Koo Jeong A interview: Artist talks about living life as a nomad

Jeong A: 'I prefer the dusk – taking inspiration from the shadows and darkness'

Friday 03 October 2014 13:15 BST
Koo Jeong A photographed in Holland Park in London
Koo Jeong A photographed in Holland Park in London

On Koo Jeong A’s website it says that she “lives and works everywhere”, so it is not that surprising that she asks to be photographed in Holland Park in London.

She takes the photographer to several of her favourite haunts, where she meets friends to have creative discussions that feed into her work. “I prefer the dusk – taking inspiration from the shadows and darkness.”

Jeong A was born in 1967 in Seoul, South Korea, and came to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. “It was a place where students came to talk,” she says, miming talking. “I made my work and threw it away so they could not talk about my work.” The teachers said to choose any material, so she chose to work in sugar cubes at that point, and “lots of materials in the supermarket”.

This minimal yet poetic sculptural installation work led to her first show in Europe at the Musée d’arte Modern de la Ville in Paris, and also to her signing with the prestigious gallery Yvonne Lambert, with whom she still works in Europe and New York.

When she was in Paris, her younger sister came to visit her from South Korea and they went to London to see the sights. Her sister wanted to see London Zoo, and they happened upon the aviary. Koo was impressed by the extraordinary architecture of the cage and only later when she was investigating a series of slide-based artists’ books discovered that the design was by Cedric Price, British visionary architect and theorist, and was his first and only building.

Later she visited Price in his house in London and asked him to write a short text on her work. Price has been the inspiration for the piece in the Tate Collection and also one in the Swiss Pavilion of the Architecture Biennale.

I wonder about the curatorial inspiration of Price before putting two and two together. I remember that Price is also the obsession of her long-term partner Hans Ulrich Obrist of the Serpentine Gallery, with whom she moved to London when he took up his job at the gallery in 2006.

Many of Koo’s installations are site specific. In 2012 she was commissioned to do a phosphorescent skate park in France and she is now working on a film about the skate-boarders. I question her about her interests in architecture and design, and she says, “If you are curious, you expand your ideas into different areas. You meet writers, architects, designers. You are forced to learn how to speak to young skaters. You are so curious you cannot be expert of one thing.”

Drawing has long been part of her practice. I ask if she drew as a child, and she is surprised. “No, I was out with my friends, exploring the city.” This seems apt, when you see her fearless exploration of her “nomadic life” across the various fields of creativity.

Koo Jeong A: Cedric & FRAND, 2014 is at Pilar Corrias, Stand B19, Frieze, Regent’s Park, London NW1 (www.pilarcorrias.com) 15 to 18 October

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