Floating Dreams will be the first major London installation by Ik-Joong Kang. The piece will take centre-stage at Totally Thames with the River Thames as its gallery for the entire month of September. Read on to learn more about Ik-Joong Kang, one of South Korea’s most renowned and celebrated multimedia artists, and about this ambitious installation…

3x3s: A mobile studio

Ik-Joong Kang was born in Cheongju in South Korea in 1960, not long after the separation of North and South Korea. He grew up in Seoul in the 60s and 70s, and received his BFA from Hong-Ik University in Seoul, Korea. In 1984, he moved from Korea to New York to study for his MFA at the Pratt Institute, and he has lived in New York since.

As a student in New York, working two jobs at a flea market in Queens and a deli in Manhattan, Ik-Joong Kang says that he ‘needed to find a way to fit art into my lifestyle’. He found that small, 3 inch x 3 inch canvases were affordable, and could fit easily into his pockets, and so ‘My lengthy commute transformed into a mobile studio’. These small canvases have become Ik-Joong Kang’s signature technique, grouped together and presented as vast mosaics: ‘fun and simple. True Zen.’

Working with people

Ik-Joong Kang endeavours to work with as many people as possible in constructing his artwork, as people are ‘my main medium and my main inspiration for exploration’. He has worked with over 10,000 volunteers and over 1 million children from 150 different countries.

Since 1997, Ik-Joong Kang has collected over a million drawings from children from all around the world depicting their dreams. 145,000 of these 3 x 3 inch drawings done by children were displayed in the 176-metre long Bridge of Dream in Suncheon, South Korea. Kang says, ‘The children’s dreams fill the inside of the bridge and anyone who walks on this bridge will be sent to the future without even having to buy a ticket’.

This project inspired his later Amazed World, an exhibition consisting of 34,000 drawings painting the walls of the United Nations building. Kang writes, ‘At a simple glance, it was one world filled with one dream – harmoniously existing with the other. But each canvas tells a story of its creator’. A boy from Cuba dreamt of being a doctor, whilst a Vietnamese boy dreamt of hosting a dinner party in his garden, and a girl from Uzbekistan dreamt of having a brother.

Floating Dreams: a dream of unification

Kang explains that with the Bridge of Dream, ‘I was trying to connect the divided country by children’s dream.’ His own dream is that someday he could build a bridge over the Imjin River that separates North and South Korea.

Reunification is a common thread winding through Ik-Joong Kang’s artwork, and his installations are widely appreciated as a symbol of hope and optimism, for unification not only of Korea but of people globally. About Floating Dreams, he summarised, ‘The project's subject is the displaced, but the bigger theme here is unification…’

Constructed from 500 drawings by refugees of the Korean War, and illuminated from within, the three-storey-high lantern structure stands as a memorial to the millions displaced and divided during the Korean War (1950-53), and to the millions of displaced peoples today.

Kang said, ‘These elderly displaced people in Korea are earlier examples of refugees. I wanted to create a monument dedicated to the refugees all over the world, made by the people who were forced to leave their hometowns.’

Art, a medium for healing

Kang has said that he has three principles when doing public art:  healing, connecting and embracing. ‘Participating in the festival on the Thames, that runs through the city, fits into those principles in that the river symbolizes connection and healing’.

Adrian Evans, Totally Thames Director added: ‘I hope the piece draws thousands to the river – which itself ferments differences between those that live north and south in London  – and are inspired by what they see. The drawings and stories of the 500 individuals who have contributed to the artwork are remarkable documents in themselves; I was genuinely moved.’

Floating Dreams will be located in the River Thames by Millennium Bridge from 1 – 30 September.