It is no question that Hye Ja Moon is not frightened by color. Her rapturous canvases are imbibed with primary yellows and blues along with kelly greens and burnt oranges—she even includes small rainbow crescents parading as flower leaves and rocket ships amidst her abstract works. Her large paintings writhe with dynamicism, ushering anyone who views her work to be swept up and blown away by it. Like a dancer in the midst of their final leaps and turns, the viewer’s eye darts from corner to corner, unable to rest on any one pulsating image.
Works such as Music for Yearning is reminiscent of a Hoch collage and imbued with a found-object sensibility. The canvas’s lines are interrupted by the intersection of seemingly random objects, which, though they are painted, have a pasted-and-placed quality to them giving the painting a heightened frenetic energy. The spaces surrounding these collage-like objects work just as hard as the objects themselves to complete the painting. They act as small pauses, allowing the canvas to breathe in between brush strokes. Though unable to be claimed as negative space, they too are a space of action, but an action antithetical to the jirating lines present in the majority of the painting. With everything revolving around the diagonal line, it is easy to see that movement is an integral aspect of Hye Ja Moon’s painting style.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Hye Ja Moon and briefly discuss the methods and philosophies she employs to create her art.
JS: How long have you been painting? And how did you arrive at painting in this unique and fascinating way?
HJM: When I was in the 3rd grade, in elementary school, I won a special prize in an art contest. I have been painting ever since. The master post-impressionist, Paul Cezanne left fine blank spaces among brush strokes in his paintings. I was fascinated by them and resolutely determined to employ it as one of my abstract painting techniques. I’d like to dramatize such unpainted spaces of the canvas and present how the spaces give off their energy efficiently. The spaces should be both improvisatory and thoroughly planned. The improvisational nature is employed on my canvas to communicate an energy similar to that of an improvised musical riff in a performance. Musical performers breathe, but their play, secretly crosses the border between the breath and breathlessness. And the latter means that for the last fifteen years I’ve challenged myself to advance my painting techniques without pause. I feel that I have mastered making the unpainted spaces function as the respiratory organ in my paintings. That is the breathing canvas.
JS: Is there a message you want to communicate to the viewer?
HJM: “A part controls the whole” is my slogan while painting. However small it is, the spaces adjacent to the colored parts have greater importance than they look. So, I paint all my paintings with a very fine brush (#0) to transfer the energy of the uncolored spaces. The thorough plan, free from mistakes, is prior to others. I have trained myself to leave spaces around my images by moving my body constantly on the canvas as musical players do when they perform on stage. We can pass our energy onto others in the process of our movements. With the finest brush (#0), I move very freely on the canvas during the whole work, and surely the viewers are able to feel the infinite youth and revitalizing energy within themselves through viewing my works. We die unless we breathe. Our breathing leads us to move and gain energy to live. The theme of my work is contemporary music containing chaotic and harmonious stories with its rhythm. As a musical piece does, my paintings containing breath and movement, and I hope that through these canvases I can fill my audience with the energy and passion that is contained in my paintings.