Posted : 2008-01-25 16:41
Updated : 2008-01-25 16:41

Hwang Shows Life of Never-Ending Portrait

``Reflection on Journey'' is Hwang Julie's latest work. It is composed of painted photo postcards, from her own collection compiled through 20 years of travel.
/ Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

The colorful and vibrant works of renowned Korean artist Hwang Julie are currently on display at Gallery Hyundai.

The exhibition ``And Life Goes On …'' at Gallery Hyundai and next door at the Do Ha Gun features around 50 of Hwang's major works, from the 1980s until the present.

Art critic Yoon Jin-seop has described Hwang as ``an artist of the never-ending present, an artist who dreams of a continuous transformation even today.''

``For Hwang, painting is a bucket of memories, a bucket that draws up the conscious or subconscious from the depths. They can be brilliant or gloomy and dark, but mixed in the bucket are love for the self and compassion for fellow humans,'' Yoon said.

Hwang's style may be considered pop art because of her use of bright primary colors and cartoonish images. You can gaze at her works for a long time, and you won't be bored. There is always something that will catch your eye and hold your attention.

One of the recurring elements in Hwang's work is the ``eyes,'' which are floating and staring back at whoever is looking at the painting. Her works also depict ``life,'' especially in her ``Life is Elsewhere,'' which show scenes of everyday life and the human condition. Yet these little scenes add up to create a larger image of life.

Hwang is known for using a ``grid'' pattern in her works. She used manuscript paper as the grid to create equally spaced images in the ``Festival of Memory'' series. In her ``Botany'' series, she uses flowers as the grid. Each flower contains a different image.

Born in Seoul in 1957, Hwang grew up surrounded by literature, since her father owned a publishing company Shintaeyangsa and her mother loved fine art and literature. As a child, she remembers being surrounded by old manuscript papers at home. At the age of 20, she decided to make her own manuscript papers out of rice papers and painted over it.

Her literary background is also evident from the use of titles taken from novels such as ``I Don't Mind if One of the Children is a Dreadful One'' (from Lee Sang's novel) and ``The Unbearable Heaviness of Being'' (from Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being).

While known for her use of bright primary colors, Hwang's monochrome works are also given attention at the exhibit. The exhibit traces the development of Hwang's career, from ``Reflection on Circle'' and ``For Me to Live,'' which dealt with social issues in the 1980s, to her latest works.

Hwang has referred to her paintings as ``gentle bombs.'' ``I hold a critical view against modern civilization inside my paintings like a soft bomb. The nature of my sensibility is to use symbols and metaphors instead of being straightforward,'' she explained.

Her latest work ``Reflection on Journey'' features old photo postcards she collected while traveling for the past 20 years. She painted over the postcards to create entirely new images. Hwang has also been taking photographs, and painting over them.

``All these faces that are drawn on postcards and photos, which are reborn into totally different new lives, come together for a festival. … I continue to draw, even today, thinking that, the map of my painting and journey in life is pointing out that I'm just in the middle of my journey,'' she said.

The exhibition runs through Feb. 13. Gallery Hyundai is located near Gyeongbok Palace. Visit or call (02) 2287-3563.
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