《The Smokes》An interview with Lisottan

The month-long exhibition "The Smokes" by Lisottan ended successfully in February. "Lisottan" is an exhibition planning group formed by artists Song Yu-na, Yoon Hye-rin and Choi Ji-won, marking the first start of the long-term platform formation through this exhibition. What made the works of three artists with different personalities and images put in one space? Listening to the thoughts of the exhibition, I was able to gauge the community that Lisottan was aiming for.

The Smokes installation view (1st floor)

Q. Please give us a brief introduction of yourselves, who are members of 'Lisottan’.


Hello, I'm Yoon Hyerin. I mainly work on painting, and interested in the amorphous shape and formative relationship of nature. I draw metaphorical landscapes containing inner images, referring to the forms of nature collected in everyday life. I'm working on stopping to read out the emotions that occur in my mind and moving the inner scenery that I face to the canvas.


Hello, my name is Yuna Song. I have been working on a body by releasing my experiences or thoughts in sculptures or installations. Especially, I was interested in the meaning and figures floating on the body, and in this exhibition, I wanted to create art that became a tool for art and art as a background for art.


Hello, I'm Jiwon Choi and I'm working on two-dimensional works about vintage porcelain dolls. In May 2020, I held my first solo exhibition under the title "Cold Flame" at a space called This Weekend Room, and since then, I have been presenting new works. By placing the smooth texture of the pottery and the texture of others such as thorns and sparks on one screen, I am focusing on the conflicting tactile qualities.


Q. How was Lisottan formed? I’d like to hear why you chose the group name ‘Lisottan’, and what kind of meaning, identity, or direction it represents. 


First of all, the three of us first met in graduate school. Yoon and I majored in Western Painting and Song majored in Sculpture. We were in different years and courses, and we had different resolutions, but we got along very well. We thought it would be nice to create an exhibition together as new artists so we applied for the fund.

Some people were curious about the name Lisottan. "Liso" is a Spanish word with a dictionary meaning of "flat, smooth, and wrinkle-free." We combined this word with ‘ttan’ which means a group. Thus, the name shows the identity that we pursue as a group. Other than that, once we start a meeting, the story goes on endlessly. It may seem meaningless to others, but I think we've been able to combine well through a lot of conversations, empathy, and communication. If you reverse the word “Ttansori”, – which means meaningless sound in Korean - it becomes "lisottan". I think this name shows our identity well. It's a meaningful sum of different things.

The Smokes installation view (2nd floor)

Q. In this exhibition, I was impressed with the creative display that utilizes the spatial characteristics of Sahng-up Gallery(Euljiro). It felt like it was transformed into a completely different place while maintaining the natural advantages of space. I wonder what you focused on in the installation process and how each work's installation, which made each other stand out, relates to the content.


There were some words that we thought were important in the early planning stage, and one of them was 'physical metaphors'. The three characters in the collaborated novel were wary of each other at first and didn't have a good relationship, but as the second half goes on, they start to talk about their feelings and share emotions. We hoped that the changes in the relationship between them would be well revealed. In particular, we thought we could make up the cozy space we imagined by using elements of Sahng-up Gallery, such as low ceilings on the second floor, and wooden walls. Above all, we wanted to create a space where the audience could relax with comfort. At the same time, we tried to create a square in which the three artists and their personas meet and face each other like characters on the stage. We found elements such as bean bags and fountains, and we were able to create a theatrical feeling where people could focus on the work with minimal lighting.

And my work Caressing Space, placed on the first floor, originally started with the idea of 'Caressing sculpture'. While thinking about the meaning of sculpture, I thought that giving a specific purpose would give me a reason for the work. At first, I imagined a sculpture with the motion to scan or touch the wall, thinking of a piece that caresses the space, and then developed with the idea of creating an installation that feels the empty space itself and works as the background of the piece. And I chose plywood as the material for harmony with space. What was interesting was that the audience wondered which part of the wall was actual work, or asked where the ‘9th piece’ (Caressing Space) was. It occurred to me that my installation melted into the background as intended.

Song Yu-na, Caressing Space, 316x296x60cm, Plywood, 2021

Song Yu-na, A Tear-wiping Sculpture, 61x13x7cm, Motor & Acrylics, 2021

Choi Ji-won, Bloodshot, 45.5x45.5cm, Oil on Canvas, 2020

Q. Is there any reason that you chose Sahng-up Gallery as an exhibition space? 


The first time I visited Sahng-up Gallery was during the solo exhibition by Kyungsoo Ahn, and it felt very warm and nice when the painting was combined in a polygonal space made of plywood. So I thought it would be nice if we could realize our plan here while visiting the space several times more. 


I chose Sahng-up Gallery rather than a large white cube because I was thinking about a space that could show the warm elements of our exhibition. In fact, at the time of planning, it was a space with only the first floor, but then the second floor was created, which led us in a better direction. 


