2021-2023: Existing – Forms of Solace
Artist’s Statement (Hong Boram)
The clouds, rocks, islands, winds, sunsets, hills, and waves that I have encountered in nature have provided solace to me. All these existing things maintain their own balance. What sustains me is my family, my children, my home, and the act of drawing, even if only by name, which allows me complete immersion. In this fragile world, I exist by barely maintaining balance. There are numerous moments when solace is needed. However, I can never know what hardships you are enduring. Similarly, no one can know the experiences I am going through. Despite being shaken and floored by countless mental and emotional shocks that strike like arrows, I rise again, gaze at the sky, and look out at the clouds and islands hanging on the horizon.
When faced with the endless questions that swirl through human minds, natural phenomena and forms silently reveal something. It's not something that can be expressed in words like laws or principles, but rather something felt. Instead of providing immediate answers, they make us realize the entirety of the process. The relationship between water and earth, the interplay of lava and water, the flow of time and the recurring cycles, the cycle of giving birth, nurturing, aging, and disappearing, the relationship between waiting and forgetting, and the relationship between yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and so on. Amid all these ordinary yet magnificent relationships, nature is filled with a will to live and strives its best at every moment to make it happen.
The year 2002. I created the community art project <Map of the Heart>, which involved sharing memories embedded in various locations. Up until 2007, I met many people in different places through this project. In 2008, I sought refuge in an artist residency in Vermont, USA, to take a break. Nature was the immense power that shifted inward my outward-facing questions. Empty time, empty space. Within it, I started to follow the gaze directed at myself with a fearful heart. I then began to feel a connection with other forms of life, including myself, and started to look at my relationship with the world from a different perspective. In front of nature, I felt as if a tiny existence, along with a sense of empathy and compassion for all living things, including myself. I wanted to express this somehow. With a single thread of thought, I created small figurative images and exhibited them in <Shaking Self, Shaking World> (2008) using watercolors and pastels. Another thread was abstraction, which was entirely unexpected.
My first encounter with abstract images. I used to wonder, "What is abstract art, anyway? Why do people keep drawing these repetitive shapes? What are they trying to express?" But I realized that it was my way of expressing something, even though I didn't know how to do it. It was the only way I could convey the feeling that nature holds but cannot be captured. As I observed nature, simple forms accumulated and emerged in my mind, marking the beginning of my venture into abstraction. The first images I created in this way were shapes resembling the formation of waves created by the meeting of water and water; shapes of parabolas reminiscent of the interaction between water and the land; shapes that conveyed the sensation of a volcano erupting; and shapes that captured the feeling of the wind enveloping me when standing by the sea, connecting me to my mother's embrace, soft and comforting. These images began to emerge in 2009 at the Art Creation Studio of Leejungseop Art Museum, Seogwipo City, where I stayed as an artist in residence. Gradually, the questions that had been circling in my mind about relationships also began to be expressed as abstract images. While drawing, it often felt like the pictures themselves were providing answers. Some examples are the works of ‘Mutually Connoting’ and ‘Regathering after Being Divided’.
Forms or existence possess intent. Forms where intent is fully manifested. That feeling is amplified when I look at the forms of living beings I encounter in the human body, life, cells, and organisms. The round shapes that envelop a center bring to mind the origins of life. Vulnerable things tend to curl inward. The ends of attacking entities are sharp, like spikes. The images relating to such forms are also felt in language. Words of comfort are round, while words of aggression are sharp, like a piercing sound. Shapes embody intent, and I strive to read the intent within those forms as I observe them. The exhibition <Imagination - The Form of Thought> (2009) was adorned with works that began in this manner.
Chance is another colossal pillar that supports my work. While drawing many beautiful and natural forms observed in nature, I've experimented with relinquishing some control to chance. What I cannot determine, I entrust to serendipity. The forms of serendipity make no claims, yet they hold countless stories of possibilities. I feel innocent beauty in the diverse potentialities of existence when looking at the beautiful and natural forms crafted like magic by serendipity. The forms without uttering a single word.
Serendipity and spontaneity are intertwined. To embrace serendipity, I must harness the power of spontaneity. My ceaseless thoughts do not leave my hands idle. I initially conducted experiments by seeking harmony between intention and spontaneity, based on the beautiful forms accidentally discovered in nature. What clicked for me was spontaneous drawing with improvisational musicians. The process of simultaneously creating music and drawing allowed for complete immersion, making me feel alive and responsive to the moment. During these moments, the energy felt in the drawings is smooth and innocent.
Finding balance. In truth, rather than being the subject of my artwork, it's something I strive for in my everyday life. Especially in my relationships with loved ones. Maintaining relationships with those who continue to progress and endure is a truly challenging task for me. So, it seems like I am constantly questioning relationships. Finding balance requires flexibility and a sense of spaciousness, and I yearn for that state. Learning from serendipity. Feeling the freedom within it. That's what I'm learning through serendipity and spontaneous work.
Balancing practice. Alongside abstract pen drawings, I have been consistently practicing figure drawing as an exercise to portray balanced forms within the canvas. While drawing the human body, I sense the flame of life quietly flickering within it. Contemplating balance within the canvas and adjusting form and color, I practice when to pause and when to progress further. I encounter complete immersion and freedom as well as serendipity.
To exist. When I see the islands scattered sparsely and apart in the sea, visible in Jeju, they seem to have a singular existence. Just as I am an island, others also seem like islands. Within each one, a beautiful world operates. I see the islands together, where the presence of each one changes the waves, and those waves change the shapes of the other. I see a landscape in which existences are interconnected and stay together. They are interconnected, sprouting, blossoming, and withering within the same stage, seeking each other's safety. Each of these individual existences, shapes, and ways of existence brings solace to me. Forms of solace. If we are islands, then the world is the sea that embraces us. Infinitely lonely islands, yet constantly influencing each other. Through the phenomena of nature, I reflect on the relationships in my surroundings and resonate.
Existing - forms of solace. I want to observe the beings I feel in my life with a loving gaze, and through reflecting natural forms, convey them as abstract shapes that can soothe emotions. I transform the lines created by countless drawings or rubbing onto the wooden forms completed by countless carvings, grindings, and stroking. The long process of turning mental images into physical reality, for me, acts as an oasis amid fragmented daily life, enabling deep concentration, and ultimately, giving me existence.
Like what nature initially gave me. Forms possess intent. I hope that these blunt and round shapes that I have painstakingly crafted over a long time, without loud cries, can provide some solace to other beings who are shaken by mental and emotional shocks, even if just in a small way.
Amid a typhoon passing overhead,
I feel uneasy after having sent my works.
However, trying to accept the natural order
that there's nothing more I can do,
I look at the worries bubbling in my mind.
Still elusive flexibility and serenity!
Aug. 24, 2023