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Seeking for Inner Beauty: Monnani Father, Pan Sam Kim

Have you ever been stressed out because of your appearance? Currently, in this appearance-oriented society, a considerable number of people are becoming tired of ceaselessly taking care of their appearance. While people are busy matching their appearance to others’ standards, sculptor Pan Sam Kim says that we are all Monnani (Korean word referring to an ugly person), and that we are all heroes at the same time. He brings people out of the shadow of lookism to communicate, since they are ordinary and ugly, but also necessary, as they change the world. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) visited Mokpo, which is often considered “the city of art” in Korea, to meet Pan Sam Kim at his gallery. Let us listen to the story of the father of all Monnani, Pan Sam Kim.

Q1. There are numerous artworks that satirize lookism, which is rampant in our society. For instance, the potbellied “Statue of Liberation” is based on the Statue of Liberty. Is there any reason you decided to make these ugly sculptures rather than pretty ones?

In general, art is based on beauty, which means it pursues beauty. This is the point where I questioned myself, “are things that are not beautiful not part of art?” The concept of beauty varies over time, following different trends. While people with a fuller figure were the typical standard of beauty in the past, people with a slender figure have now become the beauty standard. This means Monnani can even be a standard of beauty in other regions, or maybe in the near future. We commonly pursue beauty, and I think we can seek for beauty since there are Monnani behind the world. We can easily think that beauty is relative, so something can be beautiful because an ugly thing exists somewhere else. Unfortunately, however, people usually forget about them. This is why I want to bring their story out from the shadows.

The Potbellied “Statue of Liberation”

Q2. What types of people do you think are closest to the Monnani?

I think my Monnani greatly reflects our mothers. I mean mothers who endure all things to devote to their children. I thought this love of Korean mothers is world-class, which means I would be able to produce world-class artworks if I express their love properly. As you can see in my works, women are expressed to look stronger than men do.

Q3. Where did your life as a sculptor begin?

The story traces back to my childhood. When I was young, I remember picking up chalks to draw some pictures on the wall. It was so fascinating for me that I was definitely unaware of how time flies. Hence, I vaguely thought of becoming an artist, and I became a Design Art major. One day, however, I saw a college girl with her super lean frame sculpting in front of an enormous stone, which captivated my heart. From that day, I decided to change my way to become a sculptor.

Many people ask me, “isn’t it hard to sculpt?” But to be frank, I am definitely interested in my work. I chose this path because I love it, and I am enjoying this work. I studied art for university entrance exams for more than ten years, but there was no such happiness during that period. I think my job is the best.

Q4. It is commonly said that a number of artists suffer from financial difficulties. Were there any similar obstacles for you as well?

Of course, I think artists with a comfortable income will be less than 0.1% among the overall artists in both two and three dimensional arts. The other 99.9% of artists will say that it is difficult to make their living. Sculpting is especially harder since it takes a long time and the materials needed are all expensive. Such circumstances make a number of sculptors to even drop out of their work. I also had some hard times, but fortunately, I received so much support from people around me. Since Mokpo is called “the city of art,” there are some support groups for artists. They help many artists in their hard times for a period of one or two years. Thanks to their help, I could make a living with a minimum amount of money.

Q5. Please tell us about the specific procedure of making your Monnani.

I usually use molding to make my Monnani among many types of sculpting. First, I sketch an idea and model the sculpture using clay. After the clay model is made, I apply a stone mold around the model. Then, I take the stone mold off of the clay model, and fill the empty mold with main materials such as bronze. After the bronze inside has cooled down, I crack the mold to take out the bronze casting. At the later stage, the rough bronze castings still need to be chased, which means it needs to be decorated by engraving. This delicate work requires considerable time, usually one or two months. In the case of “You Are Too Far to Approach,” it took more than three months to complete. Due to the time-consuming work , I have a strong attachment to my artworks. Hence, whenever my artworks have to be moved outside of my gallery for exhibition, I even feel depressed. Many people complain that the sculptures are too expensive, but I think the high price is conceivable considering the time-consuming work and expensive materials.

