brilliant 30: Kyoungtack Hong
Visualizing the Simultaneity of Space
Kyoungtack Hong, Neon Signage for Culture
Artist Kyoungtack Hong employs the universal imagery of modern capitalist society in his work. From cult figures to present-day celebrities; from books as stores of knowledge and pens as tools to write the mind; from the Virgin Mary to Barbie dolls; from classical music to African-American funk. Hong has managed to encompass the dichotomous nature of these images in his body of work. Critics evaluating Hong’s work are impelled to merge seemingly contradictory elements, breaking down distinctions between sacred and pagan, novelty and reenactment, religious faith and everyday life, worship and pleasure.
Hong fills his canvases with minute details of still life and interior landscape, and adds visual brilliance to everyday objects by coating them in bright, extraordinary colors. Pop art is well known for choosing mass media images as its main subject matter.
However, Hong’s subjects are more personal and unique in nature, and focus on honest realism. Through his paintings, we enter into a world filled with the brilliance of neon light.
His recent work, Six Celestial Bodies, represents the simultaneity of space. The canvas is configured with overlapping circular shapes with its mass weight at the center. Rudolf Arnheim’s “Art and Visual Perception,” posits that circular figures depict inherent spatial features with a strong tendency to form their own world, without the influence of external forces. These traits seem to illustrate the artist’s quote, “I wish for my work to flow out from the most secular to the most holy.” This ideal product of repeated circular pattern could perhaps be regarded as a new religion for the 21st Century.
Q. Could you describe one of your well-known bodies of work, Funkchestra?
A. Funkchestra is a compound word for African-American funk music and orchestra. I consider myself as a maestro over my body of work. Much like the conductor of an orchestra creating a single, harmonious whole from an assembly of different musical instruments, I too wish to unite the disparate worlds of high culture and popular culture, the sacred and the pagan in each of my pieces.
Q. Excluding a few pieces, the majority of your work is filled with images of objects in an all-over painting style. Is there a particular reason why you choose this technique?
A. Growing up in a poor nation, I learned to live with the virtue of “frugal living.” Perhaps this can account for my paranoid obsession with conservation, and is the reason I choose to fit these subjects onto one canvas. The final product depends on my artistic intention and direction; and my role is to blend together these subjects in resonant harmony.
The final product depends on my artistic intention and direction; and my role is to blend together these subjects in resonant harmony. -Kyoungtack Hong-
Q. I would think the structure and proportions of the canvas would act as critical factors in determining the final product. What role do the patterns in Funkchestra have in maintaining the overall proportion and symmetry of your piece?
A. The patterns in my work epitomize the absolute structures of facadectomy such as are seen in cathedrals and temples. Ornate patterns on religious building structures are always used to create order and symmetrical balance. The faces of celebrities in the Funkchestra series are contemporary alternatives for the idols that were once the objects of human admiration.
Q. Could you tell us about your more recent work, Reflection and Six Celestial Bodies?
A. If the subjects in my previous works illustrate overlapping objects, Six Celestial Bodies series depicts the overlapping of space. The source of inspiration is the notion that the physics of time and space may not necessarily be identical and applicable to everyone. Hence, the work is an attempt to express the theoretical and intangible condition of spatial coexistence; I hope to develop this idea in my future work. Reflection is an extension of my Pens series, except the subject has been changed from pens to golf clubs. The painting depicts a patterned bouquet of golf clubs against a backdrop of space. The smooth surface of the golf clubs reflects images of me and my studio; it is a visual manifestation of the coexistence of two disparate spaces.
Q. What makes your art brilliant?
A. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory. I have used this word as a title for a solo exhibition in the past. Purgatory is a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven. I consider my role as an artist as a mediator between art and the public, religious faith and everyday life, the sacred and the pagan.
Q. What is the seed of your imagination?
A. I’m inspired by music. I have eclectic taste. Each genre of music has unique rhythms and tunes which are sources of inspiration for the rhythmical constructs and arrangements of color in my work. We live in an era where we experience music in new ways, by hearing with our eyes and seeing with our ears. For example, the TV channel MTV titillates our vision with flashy, erotically-charged music videos. Here, we lose focus on what is primary and what is supplementary. In addition to breaking down the boundaries between disparate subjects, my work also illustrates the balanced tension resulting from incongruity.
Reflection_01 Installation View. 2013
Pens-Six Celestial Bodies. 2014. Oil on linen. 250 x 250cm
Pens_02. 1994-1999. Oil on canvas. 390 x 381cm
Green Green Grass 2. 2014. Acrylic and oil on linen. 45.5 x 53cm
Green Green Grass 1. 2014. Acrylic and oil on linen. 194 x 256cmm
Library-Golf Course. 2014. Acrylic and oil on linen. 194 x 259cm
Library-Mt. Everest. 2014. Acrylic and oil on linen. 194 x 259cm
Kyoungtack Hong acquired his BFA in Painting at Kyoungwon University, Seongnam, Korea. His work has been on exhibit in over 8 selected solo shows such as <Green Green Grass>(Perigee Hall & Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2015), and over 9 selected group shows including <Wall Screen Project: Funkchestra in Motion>(Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 2013), <Korean Art from the Museum Collection: Grand Narrative Part II>(National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea, 2013), to name a few. Kyoungtack Hong was awarded <Lee Insung Art Prize>(Daegue Art Museum, Daegu, Korea, 2014) and <2nd K-ARTISTAR Young Artist Award>(Korean Fine Arts Association, Seoul, Korea, 2008).