Hyunkyung Kwon’s great trick is deception. Her intricately detailed landscape paintings initially look like photos showing life through carefully chosen filters. The scenes are hazy and the lines soft but It isn’t until closer inspection that one sees the use of sfumato, where her colors and tones are so masterfully blended that they almost melt into one another. But then the strange reality sets in that there is no life among the man-made structures where we would ordinarily see people.
Although drawing began as a hobby for Kwon, the more obsessed she became, the more she realized her potential. As a freshman in college, she reluctantly changed her major to art. She continued to study it in graduate school eventually making oil-based painting her métier. In 2017, her efforts were rewarded when she received an award from the National University Art Competition at the Hongik University Art Center Gallery in Seoul.
Painting isn’t just a pursuit, but also an escape for Kwon. It allows her to forget about the stress she finds in relationships and gives her the space she needs to express her ideas. Emotions such as emptiness, melancholy, or even joy that come unabated in everyday life are clear subjects of her work. Solitude however, dominates all of her art. Kwon craves this in a country where there is almost none. There are no subjects in her paintings, just landscapes and an abundance of space. Seemingly these little snapshots of paradise exist for the artist.
While most would be haunted with the idea of living alone, Kwon revels in solitude and in the empty, open spaces. Finding her own way without others around to cloud her judgment is exactly how she works best. “The first time I remembered the clear, clear images of the sky was in my high school days, when I felt a lot of emptiness and gloom. In a small room, sitting in a dense place…looking out of the window with no clouds in the sky. The outside was the ideal place for me, not the sullen purlieu of the classroom.”
In the spirit of a dystopian cartoon, there are only signs of what people may have left behind. In each piece, the sky dominates the canvas, in an effort to draw your eyes and thoughts away from the reality of your surroundings. Much like the artist, perhaps we too crave a bit of respite from a world where social media and unrealistic material desires flood our consciousnesses. Kwon’s art reveals a part of us that longs for silence and tranquility and perhaps that very quality is what keeps us sane.