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2021.05.04 Etc

Hwang Jai Hyoung: Restoration of Human Dignity

채지연 (홍보고객과) -02-3701-9675

Attached File [MMCA Press Release] Hwang Jai Hyoung-Restoration of Human Dignity.pdf  

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA, Director Youn Bummo) is unveiling from 30 April to 22 August Hwang Jai Hyoung: Restoration of Human Dignity at the MMCA Seoul.


Hwang (b.1952) is widely known as a “miner painter” as he has expressed his personal experience working as a coal mine worker in Gangwon-do Province in the early 1980s with a realistic perspective. Hwang Jai Hyoung: Restoration of Human Dignity is a solo exhibition that aims to shed light on the artistic achievements Hwang has made from the 1980s to the present within the scope of his identity as a “miner painter.”


Born in Bosung, Jeollanam-do Province in 1952, Hwang received a BFA in paintings from ChungAng University in 1982. Together with Park Heung-soon, Chun Jun-yeop, Lee Jong-gu and Lee Myeong-bok who were students of Chung-Ang University at that time as well as Song Chang from Chosun University and Cheon Gwang-ho from Yeungnam University, Hwang established a Minjung Art organization named “Imsul-nyeon, 98992” (referred to as “Imsul-nyeon”). While Hwang’s Hwangji 330 (1981), produced during the years of his membership of “Imsul-nyeon” received the Honorable Mention at the 5th JoongAng Fine Arts Prize (1982), he soon settled in Gangwon-do Province from the autumn of 1982 as a coal mine worker.


While working as a coal mine worker for three years at places like Taebaek, Samcheok, and Jeongseon, Hwang Jai Hyoung produced works that strongly expressed the social participation nature of Minjung Art of the 1980s. He attempted to change the perception of connecting humans and nature in the landscape of a waning mine village in Gangwon-do Province, and began to deal with expanded themes going beyond people to include contemporary issues, humanity, temporality and historicalness by using hair and graphite since the 2010s.


The title of the exhibition, “Restoration of Human Dignity” was translated as ‘Hoecheon回天’ a word which means “turning around the mind of a son of Heaven or emperor” or “restoring the declining forces by transforming the situation or breaking a deadlock.”. This title reflects the artist’s determination to prove the social utility of art or the possibility of transformation through his paintings. Saying that “The dead end of the mine is where humans despair. It exists not only in Taebaek but also in Seoul,” Hwang interpreted the life of a coal-mining town on a universal dimension. Through the exhibition title, he delivers a message that dreams of the recovery of humanity still exist in a life that is bound to lose it.


The exhibition consists of three sections - “A Miner and A Painter (1980s-),” “From Taebaek to East Sea (1990s-),” and “The Face of Reality (2010s-).” The first section displays portraits while the second section is mainly composed of paintings of landscape and the third section exhibits both figure and landscape paintings. The periods of the sections specify only the beginning without noting the end, taking into account the artist’s unique methodology, in which he recreates his early works with a new medium and completes one work over the course of numerous years. Through the exhibition space that focuses on the overlapping aspects of the past and present, one will be able to look at the process in which Hwang’s view on “reality” is gradually transferred.


Section 1 “A Miner and A Painter” focuses on paintings Hwang drew from the 1980s to 2000s of mine laborers and his acquaintances. Works that Hwang produced as a student of Chung-Ang University including Symptom (1980) and Hwangji 330 (1981) as well as those produced based on his three years of experience as a miner including Bath(Unwashable) (1983) and Lunch (1985) are displayed. There are also works where Hwang used waste from coal-mining towns as objects and those that use irregular plywood and wire mesh as a canvas after mid-1980s. The section also presents works that Hwang created after the 1990s by reflecting back on his experience at coal-mining villages.


Section 2 “From Taebaek to East Sea” depicts a number of works that portray the landscape of a waning coal-mining village in the 1990s with the eyes of a witness after the South Korean government’s Coal Industry Rationalization Policy in 1989 following his quitting of mining in mid1980s. The second section that comprises of paintings of not only coal-mining villages but also the Mother Nature of Gangwon-do Province, shows Hwang’s expanded perspective that resulted from the distance between the artist’s physical body and the landscape he has painted. The section presents Sunset at Tancheon(2008) that depicts the scene of a golden glow of sunset reflecting over Tancheon in Sabuk, where the coal powder and dirt are mixed as well as the 5-meter-wide Baekdu Mountains (1993-2004).


Section 3 “The Face of Reality” entails the period of the 2010s where Hwang drew trans-historical landscapes and universal portraits outside of his rooted area and reinterpreted the subject of the 1980s using hair as new material. Miners or landscape surrounding coal-mining villages are reappeared on his works while Hwang also depicts contemporary social issues like the sinking of the Sewol ferry and political power meddling case. The section displays A Place of Father (2011-2013) that depicts a retired miner in a hyper-realistic method, Exposed Face (2017) a re-drawn picture of a previously painted portrait of a miner using hair as well as Olkhon (2016) that uses graphite to express the temporality of history.


Director Youn Bummo of MMCA elaborated “The paintings of realistic figures, vast Mother Nature and trans-historical landscape produced by a ‘miner painter’ Hwang Jai Hyoung pulls at our heartstrings,” and added that “the exhibition aims to trace the footprints of the artist who has attempted to take a step closer to the reality based on realistic depiction for the past 4 decades, and will serve as an opportunity to shed light on the true characteristics of Korea’s realism and its values within the discipline of art history.”