Sunyoung HwangArtist Interview
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a London-based Korean artist. I studied my BFA at the Slade School of Fine Art and then completed my MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art.
How did you get into painting?
I can’t remember when and how I decided to be an artist because I don’t think I ever had a decisive moment that made me start painting. When I was young, I was always doodling, and I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember.
How do you select the colour palette for each artwork?
My choice of colours is not a conscious decision, though colour is a big part of my work. When choosing colours for my painting, I usually find myself unconsciously drawn to the colours that I like, and different shades of those colours tend to dominate my palette—sometimes muted or desaturated, sometimes vibrant, and sometimes both simultaneously on one canvas.
You have described your process of painting as ‘intuitive’ – do you ever have an idea about how a work will turn out before you start, or are you always surprised by where the paint leads you?
My work does not begin with a particular inspiration or idea, and I don’t have the result of the work in my mind when I get started. I see the canvas as a place on which my achievements, failures, mistakes, and experiences which I have gone through during the painting process are recorded from beginning to end. I like to see how they interact with each other when they mingle together in my work, so I always work directly onto the canvas without preliminary sketches, drawings or photographic references and my initial marks on the canvas are a starting point for a development of ideas and images. There are so many possibilities that sometimes it is hard to decide where to go, which makes me anxious yet equally excites me. I enjoy working in this way, as it allows me to explore all possibilities in my work.
And titles – are these given to a work after you’ve finished and how do you choose what to call them?
Yes, the titles are always given after I’ve completed a work. I don’t have rules in titling my work. Some titles are descriptive, others simple, whilst others are a bit more ambiguous. Each title, however, is very personal to me as they often come from phrases, clauses, or words from my diary or notes. When I think that a painting is finished, I sit in front of it and look at it for a long time, and this is when I choose what to call them.
How do you feel when you paint?
The act of painting makes me feel like I am sometimes meditating, sometimes walking, and sometimes dancing. Using a spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness method of composition, I overlap multitudinous layers of different tempos, rhythms, gestural marks, and brushstrokes with intuitive conceptions of time and space, eschewing preordained logic to better access a personal sense of procedure.
How would you describe what it is that you paint?
My work explores physical and psychological layering, creating a sense of different layers, both beneath and within the picture plane. I would describe it as a tangible representation of the unconscious incoherent flow of metaphorically internalised thoughts, emotions, memories, and impressions that pass through my mind. For me, the canvas is a place where they are reviewed, reconstructed, and re-approached, and where I attempt to unearth the invisible accumulation or remnant of these phenomena that are implicit in, or exist beneath or between, layers of what is perceptible through the tangibility of the paint. It is what I would describe as emotional archaeology within my work.