Energy and Structure in the Paintings of Hye Ja Moon
By John Austin
Hye Ja Moon’s geometric oil on canvas paintings announce themselves with a vibrant confidence and authority. At the heart of this artist’s work is her evident impulse to offer the viewer an experience that is grounded in material reality yet keenly aware of the need for an interplay of immateriality, and a reference to a transcendent reality, to co-exist within each work. As such the artist’s work is hybridic in character and very much in line with contemporary visual culture which highlights and celebrates impurities and unpredictability through the illusionistic conditions found in her work. While the artist continues a tradition of a disciplined composition of color interaction established by Josef Albers and later developed by Hard-edge abstract painters and Op artists, these origins, among others, and the simultaneous divergence is the chief quality in the Jacobs’ work, and it is the source of the hieratic quality of magical omnipotence that exudes from each painting.
The aesthetically pure experience that her artwork drives home comes out of a variety of complex psychic satisfactions, apart from the need for transcendence. These satisfactions, according to Eric Fromm, include what he has called “… the need for relatedness… for rootedness, for a sense of identity, and for a frame of orientation and an object of devotion, [and] for effectiveness”. Each of these are made manifest in Hye Ja Moon’s artwork that presents to the spectator an experience that relates both to the quality of edges and in the relations between mass and color. More particularly, the artist suggests through the careful balancing of these visual codes in her work that she works from things that are man-made or natural or a combination of the two. What is at play in this work is what the ancient philosopher Apollonius calls our “imitative faculty” and how we use the faculty of projection to recognize in abstract shapes or patterns things or images that are stored in our minds.
Moon is evidently a master at arousing this type of act of perceptual classification in her spectator’s mind. The artist’s invention of forms, textures and colors becomes a pictorial method that is sufficiently expeditious to draw forth ideas from the spectator’s mind while using the power of association. Thus, a complex process of interaction between making and matching, suggestion and projection, takes place every time the eye and mind of the beholder confronts Hye Ja Moon’s configurations and their titles
Boldness, energy and a structured ethereal quality are the hallmarks of Hye Ja Moon’s works. Here, the eye finds a type of plenitude in an organized distribution of color and paint that is somehow enclosed, held in check, totalized and grounded by the systematized matrix found in each painting, each of which is buoyed by a saturated sense of indeterminacy. The paintings are intriguing as they are held in a state of suspension between two conditions: at a remove from transcendence while allowing the viewer to participate in what might be considered a perceptual aspect of transcendence through the use of boundless infinities of color expanses. Thus, this layered presence in each geometric abstraction itself furnishes the idea of an enduring present, the contrast between change and the unchanging, between time and timelessness.
Such polymorphic playfulness is just another facet of the work’s evident joy in confounding our sense of what is real and what is not, through a deftly conjured-up spatial play. The careful study of patterns and colors is keenly sensed in this remarkable work as is Moon’s superb design sense and her appreciation for textural and proportional play. The artist articulates the world through the calculated unpredictability of her forms. This, in turn, produces ideational schema that triggers the imagination, compels the mind and infuses the spirit of the viewer in equal measure.
John Austin is an art writer living and working in Manhattan.