Sep - Nov, 2021
2F, 16-4, Dosan-daero 81-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
The 4th exhibition of JW Art Gallery <CALL ME BY YOUR NAME> is the second solo exhibition of tattoo artist Gong Greem at the same time. She majored in the metal craft in college but became a tattoo artist later. Gong Greem who is acclaimed as a rising star for tattoo artists with delicate skill has been started to be known for her steady works. She has showed her designs through Instagram (@gong_greem). The designs of new attempts such as a beautiful flower, a cute cat, a feast of fresh grass, and delicious fruits applied for tattoo images bring up still-life paintings and have changed stereotypes about tattoos.
Opening a new chapter with a delicate skill such as a pictorial tattoo
A middle school girl who liked to draw decided on her own future early. Artist Gong Ji-seon a.k.a Gong Greem has been drawing something all the time since then. The only thing that has changed is the human body instead of the canvas, but she still paints what she wants.
Art student to a tattooist
She was interested in illustration, but majored in metal crafts. However, she was unable to adapt herself to school life. Finally, she took some time to start a part-time job. One day, when she showed her sketch to a co-worker she met there, she suddenly was told that she would do well if she became a tattoo artist. After that, as fate would have it, she fell in love with that.
“I still like illustrations. But temperamentally, it is uncomfortable and awkward to approach people first and publicize my work. Fortunately, many people like the tattoo even if I simply upload the result. Besides, the more I do tattoos, the more fun I get and the more I want to do better.”
A pretty tattoo feels like a garden
An artist with over 950,000 followers on Instagram (@gong_greem). As you scroll down on her page, your eyes looking at the bright images must be full of curiosity and sparkling. You must feel like looking at a small still-life painting there. Generally, when you see her work, the word 'cool' automatically comes out, and her tattoos are pretty and even lovely. Apparently, tattoos with a beautiful flower, a cute cat, a feast of fresh grass, and delicious fruits are her main themes. Especially, tulips are her major character. As such, her work is slowly gaining a reputation because of a different vibe.
“I am mostly inspired by things that bring joy to my daily life. When I see a flower, plant, or scenery that I like on the road, I stop there and take some pictures. Later on, when I go home, I draw them. My cat also gives me happiness. My cats often appear in my design sketches.”
How does she create a brushy texture that looks like it was drawn with crayons or colored pencils?
"I tried to show tattoos like 'pictures on paper' rather than the bold and strong straight lines or descriptions of normal tattoos in general. On the other hand, I wanted to try something new that no one had tried before. I wanted them to be seen as more artistic and liberal tattoos. Therefore, I work it by drawing dots one by one with a needle-like pointillism. Then, it creates a rough and analog texture like colored pencils, oil pastels, or even conté. This is the biggest feature of my tattoo style followed by bright and colorful colors. In addition, I do not use excessive colors by fully considering the skin tone or the harmony between the body and the tattoo.”
Changing the bias and the look
Unlike in the past, people's thoughts about tattoos are changing hugely. The key change that leads to this is basically celebrities appearing in broadcasts or movies, but ordinary people are nowadays getting tattoos normally a lot. Nevertheless, there are definitely generations that worship Confucianism and negative social perceptions.
“Even though the prejudice against tattoos has been gone a lot, conservative people are everywhere, so the bias cannot be easily eliminated. As a result, tattooists’ work always has limitations, and clients are not 100% free, so personally, I feel upset and pissed off. Besides, the interesting thing is that 90% of the customers were women. Perhaps men are to hesitate because the designs are flowers and plants and the colors are bright, but looking at the results of their actions, I think that the worldview of young Korean women is already global.”
Artist Gong Greem added that everyone who received the tattoo by her had a cheerful personality. Like that, tattoos are no longer the character of men in the underworld but are evolving into personalities that reveal individuality. Sometimes, her tattoo design turns out an attractive pattern through another fabric or fashion designer’s sense. And they have already collaborated to contact the world.
Thus, this exhibition, it is more than a canvas work. Her patterns with colorful flower and plant paintings would be infused into sophisticated goods such as cushions, curtains, pajamas, reusable bags, and diaries. In particular, expectations are high for the collaboration with <Parisienne to India>, which is famous for Indian fabrics and various fabric products applied with woodblock printing techniques.
A world-class tattooist's dream
Meeting international tattoo artists whom you respect through Instagram and hosting guest work in their studios is an exciting event in the field and also a unique opportunity to communicate with people. Traveling and working at the same time while making friends with people is also a great way to build friendships. However, COVID-19 started in 2020 made this world quiet and numb physically and people were affected. Sooner or later, when this craziness disappears, Gong Greem plans to go on a journey of free activity into the world once again. Until then, she will be thinking about some interesting plans in her recently relocated studio.
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