Haesun Jwa presents rich insights into life through various media, including coloured paintings, charcoal drawings and hand-written fiction texts at Arario Gallery Seoul.
Art Radar has a closer look at Haesun Jwa’s “The Most Ordinary Stories” and her first 20-metre wide panorama charcoal drawing series.
Arario Gallery Seoul presents Haesun Jwa’s solo exhibition “The Most Ordinary Stories” , featuring with 37 artworks, among which are seven coloured paintings, five charcoal drawing series and 15 short handwritten novels on the theme of the mundane life.
Haesun Jwa, a graduate in Oriental Painting from Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University, held her first solo exhibition in 2010, followed by her second in 2015. After participating in a number of group exhibitions, at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Taiwan (2010), Danwon Art Museum, Ansan, Gyeonggi-do (2010), E-land Space, Seoul (2012) and ARARIO MUSEUM, Jeju (2016), she now returns with her latest solo exhibition at Arario Gallery Seoul, exploring the ordinary lives of ordinary people.
Jwa has painted stories of the day-to-day life of people who live their own ordinary routines using her unique method of applying high-density charcoal layering. The life that Jwa depicts seems to be an immensely tedious, routine life, yet it is what we all live everyday. With “The most Ordinary Stories”, Jwa asks prompts viewers to ask questions about life:
What would be the most common life story? How would one explain an ordinary life? Who are the most ordinary people? Does my life belong to normal life? How many people could give a clear answer to these not-so-unique questions? What can be depicted as a normal life? Are we living the normal life? Are we ordinary people? Who are the ordinary ones? How do we define ‘ordinary’? What do ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’ stand for?
Although Jwa does not want viewers to feel obligated to answer these questions, her queries are scattered all over the gallery. The stories she illustrates are constantly circling back to the site where such inquiries begin.
The stories around the gallery are neither complicated nor tremendous. Jwa paints the stories of the most ordinary lives and most ordinary people, stories in which people eat, work, rest, head home, fall asleep, like the savour of a life that is extremely typical and can be true for everyone, but also stories that might be the most special to anyone or someone out there.
The characters inside of Jwa’s drawings are mostly gazing at something or waiting for someone – a woman, who waits for something she does not know what it is, is leaning her tired body against the wall, alone at a dark bus stop; someone who seems to focus on something rather than go somewhere; a person waiting at a pedestrian crossing to cross the street; someone who is sitting someplace in thought. Jwa is quoted in the press release in the press release:
There is nothing as important as the story of living.
She listens, observes, draws, reconstructs and landscapes such stories through her oeuvre. Her works originate from photos and sketches that she has collected from her surroundings in her daily life, which coincide with the composition of captured photographs and the impression of third-person perspective novels. With this as the background components, she matches the characters in the real scenes where she saw and heard them at noteworthy moments throughout her life.
Jwa has also depicted her characters as abstract figures without any details of facial expressions or identities, so that viewers could engage with their own perspectives and possibilities to visualise the hidden stories and to develop their own imagination and narratives towards the artist’s works. Jwa intensifies the darkness in the sceneries and the melancholic emotions with her signature expressive style, the layers of coloured inks and dry brush strokes to amplify the contemplative mood.
Jwa’s new work entitled The Most Ordinary Stories, a series of 15 charcoal drawings of the size of 100 canvases of 161-by-131 centimetres, displayed in the basement of the gallery, shows her latest media expansions and experiments.
The repeated charcoal lines and layers of black planes, created by hand rubbing techniques, form a huge panorama of the landscape. What is the most captivating is that this long panorama, seen as a one piece, combines multiple views of different locations, seasons, days and nights.
Each individual scene shows separate narratives and temporalities at the same time, while they all are leading to one destination, and they produce the most ordinary scenery that exists in any life. While her drawing works search for the truth in the ordinary by juxtaposing reality and imagination, Jwa also presents her own writings to deliver the stories of life in a way that is somewhat different from the paintings.
See an English translation of Haesun Jwa’s The Most Ordinary Stories 16, 2018.
Unlike the paintings, Jwa’s short novels – written in pencil on a paper with the handwriting of different people – decoy the readers into very personal events. Interestingly, the 15 novels on display were written on the basis of true stories that she personally gathered when she worked as a visiting art teacher.
Her ‘true story’ novels were written from a first-person perspective, tinted by Jwa’s imagination – a father who cannot escape from his ordeal; a young mother with an elementary school son who takes after his father’s propensity for violence and slaps a friend’s cheek; a grandmother who wanted to have a grandchild; the story of a mum who constantly runs away from home without a message.
See an English translation of Haesun Jwa’s The Most Ordinary Stories 24, 2018.
The narrators inside the novellas are ordinary people – housewives, students, someone’s father, mother, grandmother and daughter, who are likely to be around, but while their lives seem to be out of order, somehow they are portrayed as ordinary ones. These seemingly ordinary or even strange stories are the most common stories, as Jwa explains in the exhibition catalogue:
The ‘most ordinary’ is in fact another way of saying ‘the most extraordinary.’ Of course, the site of life everyone could relate to may be the most ordinary and common story, but don’t we all, in the end, dream of most ‘ideal’ lives as the metric of commonality and ordinariness – ideal as in loving, happy, peaceful, and smooth.
Through the exhibition “The Most Ordinary Stories”, Jwa thus displays the most ordinary stories as the most extraordinary stories and offers viewers a way to rethink their own ordinary lives.
Soo Jeong Kang
“The Most Ordinary Stories” by Haesun Jwa is on view from 5 July to 19 August 2018 at Arario Gallery Seoul, # 84 Bukchon-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea.
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- “Common Front, Affectively”: artists explore the digitally networked environment at Nam June Paik Art Centre, Seoul – June 2018 – Art Radar looks closely at the exhibition and the works in the show