From avant-garde headpieces to alien floral masks, the Korean designer is equally at home with the bizarre and the delicate
From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to makeup artists and nail artists, in our Spotlight Serieswe profile creatives who are breaking the rules in their respective industries.
When it comes to beauty, Oh Seongseok creates some of the most exciting and boundary-pushing works. With an eye for the surreal, the Seoul-based makeup artist and hairstylist’s designs combine the bizarre with the tender. There are delicate and painterly looks in watercolor; playful faces adorned with stickers and Yu Gi Oh maps; avant-garde but always beautiful headdresses.
Flowers are a recurring motif, appearing regularly in Oh’s work as inspiration or literally appearing to cover models’ faces. But these are not your grandmother’s sweet and sickly flowers: orchids fill the mouth, poppies protrude from the eyes and ears, lilies run like blood on the skin. In Oh’s work, there is a constant presence of the strange and the extraterrestrial; a darkness that balances the softer, even childlike elements. For Korean rapper Mudd the Student, for example, Oh created a series of gimp masks, including two yellow and pink satin ones made from Disney princess dresses. A third was in white leather and wearing a plastic tiara.
Born on Jeju Island in South Korea, it was a friend’s suggestion that first inspired Oh to move to Seoul, where he later studied makeup at MBC Makeupforever Academy. “Ever since I was young, every Korean has considered school work to be important. The friends around me had only one goal: to get into college in Seoul,” he says. I wasn’t good at studying and I was far from achieving that goal.”
What he lacked in study skills, he more than made up for when it came to makeup, and he’s been working on it ever since — half his life, in fact. Work closely with photographer Dazed 100 Cho Gi SeokOh has collaborated on shoots for magazines like Dazed Korea, vogue korea, Seduce and She Korea, and brands like Gucci. He talks to us here about his inspirations, his creative process and his advice to young make-up artists.
What inspires your makeup and hairstyles?
Oh Seongseok: To see and to draw. I create images by repetition. I don’t think too much and I have no prejudices. I try to see things intuitively. I believe it improves my makeup and my work.
I’m influenced by so many things that I can’t choose just one. It is not only culture or art but also various social issues, such as current events and the economy, that inspire me.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Oh Seongseok: In fact, I don’t think I have a strong aesthetic. But if I must say, I have a ‘rough and hard’ quality. Makeup should be trickier than any other job, but I feel the opposite, and I think that’s why people see me differently. This kind of work has become my signature.
Is “beauty” (whatever that word means to you) something you try to capture in your work or is it a concept you reject?
Oh Seongseok: I don’t think beauty just includes beautiful things. Beauty can express everything.
What projects are you most proud of?
Oh Seongseok: I don’t have any proud plans yet. But I always look forward to working with Cho Gi-Seok and stylist Lisa Jarvis.
What’s your favorite beauty trend right now?
Oh Seongseok: In general, I don’t anticipate trends because just as each person has a different personality, I believe that there is a beauty that suits them. In fact, I don’t care about trends.
What advice would you give to young artists wishing to enter the industry?
Oh Seongseok: Sounds great to give advice, but you should hopefully have fun and focus on the job. People don’t focus on what they love as much as they should.
What are you currently working on?
Oh Seongseok: I continue to focus on making headdresses. These days I’m also interested in 3D imagery, so I try to draw that too.