Hwang Gyung-hyun


Hwang Gyunghyun’s Landscapes: Facing the pharmakonic-logical overthrow _ Kim Namsoo(2019) 2019-12-09

Hwang Gyunghyuns Landscapes: Facing the pharmakonic-logical overthrow


Kim Namsoo (Dance Critic)

Translator by Art Concept


#1. When will the light be extinguished? / Perhaps darkness can be / more comforting actually/ that might be more liberating / life like filament (Segment sung by Kim Bum-soo in the rap track Filament)


#2. Light is the left hand of darkness, and darkness the right hand of light.(Ursula K. Le Guin, from her science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness)


  Here, in this city of Hwang Gyunghyuns drawings, the street scenes present a distinct characteristic. Perhaps this is not a street in Seoul, but a nightscape of somewhere on Earth. The street grips the entire city like a soot-like darkness. The pedestrians, folks indoors, people sitting at the tables, and those exposed to darkness are all rendered into shadows. Perhaps it is the other way around; perhaps the darkness has captured the street, wringing the light from within the city. The light is being tortured. In any case, all the passersby disperse towards an unclear existence the moment they fade from sight, at which point the shadows appear to transform tacitly into light again. It is a most uncanny sight, this serendipitous coexistence. As if the light and shadows were always meant to be mutually compatible, the light glows faintly only for the shadows to combust even more brightly. The resulting visual manifestation is paradoxical, like some sort of photopsia. The conté strokes in Hwangs drawing directly affect such soft forms and shaky illusions of the shadows. As can be seen, Hwangs drawings particularly highlight the dialectics between the lights and shadows molded from closed eyes or utter darkness. The variable illusion of the drawing continues to operate without interruption as long as the viewers peer into the drawing.

  At one moment, the light seems to come aglow all at once like a coiled serpent, only to lose its luminance in an instant as if discouraged by the material feeling of the canvas surface. The repeatedly blinking shadows also appear to be summoned by the very darkness whence they originated. Yet just a moment later, rays of light from unidentifiable origins begin to flood the street like spirits. When even the cosmic starlight from lightyears away have grown dim, where do these lights come from? Have they seeped in from the deep wells of darkness after hiding out in some corner of the city?

  The blinking lights in Hwang Gyunghyuns exhibition Animator appear dramatic yet somehow nervous and anxious in the face of the power of darkness. Perhaps this is due to the absence of the starlight transmitted from genesis and the starlight of ethical foundation that illuminates our hearts. There is only the cityscape to be seen, a city that is burning and in ashes at the same time, while still maintaining its whole form. There is something unrealistic about it all. Even so, the light, shadows, and the lurking darkness take the viewers by surprise through their suspicious behavior. They collide yet assimilate with each other, interchanging as if they were undergoing mutual osmosis. The scenery evokes images of an insomniac alien wandering a foreign land. Its like walking towards a brightly lit night market without really knowing if the experience is a dream, reality, or a dream within a dream. Having lost any tangible substance, this mysterious spacetime comes creeping in the form of a nightscape. The scene takes place somewhere either distant or deep down below, settling into sediments that may perhaps appear in different colors. Here in this abyssal bowel of the night, the strangersbodies are covered with shaking lights and the shade of shadows. Each stroke of the conté is as rough and wandering as atonal music. The routes are segmented and rejoined irrationally. Now at this point, voices can be heard. It beckons, oh light, even you are being driven somewhere through the darkness. You kick off and fly, as if buoyantly floating over the sea without a sturdy bed. Oh darkness, you are still, yet the fastest, boasting your speed of being.’”

Or is this a scenery of the anim? Anim here refers to something sprite-like, something spiritual. Whether this work becomes light, darkness, or some sort of medium in between, there are clearly spiritual indications of the yin and the yang here. The artistic attempt to position such multiple indicators is akin to the concept of yi jing (意境, state of idea, aesthetic conception) in oriental painting. Ultimately, yi jing is a mutually subjective landscape in which the objective world view of the landscape joins the subjective world view of the xin jing (心境, state of mind, mood.This landscape exists both inside and outside at the same time, reflecting a certain attitude emotionally wounded from the scenery outside. Perhaps, then, what bides in that wound can be referred to as the anim, or other non-personified yet autonomous life forces such as mana, hau, kula, or gamang that recur in animist concepts. Without a doubt, the black, white, light, color, metaphor, and material of this painting oppose each other yet ultimately transcend into the state of life-detecting poetics.

  Through light, shadows, and darkness, Hwang paints the landscape of the poetic elements of anim. This landscape is imbued with the judgment that the time of modernity has been depleted while the center of gravity of self-consciousness has vanished. With that special clock now out of order, a new mechanism to tell time must arise. It is a subversive and decisive night.

