“Botany” (2010) by Hwang Julie is on display through July 11 at the Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space, southern Seoul. / Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai
By Ines Min
Hwang Julie, a distinguished Korean painter, is holding a solo exhibition of her latest works in Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space through July 11.
The title of the show, ``Men Over Flowers,'' may bring to mind the runaway hit drama of 2009 (``Boys Over Flowers''), but Hwang takes the phrase to signify more of her life philosophy than a flippant preference.
The 53-year-old artist does not buy into the romance of fresh-cut flowers, opting instead for the immortality of artificial buds or the natural cycles of a living plant. However, with a partiality to fields of sunflowers and cacti blossoms, Hwang has been attracted to colorful plants since growing up around white lilies in her childhood home.
``Flowers are a likely symbol of love and life,'' the artist said. ``In my dreams, I would like to stick flowers like wallpaper onto the dreary walls of reality.''
However, even the symbolic beauty of flowers can only last so long. Hwang said that though the paintings in her dreams were aesthetic, she needed something more. ``I realized for the first time in a long while that man is more beautiful than flowers.''
The exhibition mixes Hwang's well-known bold colors and animated style with a new approach to her artwork: Printed photographs serving as backgrounds. For the artist _ who multitasks as a collector, world traveler and soon-to-be published writer _ each piece serves as a visual diary.
Taken during her most recent trip through the Balkans and China's Silk Road, the photos often depict the monotone palettes of a rainy flight of concrete steps, the earthy sands of a desert or the dulled yellow of an elementary school wall.
`` I'm thinking of using photographs for the backgrounds of my work from now on,'' Hwang said. The artist confessed to wanting to become a photographer when in middle school, although she didn't begin attempting work with a camera until four years ago.
Another change is the use of texture in her art. Avoiding the use of lines and dots to provide depth and shading to her creations, Hwang instead chose to stick with solid swathes of paint. The effect is one of playful simplicity.
Texture is instead achieved by filling in spaces with incomprehensive letters and numbers. The orderly lines of ``text'' are used sparingly, and perhaps belie another development in the artist's life.
Hwang will be releasing her first novel this September, a furthering of her writing career in pictorial essays that began last year in a magazine publication.
``It really surprised me that I could write a novel,'' she admitted. ``I wouldn't have been able to do it before.''
That's not to say she'll be leaving behind artwork, however, or her most distinctive trademark of utilizing her collections.
Featured at the gallery are 22 chairs from her collection of 100, painted with scenes of myriad daily activities, from golfing to school kids at play. The vintage children's chairs were gathered from the United States, China, Korea and other countries.
``I first started collecting postage stamps,'' she said, about her hobby's origins. Hwang managed to garner roughly 10 volumes of postage since she began at the age of 5. The life-long hobby soon grew to include about 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses, a variety of hammers, antiques and rocks _ all of which have found their way into her artwork.
``I work with the belief that the world is a canvas,'' Hwang said.
``Men Over Flowers'' is on display at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space, located a 15-minute walk from exit 2 of Apgujeong Station, subway line 3. For more information visit www.galleryhyundai.com.