The artist who’s been picked up by Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, Daily Mail, and more will be hosting an exhibition at the Jung Eun Sun Gallery from November 11 – 18!
A penguin morphing into a watermelon, a tiny bird with the fangs of a baboon and a giant plate of monkey bread. Welcome to the surreal world of Seoul-based Californian artist Sarah DeRemer.
Earning a BA in Studio Art from UC Davis while simultaneously working with animals as a veterinary technician, it’s no surprise that DeRemer’s hybridised background has created some hybrids of its own. Using Photoshop to merge animals with food, with balloons and with each other, her fantastical, seamless manipulations are bizarre, quirky and unsettlingly realistic.
In the run-up to her solo exhibition Animal Food, she caught up with 10 Magazine to talk about her creatures, the creative process and what visitors to her exhibition can expect.
1. A BA in Studio Art, nine years as a veterinary technician and teaching English in Seoul make for a varied resume. How does it all fit together and what brought you to Korea?
I started doing art in middle school, and always had a strong passion for it. I started working at a veterinary hospital and training as a veterinary technician when I was 14, so I grew up with a love for that field as well. I continued throughout college while I was pursuing my degree in the arts. I love veterinary nursing and the responsibilities that come with it. After college, I remained in that field. After nine years, I was ready for a change. I visited a friend who was working in Korea, and decided to move here and try something different!
2. Congratulations on your forthcoming exhibition! Your portfolio contains several hybrid animal series. Why did you choose Animal Food specifically, and what can visitors to the exhibition expect?
‘Animal Food’ was the series that launched my success in the arts, and I’m so excited to get the chance to show it again at a gallery in Seoul. I love showing the series because they are visually strong images that people seem to have strong opinions about. A lot of the project was a study in color and negative space, as well as creating a cohesive image through hybridizing, but I also really enjoyed creating something both amusing and potentially thought provoking. Once the series was created people started expressing very strong views on it, both positive and negative, which is all I can hope for with images I create. I never create art to force my own opinion, but to inspire people to consider their own. Based on reactions from the public so far, ‘Animal Food’ has been the most controversial series of my portfolio, consequently making it the series that I find most interesting to display.
3. Without giving any of your “trade secrets” away, tell us about your process, from initial idea to finished piece. Do you start off with a specific hybrid in mind, or is the process more organic?
The process sometimes differs depending on the style of piece I’m working on. For the hybrid animal/animal food combinations that I’ve worked on, they always start with an idea of which two or three subjects will be combined. The experimentation only comes in determining which photo would be best used to create the image that I envision. In my surreal pieces, I usually have a starting idea and continue to add and remove elements as I develop it on screen. The surreal pieces definitely have a more organic workflow than the hybrids, mostly due to the higher degree of complexity in composition and detail.
4. Do you have a favourite animal hybrid?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite! I fall in love with each of them after working on them, but one that I always keep coming back to is the White Tiger Monkey. I love the juxtaposition between furry and cute against the ferocious growling tiger!
5. How do you manage to balance your artistic career and your job as a teacher?
Much like my job back in the US, I do art in my free time surrounding my hours at work. In Seoul, I set aside an hour or two in the morning to do art in a coffee shop near my job, and then often work on projects during lunch and after work. Back home I had to set aside larger blocks of time to work on art since my supplies weren’t as portable as a laptop is.
6. Have you always been interested in photography and how long have you been working with Photoshop?
I have always had an interest in photography, and started playing with my mother’s camera at a very early age. It is, and will always be, one of my greatest passions in life. In the future, I hope to utilize more of my own photos in my images. I have only been using Photoshop for a little over a year now and am greatly enjoying all that the program has to offer. I adore photography for the immediacy and the versatility of it; you can take it anywhere, photograph anything, be in the moment, and go as far as to create fantastical images from real life scenes when you take it into the realm of photo-manipulation. A friend of mine introduced me to the silly sub-Reddit of “Hybrid Animals”, and I started playing around with making my own on Photoshop. I started realizing all that I could do on Photoshop and was enthralled by the possibilities for image creation.
7. Given your extensive artistic background you must have a favourite artist. Is there any digital artist or photographer who you are influenced or inspired by?
As with a favorite song, it’s really hard to pick just one. In the digital realm, I really look up to artists like Leszek Bujnowski for their incredible photo-manipulation work in the surreal realm. I spend a lot of my free time looking through art blogs and following the work of other contemporary artists. I gather a ton of inspiration and motivation from all of the other brilliant things that artists are creating these days.
8. Artists work hard for recognition and opportunities usually don’t “just happen”. What’s your experience been with opportunities for emerging artists in Seoul and Korea generally?
I believe that a lot of artists in Seoul get good opportunities to network and show their work due to the tightly knit communities as well as the fact that Korea as a whole is a smaller country. Because many of us are a part of a smaller foreign group of artists in Korea, people are able to share opportunities within our community. There’s a fantastic group here, Art Network Korea, run by two dedicated artists Martyn Thompson and Mike Stewart. They both seek out opportunities for exhibitions, and connect artists with good opportunities based on the art they create. Martyn Thompson has brilliantly helped set up and curate both of my shows, and countless others for artists in Korea. There are multiple exhibitions happening this November in galleries, and for many participating artists it’s their first time getting to show their work, which is an outstanding opportunity.
9. What’s next for you?
I’m leaving Seoul in March to travel Southeast Asia for 6 months, and then head home to Los Angeles for a while. I have some connections in the arts back home now and am hoping to develop more relationships while there that allow me to do freelance work in the future and continue my travels! I’d love to work in advertising for a cause and use photography/photo-manipulation to help people learn more about important issues at hand.
10. And finally, what’s your advice for other artists trying to make a name for themselves?
The best advice that I can offer anyone is to constantly create, and put your art out there into whatever community you surround yourself with. I found success sharing art online, while others will find success sharing in different places. Whether it’s a farmers market, gallery, or Reddit, just keep sharing what you’re passionate about and eventually I believe that your passion about your art will become contagious to others. Connecting with other artists of a similar style, or whose style you are interested in is also important. There is nothing more valuable than building a network of artists! Competition is never the way to go in the art field. You never know what opportunities will present themselves through friends you’ve made.
Animal Food is showing from 11 to 18 November at Jung Eun Sun Gallery, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 인사동10길 23-8). For more information go to www.galleryjang.com. To see more of Sarah DeRemer’s work go to www.sarahderemer.com.