I became familiar with Ran’s work a few weeks ago when I saw one of her pieces displayed at Opera Gallery on Bond Street. I walked into the gallery not really knowing what to expect. I noticed a really detailed display of what I initially thought were beads and other embellishments but as I walked closer I realised that the artwork was actually thousands of buttons and dressmaker pins. I stared curiously and impressed by how one person can create such a intricate piece. I was so impressed I turned around to ask if anyone could see how magical her work was. Nobody was with me to share my excitement so I took to Google to find out who Ran Hwang is and how she creates such beauty that makes you want to announce to everyone how amazing it is. After a quick search I emailed her and asked a few questions about her work.
How did the idea of working with pins, beads and buttons come about?
While working at an embroidery company in New York, I found some abandoned buttons in a corner. At that time, these lifeless, worthless abandoned objects looked like me. (I was working both for a living and art at that time, I hustled and bustled all the time.) I felt the transition of myself to the objects and I wanted to enliven their beauty.
How do you plan what you’re going to work on?
Whenever and wherever I encounter an interesting subject related to my constant interest of conceptual matters. The beauty of transient moment, the chasm between a moment and eternity, visibility and non-visibility. When some visual ideas flash in my head, I draw and do some work with my computer. Then I go through numerous experiments and deeper research to develop those ideas to a complete artwork. Also most part of my work was evolved from the actual production progress.
What materials would you like to use that you haven’t already?
There are some interesting materials that I would like to apply to my work. In particular, I have explored some material to make a freestanding 3 dimensional sculpture (or an object) such as resin in order to create organic and atypical shapes.
Your work uses borrowed materials from the fashion industry would you ever apply your techniques back to fashion to make fabric or clothing?
I am constantly interested in fabric, fashion and related culture. The artwork for Lady Dior As Seen By, commissioned by Christian Dior was one where I recreated their signature bag, Lady Dior as an artwork. I transformed the Lady Dior bag typically made in leather to a transparent sculpture and decorated with my materials; buttons, beads and pins depicting the red plum blossoms.
Do you listen to music when you’re working if so what do you listen to?
I used to listen to meditative music, mostly. These days, I like to listen the classical crossover songs by Sarah Brightman and cello solo. Also I enjoy listening to the Korean traditional string instrument such as Gayageum and Geomungo.
What do you enjoy most about making your pieces?
I always enjoy seeing the progress and learning from it. I am proud to realise the evolution in my work every year. I initiated creating my primary artwork directly hammering onto the wall. I loved working on site-specific installations. I tried to make them on panels in order to make them movable, not stationary. In order to pursue a large scale as a wall-scale, I used multiple panels. One day, I was curious to see the back of my artwork. I imagined it would be profoundly interesting to expose the pins’ penetration onto panels. So I discovered the use of transparent material, such as Plexiglas, for a panel. I also incorporated video projection onto my work. I like the subtle texture and dynamic effect when the moving image is merged with the buttons.
You can see more of Ran’s work here.