Image courtesy of Gana Art Gallery
Standing next to a ram’s head ten times the size of his own, with a two-headed horse gazing his way, Ji Yong Ho flashes a friendly grin. The 29-year-old Korean has made a career out of sculpting larger-than-life animals. His Chelsea studio is filled with hyenas, horses, felines, and the menacing ram’s head. They’re all built from black tires.
“My concept is mutation—mutants,” he explains. The futuristic beasts have earned him a prestigious artist residency and live-in studio through the Gana Art Gallery while he prepares for a major exhibit here this April.
Photo by Flora Hanitijio
Ho’s concept of mutants grew out of his life in Seoul, where there is fierce political debate over genetic engineering. In school, Yong Ho read Darwin and was galvanized by how his theory of evolution applied to man’s manipulation with nature. Already, he says, cats and dogs are bred to emphasize their domesticated traits and downplay their wild sides. The sculptures can be taken as warnings; if we’re not careful, we may soon lose the ability to see animals in their natural state altogether.
At first, people found his aesthetic strange, but that’s starting to change. A shark he sculpted recently went for $145,000 at auction, and last December, Gana held his biggest opening in Seoul yet. But the artist seems oblivious to this. “I’ve been making art non-stop since I was five. Nothing’s changed between then and now. The passion has always been the same.”