Review: “No Place to Go”-YOU Hyeonkyeong

By Qianqian Li, Contributing Writer

The ten abstract paintings on view at DOOSAN Gallery are part of “No Place to Go,” Korean artist YOU Hyeonkyeong’s first solo exhibition in New York. Every featured painting is based on her experiences traveling in Europe two years ago, and she explains, “while making art, I bring about and call upon memories and experiences from the past. These memories have been compressed and internalized within me as times of hardship.”

Upon entering the space, the first work “Mother’s Face” confronts the viewer with a sense of movement and transition. The piece is made up of three square painted panels depicting different versions of a face against a white background. The left panel is the most meticulous in execution, with reverence to the impressionist style: a blurry head and face with emphasis on eyes and lips. In the second panel the face becomes bigger but blurrier, the eyes are reduced to darkened blotches with only a dark line to indicate the nose and the outline of a mouth.

In the third panel, the face takes up even more of the piece but the features are seemingly erased, the hair and an outline of the mouth is all that remains to draw resemblance to the first panel. This first piece effectively introduces the viewer to YOU’s style and source. “Mother’s Face” is easily one of the pieces that straddle the line between expressionism and abstract expressionism — the emphasis is on expression but YOU calls it confession.

The artist’s internal struggle and urgency to express are evident in her use of direct and forceful brushstrokes, where there is no deliberation or hesitation as she uses her art as an emotional outlet. This energy is communicated to the viewer surprisingly well.

In “Muslim Woman,” YOU skillfully renders an image in memory by only depicting one feature while implicating the rest of the subject. The image on the oversized canvas is that of a Muslim woman, amid the jumble of black and gray paint strokes, the viewer can only focus on one feature. The woman’s eyes and eyebrows are set on a face with no other indicated other features. Hyeonkyeong has created eyes that are so full of tears that one has escaped onto her left cheek, the tear is actually a paint drip that bears more resemblance to a real tear. The rest of the image is only vaguely marked in black or gray paint.

As an artist who is trying to confess through her art, YOU indicates many things but does not explain through detail. As with any other piece of abstract art, what is clear to the artist will never be revealed to the viewer. Although we will never know what YOU is trying to confess, abstract art lets the viewers put themselves into the piece, in which case we are all too preoccupied with our own confessions to truly question the artist.

YOU Hyeonkyeong’s exhibition can be viewed at the DOOSAN Gallery through Oct. 6, 2016. See more here .

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