Artist Spotlight: Tommy Kwak

In this editorial series Artsted is offering a dive into the stories of artists, taking them on a weekly discovery sprint: learn about the practice, process, philosophy and conceptual research behind the platform’s best contemporary creators.

Hello! It is a pleasure to meet you Tommy, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

Hi! My name is Tommy Kwak, and I’m 41 years old. I was born and raised around the Chicago area and have lived in San Francisco and Portland, OR, but now currently reside in the NYC area. As an artist, I work in photography and drawing, focusing on subject matters of nature and landscapes.

Collection interior. Courtesy of the artist.

When did you realise you were an artist and decided to pursue this path?

I started early as a kid. I drew a lot… of things in my environment and comic book characters. I guess I knew from pretty early on that I had inclinations to the arts. In high school, I took an intro photography and darkroom class. I lived right near forest preserves, which I would often take walks in with my camera. This became the basis of much of my work later on… hiking, exploring nature with my camera.

The production process. Courtesy of the artist.

How would you describe your artistic practice?

It’s just something I need to do. Something to express the ideas in my head and what I see. Projects usually start with a destination I have in mind, whether it’s Iceland, the Faroe Islands, or closer to home on the Jersey shore or beaches at Montauk. From there, I do a lot of research on locations that might interest me… what they look like, potential sites to visit, how to get there, all the logistics. Then while there, I just try to be open-minded and follow my eye, curiosity and intuition. When I’m back home, editing also plays a big part. Certain locations leave an impression with me whether it’s the saturated color palette of the Caribbean or more subdued tones of Iceland winters that influence the editing process and final image.

In process. Courtesy of the artist.

As a fine art photographer, what is your creative process like?

A large part of my work tends towards minimal and quiet, others more vibrant and colorful, but all of them, I would say have an ethereal quality. I hope that with my work, people who are interested in them, find a connection to the work… a peace, joy, or satisfaction outside of our everyday reality.

Is there anything that you could say inspires you the most in your work?

What inspires me are otherworldly landscapes and light.

Artworks selection. Courtesy of the artist.

How do you feel about the “art world”? Is it a system you have easily adopted to when you started out?

I’ve always felt outside of the art world because I don’t know how to “art-speak”. I work from my interests and intuition, not from big concepts or manifestos. I’ve found through experience and rejections, that galleries are not the only way to support oneself as an artist, and there are many other ways outside of the traditional art world to live as an artist.

If you could go to one place to develop a new series of works, where would you go?

When it’s safer to travel, I hope to visit Greenland to photograph the icebergs.

Interior. Courtesy of the artist.

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