Kwak Chul An

First of all, we would like to hear about the piece on the cover.
This is the ‘Moire Chair’ that utilized the Moire effect, which originated from a French word, meaning wavy pattern. When I was young, it was very interesting to find that the color of the curtains looked different from various angles when the same patterns overlapped. I thought I should use that concept one day, but I didn’t know where to use it until I saw the organza silk texture of Hanbok that was brought by a group of Textile Art students. When you overlap two layers of organza, the warp and the weft create a wavy pattern. I figured out where the best wavy pattern is created, and then coated it with clear epoxy resin.

You must have developed a sort of know-how with this process. And is there specific reason you chose a chair?
I obtained some know-how when I learned that an interesting pattern can be created with a darker piece of textile on the bottom and a lighter piece of textile on top, and that the effect can be maximized with complementary colors. If you ask me why it had to be a chair, it is because the chair that can support a person’s body weight is the basic of furniture, and is a piece of art that focuses on the material itself rather than its form.

Where do you make compromises when design collides with function?
Basically, I believe that the only function of a furniture is to provide a sense of ‘height.’ Furniture decides the height where you sit, the height where you lay down, or the height where you hang your clothes. So there are many instances where you can intervene. Ergonomics can be brought in to emphasize function, and then you can make artistic approaches. That is what makes furniture interesting, and is also furniture’s destiny. Therefore, furniture becomes a good canvas for designers. In the end, what you choose between design and function is a decision made by consumers, not designers.

It seems that studying in the Netherlands had a great influence.
DROOG DESIGN, a design group from the Netherlands that emerged in 1993, shook the world of design. Droog means ‘to dry’, and is an irony as it wiped away the previous trends in design with visual effects, and devoured all the design issues of the 21st century. I acquired a significant lesson from the dean of my school who was also the art director of the DROOG DESIGN GROUP. Of course, I encountered difficulties because its educational principles emphasized the humanitarian perspective, compared to the Korean education that mainly focused on the sense of aesthetics.

Do you deal with any conflicts as a professor because you were exposed to a different kind of education?
I don’t have a complete philosophy yet, but my principle is that I never confirm the students’ designs. I also try to minimize the influence of evaluation in their works as much as possible. I give more points for attendance and participation. Basically, I am not sure whether you can teach art through education. That is why I minimize artistic evaluation.

The design finished with Giwa, which are roofing tiles used on the exterior of buildings, reminds you of roofing tile walls and is very pleasing to look at.
I was able to choose Giwa as a material because I concluded, “The outcome of art is changed when the material becomes mine, and my view of the material changes,” upon contemplating ‘how form is created’ while studying in the Netherlands. If I realized it before, then I would have created gorgeous form by sketching and carving wood meaninglessly. My previous thirst was quenched while I was studying design in the social context. Of course, I am not experienced enough to perfectly organize my thoughts on how to mix and realize sensible forms and logical approaches. Before, I would have considered materials, such as Korean houses, Dancheong, and the Five Directional Colors, as taboos that have been commercially deteriorated, and the consequence of changing my perspective toward banality was the roofing tiles. The roofing tiles are materials of love and hate that nearly forced me to give up on the challenge several times. I was so unskillful at first that I carved the tiles using carpentry machines, but I was obsessed enough to design and order my own machine. A roofing tile master said, “The roofing tiles baked in the raccoon kiln came out with distinct colors, and looked beautiful when arranged,” on describing the beautiful colors of the roofing tiles.

It was innovative that you brought ‘Giwa,’ an exterior material, into the interior space for the first time. With that experience, aren’t you dreaming of another ‘innovative project’?
For now, I am focusing on Moire. Working with the roofing tiles is hard, and preference is polarized, but Moire can be mass-produced. I just want to hear my acquaintances say, “You never stop working, even as a professor.”