You Are Too Far to Approach
Pan Sam Kim Modeling Sculpture Using Clay
The Best Love

He says he loves all of his works, just as the old saying, “every child is dear to his parent,” goes. Especially, the artwork named “The Best Love” held the tragic story of his friend. His friend was a doctor. He had no choice but to watch his wife wither and die of cancer. Kim hoped to express his friend’s love through the artwork, not in a tragic way, but in an exciting way. This is how this sculpture has been made.

Q6. Is there anything in particular you consider most important in deciding what to make?

Communication. In fact, I didn’t sculpt these Monnani at first. Primarily, I made some artworks concerning the life and gestation, such as the statue of a hand. I was greatly immersed in creating them during the day, but they frightened me on dark nights, even though I made them myself. At that moment, I realized that they were just for my own satisfaction, not artworks that could arouse everyone’s empathy. Finally, I decided to communicate with people through the Monnani sculpture. Sometimes I giggle at my artworks because they are so funny, and I hope other people feel the same.

Giving a name to my artworks is the most critical part of my work. Just as people register their child in the official family register after the baby is born, once my sculptures have been completed, I keep thinking carefully to decide their names. The funniest and most facetious name. Although I am an art major, some esoteric artworks do not make so much sense to me. So how would ordinary people feel about it? I try to create as easy and understandable sculptures as possible to empathize with people. If people came to see the Monnani and showed a small smile hanging on their lips, it would be my happiness as a sculptor.

Q7. What do you hope for people to feel when they see your artworks?

Anyone who visits here can be a beauty. I hope anyone who has thought about “why do I look like this?” can think that “oh, I am pretty here.” Actually, I hope people realize that they are underestimating themselves, and seek for their inner beauty. Moreover, since we live our lives forgetting the existence of Monnani, I hope people still pursue their beauty but realize the importance of the Monnani in themselves.

Q8. What are your thoughts and feelings about lookism, which is currently widespread in society?

There is a joke, “everything can be forgiven if someone is beautiful.” Just like this saying, many people are now putting much focus on others’ appearances. In pursuing outward appearance, however, people can easily miss the most important thing: one’s mind, or one’s heart. Since I live in the countryside, I have many chances to meet old women. Even if old women are less beautiful than the young according to the current standard of beauty, I see numerous charming points whenever I listen to their words. I worry that I might miss the real intentions that someone wants to convey, if I only follow their appearance.

Q9. What do you think is the definition of beauty?

I think real beauty is beauty that does not change, which is the beauty of our mind. We can easily think that the definition of a person with a beautiful mind did not change for quite a long time. So the real beauty is the internal beauty that does not change.

Q10. I heard that you just created “Monnani Park” beside your gallery. Could you introduce the park for us?

Just beside the gallery is the Youngsan River bicycle path. I saw a considerable number of people come and go through this path, and thought it would be nice if I could make an exhibition on their way as they passed by, unlike existing exhibition halls which struggled to attract people. Considering that people find it hard to appreciate sculptures, I hope many people feel comfortable as they visit this park.

Monnani Park

Q11. Please tell us about your future plans or dreams.

I am now busy preparing for the upcoming exhibition this month at Mokpo MBC. About my future plan, I plan to participate in the sculpture festival which will be held next year in Seoul. My ultimate goal is to make the whole village as a “Monnani Village.” I think it would be most likely that there is no sculpture park with ugly creatures in the world. Hence, if I put my sculptures all around the village, I think the whole village could be a tourist attraction.

Q12. Any last words for Kingos?

Cultivate your mindset. Many people say that there are numerous people around me, which means I have few enemies. Everyone that I have met, even just once, is all “my people,” I believe. But people break these ties too easily. If people try just a little more to understand others, or put themselves in each other’s position, enemies would not be made. I think the current isolated society comes from people who stick only to their opinion, closing their minds. Open up your mind and you will find more people around you. Lastly, I hope people listen to the story of Monnani, and communicate with them.

박세연  seyon1031@naver.com

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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