Above Cloudy Night: Pixelation (Copyright © Cloudy Night, 2021)
With an atmospheric oeuvre, Jong takes viewers on a journey through the backstreets of Seoul’s nightlife.
Like a throwback to the bleakness of the American Depression, the nightscapes in Jong’s works radiate the isolation of a bygone era that juxtaposes curiously with their hypermodern streets.
In scenes that one might best describe as Edward Hopper meets Ghost in a Shell, he tells stories of loneliness in contemporary South Korean society. “Korea is a country of non-stop competition,” the Incheon-born artist explains. “Education, drinking, driving, working, having partners… almost every aspect of our daily life involves it.”
Instead of focusing on the perpetual merry-go-round of societal routines, Jong finds the moments of calm that garner little attention far more intriguing. “I wanted to capture things that people wouldn’t normally be doing.”
Above Cloudy Night: Connected (Copyright © Cloudy Night, 2021)
Known as Cloudy Night in the NFT art community, Jong’s photography draws comparisons to heady sci-fi cult classics like Blade Runner and Akira with their distinctly cyberpunk settings. Shadowy silhouettes and reticent figures walk behind grungy alleyways or linger on rain-soaked streets haunted by the glow of neon signs. But in addition to the apparent inspiration from these films, Jong also shares with us a more specific reason for these compositions.
“When I was studying 3D graphics in community college, I didn’t have much time to shoot in the day,” he says. “So, I naturally went on the streets with my camera at night.” He thinks of this as the moment his photography journey really began although, he reveals, his flare for image-making began early on.
“I remember when I asked my dad for a camera and film to take to kindergarten, and he gave one to me without film in it,” He laughs. “That’s how much I shot!”
It was an enduring passion that reignited at different moments of his life. His middle school years were spent on photographing cars, a focus later conferred onto aviation photography in high school. Following these passions to university, he began studying videography only for things to come to an abrupt halt when he left for military service.
Post-military life, however, brought him ironically back into the fold where photography became a night-time indulgence away from community college. Now come full-circle from his childhood inclinations, Jong has made a name for himself with his art.
Above Cloudy Night: Distorted (Copyright © Cloudy Night, 2021)
He credits his success to “pure tunnel vision”. Focusing on one thing alone — his work — was what it took to get ahead. Faced with parental disapproval about his “hobby”, he needed to prove himself and show results. With his career in full swing they’ve finally come around and are now “more supportive than ever.” But while it took persuasion for them to be convinced, Jong’s commitment to his craft has always been unmistakable.
Even now in the NFT art industry where artistic merit does not always translate to success, he remains firm in respect for thoughtful work. Elaborating on his past static photography the artist now experiments with motion, drawing on his experience with 3D graphics to create seamless collages and animations inspired by the work of Scottish photographer Liam Wong.
“I want to show people that I’m here for the long run, not for a quick cash grab.” He tells us. “I could just shoot photos and mint them but you have to understand why people collect NFTs — they need to be special; there must be a reason to collect them.”
Above Cloudy Night: Time Travel (Copyright © Cloudy Night, 2021)
The artist shares this reflective side in his work with his perspectives on life. Giving earnest thought to the question of his biggest challenge as an artist, Jong mulls over his struggle with decision-making.
“Deciding to make a move requires a lot of thinking,” He muses. “I could’ve gotten my personal camera much earlier if I made the decision before, but it was hard. With that money, you can eat good food, go places, drink with friends. It was a decision that required lots of sacrifices and that’s why it took me so long.” He continues. “It’s a thing that still holds me back from doing things but I’ve learned the and try to decide more quickly now. It’s a time-saving thing that drives me forward.”
Jong’s opinions on having a vision for the long term, unsurprisingly, also extend to his place in history and what his art means to him. “Art is something that people can still see and talk about after I’m gone; it’s leaving a legacy,” He says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re not famous, we can all still leave something behind and not be forgotten.”