DAMOAn interview with the South Korean Visual Designer and fashion entrepreneur
6 May 2021
DAMO’s (@damo.97) fusion between cute core and twisted depictions of human emotion gives new meaning to the term bittersweet. We sat down with DAMO to discuss her passion for leaning towards the macabre, fashion as self-expression, using art to help others embrace their imperfections, and how she ultimately turned a childhood nickname into a brand.
Hi, DAMO. It’s great to sit down and chat with you. How would you introduce your art to someone who has never seen it before?
DAMO: I create imperfect interpretations of what I see in the imperfect world around me. I often daydream which results in conjuring up imperfect images. My art brings those visions to life and makes them real. I usually do this using 3D modelling, however, recently I have been trying to experiment with more diverse media.
Although your given name is Minjeong, your alias is DAMO. Can you tell us what the meaning is behind the name DAMO and does it have a connection to your real name?
DAMO: The name DAMO is very personal to me. The characters Da – 다 and Mo – 모 in Hangul (the Korean alphabet) derive from Chinese Hanja. Da loosely means all or a lot of, in English, and Mo is the first syllable used in the Korean word for hair. My friend gave me this nickname in high school because I have always had a lot of hair which grows quite quickly. I used to have a complex about it, but now I’m just embracing it and making a living by using this name to my creative advantage.
The images you create are a mind-bending mix between depictions of man, animals, and nature. You often play with these three areas to create otherworldly, supernatural visuals of strange creatures in curious surroundings. What inspires you to create these obscure images and what messages are you trying to portray?
DAMO: As I touched on earlier, I like to create other worlds which represent ideas from my wildest dreams and unconscious thoughts. All humans are inherently imperfect but we are always striving to pursue perfection. If we embrace our incompleteness, we can all start to feel a little more equal.
This in turn can bring a great sense of stability. If we look at the world as being imperfect we tend not to judge ourselves as harshly. I bring forth my ideas of an imperfect world, break it down and reassemble it in that hope that my work will bring comfort to all of us who feel or have felt broken.
In our minds, your artwork represents an anti-capitalist mindset. We sense a mockery of human greed and yet we feel as though the pieces evoke feelings of oneness. We all feel like monsters from time to time but there is a human tendency to put up a facade whilst holding onto feelings of inferiority or social awkwardness. Are your pieces intended to represent your feelings towards a judgemental society?
DAMO: I have come to realise that I am a very sensitive person with a lot of pent up anger inside me. I create to relieve stress felt from the outside world. I look my depression and self-loathing in the face and confront my inner self through art. Sometimes I feel disgusted by the selfishness that exists in everyone. The over the top, imperfect beings I create in peculiar situations look just as, or even, more strange than my original thoughts. This is a form of comfort for me. Rather than dwelling on and sitting with my unconscious demons, I try to express them in a formative way which helps me deal with societal pressures.
Your artwork uses a lot of different techniques and textures. Some 2D visuals but mainly 3D stills and you also incorporate animation into your graphic design. What is your preferred form of media when creating?
DAMO: I prefer to create 3D images. When I first started using 3D techniques I felt that the characters I created came alive, I could feel their movements and their expressions. I have continued to be interested in creating in 3D [art] and I will experiment more with it in the future as it’s definitely the form of media I am most intrigued with.
Is your artwork mostly created on the computer or is there an even mix between computer and manual conception?
DAMO: I start by drawing up my idea with the traditional method of pencil and paper. Then, I transfer that plan to the computer. I repeat the process until I’m happy, slowly adding and increasing the flesh and bone density. I then elaborate on these features digitally using a graphics tablet and 3D printer.
There are many references to the work of Ito Junji (a Japanese manga artist focused on the horror genre) in your artwork. Do you tend to take inspiration from his creations?
DAMO: Absolutely! I fell in love with Ito Junji’s illustrations in middle school and read all of his manga books. Since finding him, I have been inspired by the supernatural/horror genre and started to create my own style inspired by his work. I felt entranced by the bizarre images and creepy mood present in his images which lit a fire inside me and caused my desire to create the art I make today.
You have a clothing line brand called Murrcca. Have you always been interested in fashion and do you think that it is an important aspect of your self-expression?
DAMO: Yes, I recently started Murrcca. I don’t necessarily think people should be judged on their appearance, but I think fashion is one of the leading factors that an individual can use to express themselves. The garments I choose to design and wear are the best way to express my personality and show the world who I am daily. Murrcca is an alternative fashion brand for people who feel similar to me.
Following on from that, what was the driving force behind your desire to design clothes?
DAMO: We often see the same trends being repeated everywhere we go. I feel that fashion these days has little to no personality and that similar designs are being copied over and over again. So, I started making clothes because I thought I should make clothes which represent my character. The clothes I design are unique, and I hope they turn heads.
When creating clothes designs, do you have in mind a certain demographic to which you want to appeal to? Your clothing brand in particular features exclusively unisex apparel. Is there a reason you choose to design for this audience rather than towards a more traditional female or male style?
DAMO: The characters I create in my subconsciousness represent those of us who are out of the norm and who feel alienated from traditional society. I design clothes for these people. I am more interested in people who are quiet and considerate and feel painfully alienated behind the scenes than those who think they are the best of the best. I don’t want to see anxious people suffer, and I think that those desires appear in my designs.
What projects have you been working on and what can YEOJA readers hope to see from you in the future?
DAMO: I will continue to elaborate on my reflections of an imperfect world and to create imperfect characters. I want to pursue my dream of working on art that gives me joy and brings comfort to other people.
Do you have any advice to give to other creative individuals who may envision making a successful livelihood from their art but lack the confidence to commit to the idea?
DAMO: We only experience life once (as far as we know) so, I am doing what I want to do. I recommend that others do the same.