The error permitted in painting and the attitude that allows it
Ahn So-yeon (Art critic)
Translator by Art Concept
Hwang Gyung-hyun’s work divides into various trajectories. Yet, that doesn’t mean that completely irrelevant categories are created indiscriminately; rather, overlaps of different scales are produced. Despite so, it’s apparent that his work clearly demonstrates unwillingness for change or diversity, which I presume has to do with the effect of installation that’s largely emphasized in his work. The conversation with Hwang began from there, after exploring, filled with curiosities, his solo exhibition Carbamazepine (2018) at Yangju City Art Studio(777 Residence) where he was an artist in residency.
1. The black images and panoramic photographs
Hwang produces his unique black drawings in conté. Mostly based on the photographs the artist took wandering on the streets, what’s notable about these drawings is that he uses panoramic photographs to depict subjects with ambiguously dispersed points of view using conté on paper, regardless of the size of the image. For example, in Drawing (Square meter) (2017) and Drawing (U-shape) (2018), the artist took panoramic photographs of the cityscape of Busan or inside a shopping center, printed the photographs, then reinvented them as black drawings. There are also 8 square drawings in black conté, measuring 20cm in width and length, which capture various scenes and figures and seem like photographic images from SNS. Such types of images are also drawn on paper that measures 100cm in width and length, such as in the Drawing (Stroller) (2018) series. Hwang deeply considers the specifications of the paper which becomes the support of his drawings, and establishes a certain limit or range before drawing. All of his drawings are black, and the black stands out as if to conceal the surface of the work through black conté. Just as enough time must pass before one is able to see form in darkness, the form in blackness slowly begin to emerge in the viewer’s sight after enough time has passed.
The black drawings, with forms that are not easily decipherable, capture scenes distorted by the panoramic photograph, accumulating a thick black layer of dry conté powder; however, it seems that the sense of tension and anxiety that this layer of powder can soon be blown in air is faintly hinted at in the image. In the black conté drawings, Hwang exposes, with ease, the split point of view of the panoramic photographs. In other words, he superimposes vast landscapes or rapid movements in a single panoramic photograph, replacing the continuous grandeur of such mushed-up space and time with the expressive texture of the drawing. Certainly, in his drawings, the thick smoky texture of the black conté grips the viewer before it pronounces the panorama of the place or time it captures. By building up a thick layer of painterly texture, he might presumably be focusing on the overlapping of panoramic photograph as an expression of painting, justifiably so in order to bring out the sensual experiences that are aroused by the formative elements. Ultimately, Hwang seems to have attempted to closely examine the errors in visual perception experienced through the texture of the drawings.
2. The still image with movement
Hwang talks about “movement”. He has told me that while his images have a sense of motion like in animation, he wishes to show an aspect of “continuity” that cannot be shown through video or animation. He mentioned that even though he always keeps this in mind, he feels frustrated to have been unable to make them manifest in his works. Although conversations between the artist and I have hit a few obstacles and thus not easy to follow, he consistently explained with composure that “movement” and “continuity” are important words in his work. For Hwang, deciding what subject to express in his image is as deeply important as to how he installs and shows his drawings. Hwang focuses on visual errors and contradictions as painterly experiences, and demonstrates his active gesture of approval by either transforming the support or arranging and installing the support.
Hwang’s solo exhibition Stroll on the City (Seum Art Space, 2017) shows a strong evidence of the artist’s contemplation of the method of installation which maximizes the sense of “movement” and focuses on the visual experience of his strolls in the city. Examples of such works would be Drawing (Scroll) (2015-2017) produced in the form of a scroll, Drawing (L-Shape) (2017), an L-shaped 8-meter drawing installed on the wall and floor on which visitors walked on the plastic sheet covering the part of the drawing on the floor, and Drawing (Arch) (2016) where a 4-m is propped up by a wooden structures with wheels.
In particular, by visualizing the panoramic visual error of the massive spectacle-like cityscape, Hwang has attempted various installation methods in order to arouse a sense of continuous movement that accompanies the experience of such works. The work Drawing (Square Meter) in this solo exhibition demonstrates such continued interests of the artist. A pane of clear Plexiglass covers a drawing measuring 3.3 square meters installed on the floor, allowing the audience to stand on it and view the work. This frame, which reflects the minimum amount space needed for a single person to dwell, observes the exclusive visual system of the individual who perceives the massive landscape. At the same time, it also captures the mechanism of continuous visual experience mediated through photographs and SNS which have always captured Hwang’s interest.
3. Seeing the Unshown
Hwang’s work is quite conscious of “showing”. He is always considerate of the audience and their stance. He adjusts and controls various factors and circumstances, keeping in mind how the random viewer would see, experience and think about his work. As mentioned above, the various methods of installation introduced inside and outside of the drawings demonstrate the intentions of the artist in varying scales. What’s important here is how balanced the artist can mediate as well as intervene in between his work and the audience. In this exhibition, Hwang installed I saw the rocket in silver (2018) as the last work the audience of the exhibition would see. Forming an antithesis with the four works in the Flying (2018) series which signal the beginning of the exhibition, I saw the rocket in silver demonstrated the artist’s intentions. Carbamazepine, the title of this exhibition, is a pharmaceutical product used to treat motor disturbances, or Dyskinesia, as mentioned by the artist. Taking these aspects into consideration, it seems that Hwang is attempting to replace the function of the agent, which remedies visual errors and disturbances, with painterly expressions. According to the artist, Flying, which capture a moment of flying where time and space are ambiguous, reminds the artist of the futuristic images of shining silver he’d often see on TV in his childhood. Such illusion becomes an actual visual experience in I saw the rocket in silver at the end of the exhibition. The bright shining material that fills the small dark space induces the viewer’s movement, through the refractions of the faintly reflected planes. The viewer emerges oneself in the space where nothing is revealed, as if it’s completely empty, and observe their own movement.
Talking about this last work, Hwang said that he wanted to present a sense of ambiguity to the audience for them to see. This referred to the visual error that he held onto throughout the entire period of creating black drawings, as well as a reason for him to intervene in his work. Hwang claims that he has not yet found the points through which to arbitrate or mediate between them in a refined and effective manner. However, it’s clear that Hwang has been exploring such points through various works and trajectories that are not easily graspable in the last few years. Therefore, it seems promising that the distribution of the intensity of the artist’s immersion in his work becomes effective once the series of work processes and outcomes come to find a directivity in a more elaborate logic.