  Long are the hours of such nights for the sleepless. Long are such roads for the weary.

  The stains of lights and shadows in Hwangs work may represent the stance of the endless waiting or the transient stance after everything is over but with nothing to come of it. The night stretches out like a long highway, while the moment captured is like the darkness set upon the eyes from being blinded by a flash of blazing light. Thus, under the stains of light and shadows, the street testifies: Our world must be born anew. It is finally time for regeneration.” “Everything is over, but there are no mechanisms to protect us from the temptations of life.

This final night of modernity created by Hwang is vulnerable and unfathomably long. Perhaps it hosts a hotel of infinity, depressingly filled with endless rows of rooms. Short of breath, everyone wishes that anyone could tell them that this too shall all come to an end. Such lonely, intangible weight presses down upon this scenery, wherein similarly spontaneous rationales are neutralized as quickly as their speed of being.In this irrefutably dramatic night, the light and shadows prop each other up under the unconscious material and immaterial impact of darkness that lingers in every corner of the city. Darkness is the puppet master, hiding behind the façade of the unconscious mind. With each pull on the string, the lights and shadows writhe about until their extreme contact drives them to completely exchange their phases with each other; the lights become shadows, and vice versa. It is like the pharmakon; the beneficial can become malignant, just as the malignant can be put to good use sometimes. Toxins and medicines are two sides of the same coin, with each containing the whole. Likewise, there is a taut tension like a burning filament between the borders of light and shadows. This tension recognizes the pharmakon therein and soon expands, forcing each side to give way to each other until they are ultimately switched over to the other side. It is the inevitable realization of the improbable. This border feels like the blinking filament before it is about to expire. Until it meets its eventual demise, it is eternal. Therefore, Hwang makes the untouched white paper appear to glow with blazing light or hold hands with the surrounding darkness simultaneously.


#3. So, the speed of dark could be greater than the speed of light. If there always has to be dark around the light, then it has to go out ahead of it.(Elizabeth Moon, Speed of Dark)


  The power of darkness. The argument that darkness has no speed, that it is merely an empty space void of light does not float in non-Einsteinian amateur physics. Darkness is the most powerful.

  The phenomenology of Hwangs nightscape suggests movement in darkness; as the city lights blindingly glow for a moment, only to be seemingly caught up by the velocity of the dancing light yet also commencing in the subtle but giant movements in darkness. The coy flow from beneath that movement drives the conté powder to coat the light as creation, allowing it to hatch. The night is a sort of an egg. The speed of dark presented by the night in Hwangs work incites all sorts of dreamy imaginations in the viewers, leading them to believe that they have become poets. As we remain too confused to see through this just yet, we merely and naively experience this as is.

  Such transcendental image in Hwangs work gently overwhelms the audience while enabling them to experience the work without having to use their thoughts. This somehow primordial yet urban, mythic yet modern scene has already broken through its eggshell. Soon the picture seeks all the way into the great earth lurking beneath the outer membrane of this city, and even deep into the bare exfoliated flesh of the ground. It shoves the groundlessness aside and digs in even deeper. The tendrils of the charcoal appear ready to spring to cover the entire space from top to bottom, and soon, the picture becomes night itself. Such is the way the night ambushes the exhibitions space. It encompasses everything like in land art, just as the night envelops the world.

  How fast is the darks speed of being,that it catches us off guard in the blink of an eye? This time, the dark vanishes suddenly. Its place in the horizontal, left-to-right mural-like flow could not be identified. The indicators of the sprits of yin and yang remain unidentified, merely existing in their still status of being,enjoying the fastest speed in cosmos with moderation. There are no interjections or any words in between. They all join in along the way with their breath held, sticking tightly onto the underbelly of the dark as if their lives depended on it. Yet, the artists still take the rein over the indicators, offering a story written in the language of darkness that whispers to the viewers from beneath the black surface. Peering into the work, the viewers are mesmerized, as if possessed by other spirits, engaging in the silence of the wild.

  While the speed of dark in Hwangs work at first ostensibly appears like wanton explosion of light rays, a closer look unveils that such light is already held in a grip.It is in such grip-nessthat we grow conscious of the spirits inhabiting the background of our world. The lights and shadows of raving spirits are already beautiful patterns in disarray, while the afterimage of the light burns within the darkness. The painting is aware of the vertices upon which balance is achieved within its own cosmos. At the very moment it deviates from the vertices, light and shadow swaps their spots, floating around in the opposite domain.

Such vision of darkness exists in that painting, a darkness we have yet come to know. Darkness is always there. In such context, dark is always there before light. Hwang shows us that pharmakonic paradox. Oh Darkness, let there be Light!