“Light is color, and I want to speak in color”

Feeling over form, abstraction in beautiful poetry 홍기인 기자l승인2023.07.21l수정2023.07.21 13:52

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My childhood in a village along the village around the Yeongsan River Dedle was a valuable experience that nurtured my sensitivity. Crossing the misty river and walking across the seasonal fields to school was a time to feel the spirit of nature and learn about providence. Those precious memories and experiences nourish my inner self and are expressed in my artwork. < From the artist’s notes>

 

The work ‘Language of Light and Color’ becomes ‘Songs of Light’ series

Artist Youngsoon Ham held a solo exhibition titled “The Language of Light and Color” from June 15 to 30 at the Thinking Box Gallery in Gwangju. It coincided with the regular exhibition of the Gwangju-Korea Women Writers’ Association. On the morning of June 19, it was 34 degrees Celsius when the reporter took the SRT from Suseo Station and arrived at Songjeong Station in Gwangju at 11:30. The sun was shining and it was sweltering. When I arrived at the Thinking Box Gallery, located next to Hansen Hospital, I was greeted by the artist, who I had arranged to meet in advance. My first impression of her was that she was a soft-spoken and sincere artist. When I walked into the gallery, I was greeted by more than 30 works that expressed the artist’s interpretation of nature’s colors, light, and inner thoughts. The signatures in the guestbook suggest that many local personalities and famous authors have visited in the intervening years. The response was very enthusiastic, with people who traveled from as far away as Paju already taking a few pictures and selling them. There were quite a few “songs of light” works. One piece captured the feeling of walking in the sunshine on a spring day and being stopped by the chorus of rhododendrons. From this process, Ham’s unique series of vertical abstractions was born. Ham explained “I couldn’t express the brilliance of springtime and my heart swaying in the spring breeze in a composition, so I made a comprehensive abstraction. Rather than photographing and drawing azaleas and rhododendrons, I wanted to express them as a harmonious sound before the colors of the dense blooms themselves become a chorus or a shout.” In addition to this, the exhibition was filled with works that make you feel like you’re walking across a field, dipping your feet in a stream, and hearing birds and water in a green forest. They were all beautiful abstract works of color, light, and sound. The works were made of mixed media, including hanji and acrylic, and the overall atmosphere was bright and happy. The images of the land and forests were cool to the touch, and the gentle classical music was enough to bring back nostalgic memories.

 

‘Nature is my teacher’, applying it to drawing and continuous research

As a child, Ham grew up near the Yeongsan River, and she remembers the road to school being so dazzlingly beautiful. Every day, she walked a long way and saw intense sunlight, wind, snowstorms, wildflowers, and grass. The feeling of walking barefoot on a lazy river and the feeling of a girl walking through the changing nature seemed to be preserved to this day. The current works were nourished by her childhood feelings and led her to where she is today. She studied art education at Chonnam National University. The art education department had no seniors because it newly opened. After much deliberation, she founded the ‘Ladder’ club and immersed herself in discussions and research. The art club was an association of her classmates from Chonnam National University and seniors from Chosun University, and it was composed of the most academically intense friends among art students, and not just anyone could join. They were filled with the desire to stay awake and study constantly as a new art history unfolded. The club made an important issue of not staying in Gwangju. After such a passionate undergraduate experience, she was transferred to Wando as an art teacher and began teaching there. Here, she interacted with artists through the Gwangju Jeonnam Women’s Artists’ Association, where she immersed herself in her artwork, and was a member of the nude sketching club. In particular, she added color to her drawings of the human body (croquis). While croquis usually use only pencil, Ham used color as an expandable art form. However, she was frowned upon by the group for breaking the rules. Whenever a member’s croquis collection was published, it was in black and white, which was not her intention. It may be part of the art world, but just a decade ago, it was a stifling restriction, like a heresy. She wanted to break out of the old stereotypes and try something different, and that’s how she pinned her own buttons, one by one, with the freedom of color that other artists couldn’t.

 

▲ Artist Youngsoon Ham

Light is color, becoming an abstract artist by trying different things

In modern times, painting is often referred to as “the art of color. Color is a poetic language that expresses the artist’s feelings and thoughts. Through color, the artist expresses an intimate language. Like an orchestra playing, Ham simplifies various colors into a chromatic language that overlaps and implies each other. The artist expresses her experiences and memories of the light and rustic nature of the South by melting them into various textures, colors, and non-figurative forms. Her work is reminiscent of Henri-Emile Benoit Matisse, who started the color revolution, Mark Rothko, a master of soul-inspiring color abstraction, and Yoo Young-guk, an old Korean painter who constantly challenged experiment with color. If France’s Marie Laurentin is known for her ecstatic colors, Ham is more of an abstraction, a beautiful blend of color, light, and feeling than an object. This intention is evident in her past works. For example, the series Spring Road (2014), Spring in Seryangji (2015), In the Field (2014), Scent (2018), Whispers (2018), Autumn (2016), Full Harvest (2021), and Mountain Road (2022). The beautiful colors of Autumn fill the canvas like a Marie Laurentinian painting. In fact, she used to paint figuratively. As the years went by, she became more reflective and spent more time thinking about and studying color and light than anyone else.

She said that when she put the world aside and faced the canvas in her studio, she would stare at it, wondering, “What am I going to paint?” and experiment with color, and the inspiration would come naturally. She anchored this emotion in a still image. “I wanted to express the emotion rather than the meaning of the form,” she says, “and it was a natural part of the process to become abstract.” She adds layers of primary colors. She touches the color over and over again until she recreates the sensation of nature, and only when she feels the feast of nature saying, “Yes, this is what it feels like!” does she let go of the brush. “Light as a color, wind as a touch!” The works mixed with light, color, and the language of nature was poured out like grains of wheat. It is expected that more information will be gathered on the future course of her work.


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