Hiejin Yoo Explores the Intimacy and Personality of Everyday Experiences
Fredric Snitzer Gallery is currently showing its first solo exhibition from the German-born Korean artist, Hiejin Yoo, who is now living and working in LA. Yoo's exhibition entitled The Recovery of Openness, Intimacy, and Trust, has a focus on personal experiences, specifically the day-to-day moments and routines of contemporary life.
Using a potent color palette and distinctive cartoon-like white outlines, Yoo is creating recognizable snapshots of everyday life. By capturing mundane home scenes, romantic moments with her partner or random occurrences from urban life, she is creating a personal visual journal that many can identify with. Mixing classic painterly techniques with the playfulness of comic-like cropping and outlining, all fragmented memories are stripped of their factuality and specifics. With specific color choices resonating with the particular feeling of her experiences, she manages to accent the overall ambiance of the moment without fully revealing the figurative subjects within.
After the opening of "The Recovery of Openness, Intimacy, and Trust", we got in touch with Yoo to get a deeper understanding of her exhibition.
Sasha Bogojev: There are a lot of hands in this show, was that intentional or it just happened? What attracts you to depicting hands?
Hiejin Yoo: I paint arms, legs, hands and sometimes half a body, but never a full face. The choice to create a mysterious complication in the subject makes the figure unidentifiable to the viewer, allowing her or him to imagine the scene well beyond the picture's plane.
I began painting ghost-like lines of arms and legs while I was longing for my boyfriend who lives in Chicago. I would spend time with him in Chicago, come back to my studio in LA, and make paintings of our memories. We've been in a long-distance relationship for over four years now, so this is my way of expressing the idea that even though the person I love is not next to me right now, I am still remembering and missing our intimacy.
Do you often use your life as a reference for the visuals in your paintings? How accurately do you try to depict the references in your life?
My work is based on daily observations that I first record in diary form and then translate into large, semi-figurative paintings on canvas. Mundane events and everyday moments are depicted with large abstracted planes of color and bold, layered marks that evoke the subjectivity of my inner life.
These paintings are created with quick, impromptu energy that suggests the immediacy I remember. Rather than composing beforehand, I apply sweeping gestures and delicately-addressed conditions, both of which arrive solely from my own intuition. I use a range of formal approaches to suggest the way memory is often vivid and obfuscated at the same time.
Since they're representing such personal moments, how does it feel to let them go in the world?
The paintings draw connections between my own personal experiences and those of others. By highlighting and amplifying these moments, my work responds to the otherwise overlooked and underappreciated aspects of daily life. While deeply personal, these works also hint at the ways art can address shared feelings and experiences, whether grandiose or mundane.
Do you ever wonder about strangers having a snapshot of your personal life inside their homes and how does that feel?
The motivations of my works are from very personal stories, but they're also from everyday life. I've met lots of people who have told me personal stories based on their own interpretations of the works, so I think people must be reminiscing about their own personal experiences when they see my work in their homes. Being able to express those experiences as paintings and sharing them with other people has been very exciting and I am feeling sincerely blessed. I hope those who view my works can also find happiness in their lives when thinking about these moments with their families, friends, or sometimes strangers.
Where do your color choices, specifically the white outlines, come from?
The paintings are set in spaces that can be read as either interior or exterior, but their ambiguous, hazy atmospheres locate them in a world that is primarily psychological. I choose colors based on my feelings of memories that have very specific times and places. This allows me to reference the day-to-day moments I find surprisingly infinite and beautiful. With white lines specifically, I started using them to describe a state of melancholy or longing.
What about the peculiar formatting of the images, why do you prefer focusing on a detail rather than telling the "whole story"?
The memories are cropped and arranged to focus on specific reflections that have been strongly etched into my consciousness. These moments are recorded and relived through the act of painting. The result of which are works that reflect my personal history and act as intimate journals of self-discovery. This provides the subtle necessity of staying longer and allowing the surface to read as an abstraction of a memory from a certain frame of mind.
Do you think your work is influenced by Korean traditional art or aesthetics in any way?
I learned how to depict hands and other things from real life in Korea, but I think I have learned more about art in the United States.
Do you like making or having connections with your homeland's tradition and how do you feel about that?
I haven't been back to Korea for four years, but I spent 18 years while growing up there. Living in the United States with a Korean cultural background inspires me more because of the differences between them. I am enjoying it every day!
Hiejin Yoo's "The Recovery of Openness, Intimacy, and Trust" is now on display at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami, Florida until June 22, 2019.