are expressed.  He said: "What we can't explain logically can be articulated by using material that transcends the original usage.  When I produce a piece of work, I first find a shape that appeals to me and then I take a picture of it.  Next, I draw a rough sketch of it.  Finally, I reproduce the original feeling I had about the work onto the iron itself."  By following this process, he is able to express the minor differences existing between common objects.  He tries to express not only the material’s appearance but also its emotions in his imagination.

For example, his work 'City of Falling Snow', expresses his thinking about the city. When he was a student, he found walking around the city environment quite boring.  However, through the nurturing of an artistic sensibility, he is now able to see his environment with new eyes.  The city can be transformed through artistic perception.  Another example of this new perspective is his work ' Dongguk University’s MyeongJin Hall'.  He said: "When I was a senior, I went onto the rooftop of Myeongjin after finishing an all-night work session.  At that time, I was struck by many memories about my life on campus.  The aforementioned work brings forth the memory of my time there.”

His most important work is undoubtedly: 'Night Scene at the Iron Mill'.  This work represents his feelings after visiting the Pohang Iron Mill.  He expresses in this work the iron mill’s relentless all-day operations.  The image of the iron mill’s limitless industry finds its correlate in the artistic passion of the piece.  This was, in actual fact, the first exhibited work by Kang.  Even so, the harmony of the image is very well presented.  Because the Mill represents technological precision, Kang, also, wants his work to follow the same strict laws. He said: “If I make a mistake, even a millimeter, in my design, then I will have to re-start everything.”

From his student days at Dongguk, he has an unforgettable memory of the work place near the swimming pool.  For example, last summer, he makes many remembrances of it where he worked all night.  He said, "I can't forget that place itself." ( This is out of place and unintelligible! Either rewrite it and put it somewhere else or erase) For him, metal is an expressive medium; there are so many ways of utilizing iron.  He intends to create many more designs using this medium. 

However, he said, “I am not going to persist in using only iron material.”  He plans to create a cultural space in Seoul city within a year. If the situation arises, he will open a creative space; if one can’t be found, he will go abroad to find one. 

The pieces we saw are magnificent works of art.  The meaningful works in the Kang’s workplace are all different.  The only thing they have in common is the special expressive method of its artist ? Kang Eun-goo.  Like him, we should try to see the real beauty of the city and adorn our public spaces with inspirational designs.

Bang Hye-jung  bhj9154@dongguk.edu

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