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Dark, Gentle, Friendly, Comforting Hong Boram's Sculpture

Kho Chunghwan (Art critic)



 Henry Moore found inspiration in a pebble he came across while walking along the banks of the Thames River, which opened the door to modern sculpture. It is sculpture that seamlessly connects organic forms with gentle curves, with openings in the form that link space and space, creating sculpture that extends the realm of sculpture into space itself. Both organic forms and spatial sculpture were derived from nature and originated in small pebbles that fit comfortably in the hand. It is probable that pebbles originally came from the mountains. Mountains turned into rocks, rocks into stones, stones into gravel and finally into pebbles. Rain and wind, thunder and lightning, storms and waves, day and night, time and years – all these elements of nature must have contributed to the transformation of mountains into pebbles. It is unimaginable to consider the countless struggles and the incalculable time it took for nature to shape a single form in this way.


 Hong Boram's work is just like that. At first glance, her work may appear somewhat ambiguously abstract. Conceptual abstraction? Sensory abstraction? Or perhaps natural abstraction? A combination of all these can probably be found in her work, but when closely observed, it is natural abstraction that especially stands out. Therefore, her work is closer to forms that abstract nature. Should we say that it's akin to pebbles, shells, driftwood, islands, or landscapes? The fact that the artist lives on Jeju Island might be a clue. Living on Jeju Island means living within nature, living alongside nature. It may be a generalization, but it applies to some people, and it applies to the artist. It's environmental determinism. The environment influences the work and determines its character. While one should beware when considering all forms of determinism, there are exceptions, and the artist is one of them. Perhaps the artist had a natural inclination in her artistic genes, and she followed that attraction to anchor herself on Jeju Island, much like the nameless driftwood washed up on Jeju Island's beaches. Like pebbles carried by the currents of time.


 The naturalist Hundertwasser once said that there are no straight lines in nature. The artist's sculpture is impressive in that it features smooth organic forms without any roughness, all enveloped in a deep black, coal-like hue. Upon closer inspection, the surface seems to be dotted with both large and small structured irregular holes. It seems that the color and the holes are both derived from the volcanic basalt rock commonly found on Jeju Island. It's as if they come from the pitch-black sea at night and the starry night sky. The erosion and storms conspired by wind, time, and darkness have seeped into the artist's inner self, and it is through this deep introspection that pathos has been awakened and externalized. One could say that the darkness of nature (enveloping existence with a velvety, gentle, and friendly texture) has merged with the artist's darkness (a place of repose, rest, healing, purification, and at times, intense emotions). It's a fusion of the self discovered in nature, so one could describe it as the artist's personality projected onto the colors and textures of nature.



 In this way, the artist's sculpture resembles pebbles, shells, driftwood, islands, and landscapes. Among them, there might be abstract forms of oreum volcanic cones bearing silhouettes of clouds, wind, waves, a cascade of rain pouring down, or the texture of raindrops sliding down a glass pane. At times, there may be abstract forms that cannot strictly be attributed to nature but are conceptual and internal, thus representing an internal abstraction. The artist refers to this series of forms as <Existing - Forms of Solace>, or simply ‘Forms of Solace.’Existing. Therefore, the artist's work is an inquiry into the well-being of existence and a quest for solace. It is a work that delves into existentialism and self-reflection.


 Heidegger once said that art is the realization and practice of the essence of existence. Now, what is the essence of existence, and what does it mean to be in a state of existence? Perhaps each person has their own interpretation and form of expression, but in the end, all these differences and distinctions can converge into one in that existence is on a journey toward discovering a state of authentic existence. And it can be said that this is what art is about. In this context, the artist seeks the essence of existence, the state of authentic existence, in forms that bring solace, thus in comforting forms. And as expected, the artist finds this solace in nature (perhaps an internalized nature). In the organic forms of nature, seamlessly connected with gentle curves, enveloped in a velvety, friendly texture that cocoons existence, in the darkness of nature that serves as a place of rest, healing, purification, and sometimes even intense emotion – in all of this, the artist finds solace.


 In this way, the artist directly creates and draws the forms of solace that nature offers, ones that are tightly grasped in the hand, radiating warmth, and storing immeasurable moments as cherished memories. Therefore, the artist cuts, attaches, and carves wood panels to shape these forms. She creates a form that protrudes above the wall with a consistent thickness, a kind of altered canvas. She then applies aleurone and sometimes paper pulp to give it a skin.


 And then, using ink or sometimes charcoal, she meticulously draws lines, intersecting them closely. As these intersecting lines converge, the form is clothed in black. When overlapping ink lines create a luminous effect that shimmers on the surface along with an intense blackness, charcoal conversely provides a relatively smoother, friendlier, and more internalized texture. It could be said to be a process of intersecting lines to create a surface and form color. In doing so, the occasional glimpses of bare skin between the intersecting lines might remind one of the pockmarked surface texture of basalt or even resemble looking up at a starry night sky.


 It was earlier mentioned that there are no straight lines in nature. How should we perceive, therefore, these straight and diagonal lines? (Strictly speaking, one cannot claim that there are no straight lines in nature; consider, for example, rain falling in diagonal lines.) Can’t we see that the artist's intervention, interference, and interpretation of nature's organic forms (which naturally manifest in curves) are represented by these straight lines? Is it possible to view these straight lines as a manifestation of the artist's internal order found in nature, a geometry of nature, a harmonization between nature and the artist, and therefore a projection onto nature, ultimately serving as a representation of the artist's own sense of order, and consequently a representation of the artist's pursuit of a sense of order?


 While it's uncertain whether there are straight lines in nature, there are rules and patterns. Perhaps it's fair to say that these straight lines represent the internal order of nature, the inherent rules and patterns within nature externalized. What are they? They are wrinkles, folds, and overlaps. They are the testimony of the life that nature has lived, the evidence etched by time. Through these intersecting straight lines and overlapping diagonal lines, the artist bears witness to the passage of time experienced by clouds, wind, trees, pebbles, forests, the sea, the sky, days, and nights. In this way, the artist's sculpture creates a presence that stands in front of a landscape, like a pitch-black night visible only through sound, where pebbles and waves taunt, starlight caresses darkness, and it all forms a boundary landscape.

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