FACE – Han Young-Wook 2011 Solo Exhibition
A stranger in a picture who seems to live far away stares at me.
I also stare at the eyes in the picture.
At one point, the man in the picture becomes me.
It seems a mirror.
The first impression of Han Young-Wook’s paintings was that the figures in the pictures were strange but vivid. They are created through the elaboration of sharply scratching metal surfaces. The figures which give mixed feelings of being distant but familiar, however lively, seem to identify themselves with viewers by staring at them. His way of working is unique. It is to make textures by scratching and then to repeatedly color or decolor into the textures. Its elaboration makes his figures real.
Han Young-Wook has reached to a level of maturity in his skills of composing a plane and depicting a figure. The full flowing curly hair and wrinkled skin through sharp but fluid pencil lines on metal surfaces continuously change as viewers move, so the lights also change. But the eyes seem not to move even though they always face the eyes of the viewers moving. They see each other and understand each other. You may feel that the figures are still staring at your back as you turn around.
Generally highly elaborate representations do not necessarily lead to expressions of objects’ internal energies. On the contrary, as representations look more like its objects, it is likely that they fail to reach the meanings of the objects. The will to go beyond representation often ends up expressionist or abstraction paintings. It can be said that modern and contemporary art has been a trial to go beyond the visible. Hyper-real paintings can be said that they are from the will to go beyond the visible through the visible. Painting is painting the meanings of the objects. It seems that his work tries to go beyond the diversities of individuals and he sees into human species to reach a universality of human beings. The vividness from his faces may be his devotion to paintings and our sublime feelings to our lives in addition to his superb skills.
However, you may doubt that Han Young-Wook focuses on skills. You may recall the art market in mid-2000s when a new class of consumers appeared and hyper-realist paintings were prevalent especially in young artists in a form of art markets responding to the new consumers’ needs. You may see him in such a stream. But seeing his faces in time, you will find something more than technique. There is a cure for life to which his art is oriented and an affection for people.
Looking at some of his works, I found myself in a similar amazement when I saw the self-portrait by Do-Seo Yoon, a prominent 17th century painter from Joseon Dynasty. Their figures both look at somewhere over a horizon and somewhere inside of themselves. The deep eyes of contemplation for life, especially the lines from the old men’s eyes which penetrate our minds, express a power from inside beyond representation. But they make it possible through representation.
His ‘dying green’ on which were fallen faces, empty eyes and hands grabbing fences of the Jewish people at Auschwitz concentration camp. It was so impressive that I still have the sensation. I think he is essentially an expressionist on his internal disposition. That is where his work begins. I hope that his work will continue to go further and to be meaningful to more people than now along the long way of his career.