Q. While each of the three artist’s works is combined with different properties and images, the collaborative novel “The Smokes” consists of short text containing one event. What made you collaborate in the form of a novel? Also, what does “The Smokes” mean, which is the title of the exhibition as well as the novel?


When the three of us have a meeting, it extends from trivial stories about works and recent events to big stories such as exhibitions and contemporary art world situations. There were times when we got together and talked for 10 hours. The time we had this conversation became an important basis for making a novel. I think stories naturally came up in the process of getting to know each other and interacting with each other even before making a novel. We translated it to an organized text and collaborated in the form of each work meeting in a novel, and we thought it would be good to show our works and the novel together. 

The title “The Smokes” was based on the fact that the beginning and end of the novel is connected by the smokes. When the smokes are mixed, there’s no distinction. It symbolized the intermixing and connecting of the three artists in the process of planning and making the exhibition. 

Lisottan The Smokes

Q. It was interesting to hear that each piece participated as a kind of persona in the conversation you had. It is also an interesting point that the three characters in the novel were born as an extension of the persona. Then, what kind of life are these characters living? I wonder if death and deficiency, which are a common feature of the three squeaky characters in the novel, is also a common feature of you three artists.


I think the character in the novel is part of the work, and the work is part of the artist. The character in the novel eventually becomes the artist’s part or persona. I saw that death and deficiency, which are the common feature of the three characters, were the commonalities of us three, and the commonalities of people living in the present day. We’re all people who live near death with their own deficiencies. In that sense, I think the three personas, which are personified works, will also live like ordinary contemporary people.


Q. Do you mean that you see death as it is everywhere rather than a special experience? 


Yes, that’s right. The audience who read the novel said it was nice because it was neither too hopeful nor too hopeless. It became a very ordinary story. And we matched the three characters of the novel and the three artists, but each reader had a different interpretation, so it was very interesting to watch it.


Q. Like this exhibition by Lisottan, it is often seen recently that several artists collaborate to execute a single project. Among these trends within the art world, what type of solidarity does Lisottan aim for? The explanation of the character in the novel saying “Even if it is impossible to fully understand each other at the end of the conversation, we solidify hazily” came to me as a metaphor. 


We can see the artists around us working together to create certain results. I think it is a really good aspect. Especially I think it is important for young artists to have an environment and sense of belonging to support each other. In that sense, the three of us have been very helpful to each other.

You asked what form of solidarity Lisottan is aiming for, and I would say we hope for solidarity like smokes. As Yoon said earlier, the smokes assimilate naturally without any clear boundaries or distinctions. Based on that characteristics, I believe that if the three of us respect and understand each other, we can stand independently. 

Yoon Hye-rin, After a Long Time, 97x193.9cm, Oil on Canvas, 2020

Q. Many visitors visited the exhibition. Can you tell us your thoughts on the exhibition? 


Originally, we planned to hold this exhibition last year, but the preparation period has been extended due to COVID. After more than a year of planning, the exhibition was held. Thanks to this, however, we were able to make a more densified exhibition. And I’m grateful that the audience recognized our efforts. 

There were many difficulties because we had no experience in making an exhibition. As a visual artist, there was also anxiety about creating an exhibition combined with literature. But I think it was possible because we had respect for each other. I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to two artists.



Of course it was not easy to work on creating something for a long time, but there wasn’t much trouble because we were considerate of each other. It was a good experience to start at 0 and learn one by one, and I think it will be very helpful for our future works. On the other hand, I realized the role of curators who do a lot of work in invisible places. I had a lot of concerns after graduation about how to sustain the future career as an artist, and I think this community would be a good foundation for me. Lastly, I think this exhibition was possible because of who we are now. In 10 years, it will be hard to see this kind of exhibition because we might be grown. I’m thankful for that. 



As Yoon and Choi already said well, I also had a great time planning and hosting the exhibition. I also would like to thank my two teammates, for being patient during the installation process, which took a lot of changes and time. Also, I was worried that the wall installation on the first floor and the fountain on the second floor would strain the space, but Sahng-up Gallery willingly allowed me to install it. I think good results could have been achieved thanks to such freedom. 

Choi Ji-won Disturbance of Sharp Things 4, 90.9x72.1cm, Oil on Canvas, 2021 (left)

Choi Ji-won Eclipse, 80.3x116.8cm, Oil on Canvas, 2020 (right)

Q. I’m looking forward to the next move of Lisottan. What are your future plans and goals?


There are many things left to take care of after the exhibition. So I’m going to have some time to reorganize. We are going to have some time to share our thoughts on the exhibition, and hopefully, we aim to come back with more enjoyable exhibitions. 


Q. Lastly, Is there anything you want to say?


I heard it’s the second time that Sahng-up Gallery had an exhibition organized outside. I think we were able to create a good synergy by drawing the original audience to each other. I hope we can continue to have more opportunities to exchange positive influences with space, curators and artists.  

Interviewer/Text: Sohee Kim (Sahng-up Gallery curational team)