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  • Heo, Eun Young

Expression of ‘Healing’ Inherent in the Form of Hanji in Heo’s Work

The main form which constitutes Heo Eun-Young‘s works is ‘hanji (Korean Traditional Paper). It’s content introduces the concept of ‘healing’. ‘Healing’, in general, means recovering an abnormal condition into normalcy. This includes both mental and physical healing. Moreover, her works present rectangular boxes made in layers of hanjis, which symbolizes the ‘mind’. Here, it is noticeable that the ‘hanji’, ‘healing’ and the ‘mind’ interact and complement each other to form the basis for Heo’s art. By using hanji as the material, it incorporates the meaning of healing of the oppressed mind, in internal concealment.

For a while, Heo Eun-Young underwent a period of research with various materials. She experimented and produced works with a variety of materials’ such as using photographs, OHP films, hanjis, objets , copies, and at times, producing works using backstitches on cloths, etc. However, Since 2000, hanji has been the primary material for all her works.

For centuries, Hanji was such a significant tool in the lives of our ancestors. It was not only used  for making books or paintings, but also for making paper-clothes, paper-armors, paper-chamber pots, paper-candle holders, paper-wardrobes and other items. In making an art piece, it was traditionally used as a background material. However, today, its concept of being a mere background material is gone. Today the paper itself is perceived to reveal its own message. Thus the concept of material and the concept of work are not separated, but the material itself can be seen as the art work. Therefore, the fact that hanji simultaneously possesses the ability to be the ‘background material’, and the ‘objet’, is the trend in which hanji is used today.

In Korean modern art, works using hanji from objet-perspective began to show in experimental Korean Oriental paintings in the 1960’s. From the 1980’s, attempts to experiment formatively using the characteristics of hanji were frequently shown. The <Hanji Artists Association>  became the representative group which made works using hanji. Accordingly, the works of these artists using hanji began to materialize and give visibility to the aesthetic of hanji itself.

Heo Eun-Young takes advantage of the characteristics of hanji, and pursues the expression of the aesthetics. Moreover, it is clear that she applies the background-aspect and the objet-aspect at the same time. In achieving the effect through coloring, it shows the background-aspect, and in achieving the material effect through reliefs and layering the hanjis, she employs the objet-aspect. That is, adding colors on top of hanji for painterly expression is the background-aspect, and the use of hanji’s property in a manner to reveal its materialistic aspect, is the expression of objet.

Looking at the method of the works’ production, hanjis are at first glued in layers on top of the canvas to build the basis of the painting. A slight volume in parts of the painting here is due to the hanji being put on top of the background, which has been made by solid objects. On top of this foundation, color pigments are painted one layer by another. Such use of color pigments vitalizes the soft characteristic of hanji, and the layers portray a sense of hard texture. Furthermore, the artist makes partial holes at the center of the paintings, and installs rectangular boxes made of layers of hanjis on the place of the holes. Therefore, the flat surface, where a hole is placed at the center, is assembled with a rectangular box that fits the hole to form a piece of art work. In other words, Heo Eun-Young’s work, hanji constitutes the whole work by becoming the background. Moreover, boxes using hanji’s property, is assembled to express a solid relief.

In terms of using hanji, Heo Eun-Young does not only pursue the characteristics of the material. She inherited the meaning of healing to her paintings. As mentioned, she installed a symbolic form of rectangular boxes as the ‘mind’, and they are boxes incorporates her memories or records of experiences, a storeroom of the mind and a place for storing the artist’s soul’s energy. The boxes of mind are similar, but they each possess different figures. Hanjis, layered in layers, have various changes like wrinkles of the mind which seem to show life’s symbolic diversity. Boxes, meaning the mind, accumulated with layers of papers are the expression of wounds appearing in the midst of life. They represent the various changes of the mind and its wounds. However, Heo Eun-Young does not stay in those wounds. She merges and soothes them to establish a healing relationship. By opening the box of hanji, surrounded by layers, it’s like opening the mind, Heo Eun Young expresses the mind that embraces and soothes from the point of view of healing.

Consequently, Heo Eun-Young’s art work uses hanji as the background material and also experiments with the aesthetics of objet. At the same time, she inherits the healing of the mind. The rectangular hanji boxes shown in the works are symbolized as boxes which store the ‘mind’ and her intention of trying to live a spiritual life that is new and sound through healing the wounds of the concealed minds that is expressed in those boxes inherited within her art works.

/ OH, Seh-gwon (Daejin University)


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