Illustrator Bang Sangho on his fantastical alien worlds that the big brands can't resist

Explosion by Bang Sangho (2016)

The rising Korean star lets us into his alien world like no other.

The world of Bang Sangho is an instantly recognizable one. Or should that be worlds? The South Korean artist has an unwavering vision throughout his work, of distant planets dotted by orbs that are themselves dotted with holes leading to other places. You'll see these floating, cocoon-like growths in all his pieces, coloured neon pink and reminiscent of the bedevilled eggs from the Alien movie series.

Aggressor (2017)

Science-fiction is Sangho's starting point, but the sort of sci-fi we probably haven't seen since 1973's Fantastic Planet, where surreal worlds teem with colour and fertile, jungle-like vegetation. An idiosyncratic vision, but one that has somehow been co-opted by brands like Fender and Adidas, so in demand is Sangho's style. We spoke to the Daegu-based creative about his eye-popping work and future endeavors.

GL: You've worked with big brands and small ones, both international and Korea-based. Which sort do you prefer working with? I imagine bigger brands might cause more stress for you as an artist.

SB: "Collaboration with large brands goes smoothly with contracts. On the other hand, in the case of small brands, there were occasions when I had to write my own contract or give an explanation on copyright.

Artwork for Fender's recent Marine Layer Reverb campaign

"I don't care too much about the size or fee of the brand; I just prefer things that are unique or interesting. Plus, I want to do as many different things as possible. No matter what I do, I think the stress of the work is experience and I try to enjoy it as much as possible."

GL: How do the big brands find your work? Is it on social media, or somewhere else? 

SB: "I don't know the exact route, but I think Behance is probably a good place to expose your work. In particular, the Featured section on Behance exposes many people to potential clients. The best thing for me though is still my personal homepage. It is a means to show my work the way I want to and clients really respond to it, so I try to update it as much as possible."

2018 Valentine's Day card created for Brut Magazine

GL: What are you working on currently? Brand pieces, or art commissions?

SB: "Now, I'm working on a canvas for an online group exhibition, and likely a short video for a new client in the near future. I'll be launching a multi-media project around one topic once that video's done."

GL: Are there any kinds of work you'd like to take on?

SB: "I like making clothes and bags. I make most of it for myself, but I sometimes produce small quantities to sell. So, in future, I'd love to work with a clothing brand on a street fashion concept."

Artwork for Adidas Japan

GL: What software do you use for your illustrations and moving works e.g. the amazing Planet video?

SB: "I mainly use Photoshop for illustration and After Effects for video. I seems to use almost all Adobe programs. In some video operations, Cinema 4D is used as needed."

Stranger by Bang Sangho, inspired by The Chemical Brothers

GL: You produced a fantastic piece inspired by the Chemical Brothers track Another World. Do any musicians inspire your work?

SB: "Music really influences my artwork. My favorite genre is music with a dreamlike atmosphere, such as lo-fi jazz or hip-hop. Trip-hop, too. Sometimes classical or K-pop is good to relieve stress."

GL: Speaking of K-pop, I believe you recently did work for an idol group. I know the amazingly talented Ram Han created concert promotion for girl group Red Velvet recently. Is that a new trend in Korea, then, of indie artists creating art for mainstream pop musicians, and how do you feel about that?

SB: "Collaborating with musicians is always fun. Last year, I did album art for boy group NCT 127. I like the music of idol groups, but, if possible, I want to collaborate with Korean indie bands like 3rd Line Butterfly or ADOY. The more singular atmosphere of indie would allow me to show more of the usual traits in my artwork, which I couldn't do so much for the idol group.

Bang Sangho's artwork for NCT 127's Cherry Bomb mini-album

"About trends, I'm not sure if it's an intentional plan by mainstream music labels, but I think they give the public an opportunity to more easily access the unique work of young Korean artists. Also, when it came to producing the NCT 127 commission, it was possible to find a new 'feeling' in my craft thanks to the fresh and sensual culture that K-pop has."

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