A Fire That Never Dies

Fatos Ustek

“We are almost certain that fire is precisely the first object, the first
phenomenon, on which the human mind reflected; among all phenomena,
fire alone is sufficiently prized by prehistoric man to wake in him the desire
for knowledge, and this is mainly because it accompanies the desire for

Gaston Bachelard, The Psychology of Fire

The ancient rites whisper about lights within, equating bonfire to inner thrive, subjecting people to nature. The forces of fire are transformative, emanating warmth and energy so that the fire that you warm up with, qualify into the food you consume, heat the water you bathe in. Beyond its alterations, fire like all other three elements, is ascribed with a symbolic meaning. It signifies emotional pain and suffering; strength and will power; enjoyment and exhilaration; desire and passion; revolution and change. Fire unites matter and spirit, vice and virtue; it is a principle of contraction and a principle of expansion: it disperses and it coheres. It can guide to form communities, bring masses together under a singular frame, alongside an unequalled belief, with a distinct position. It can aid to light up the streets, pronounce moments of excitement, celebration, highlight moments of mourning, sorrow and pain, punctuate societal significance.

Young In Hong’s solo exhibition at Cecilia Hillström Gallery draws its influences from the substantial richness and permanence of fire, portraying the immediate meaning that fire gives to vital intensity and to intensity of being. A Fire That Never Dies brings together a recent body of work that concentrate on lost moments, mostly where a social unrest is at stake. Focussing on the recent history of Modern Korea and furthering her quest in capturing the immaterial, transitional nature of collective experience, Hong produces portraits of politically and emotionally pronounced instances. Employing a combination of different media ranging between photography, painting and embroidery alongside insertions of garment making techniques, Hong’s series emerge as durational portraits that crystallise encounters charged with pathos and grievance. She brings forward moments from the last decade, amplifying societal tangents that stroke upon the killing of two teenage girls by a tank operated by American Soldiers (The Square Saddened, 2016); the uprising against the licensing of diseased meat by the Korean Government (Burning Love, 2014); a recent candle protest (Shadow of Us, 2016). Merging the moments of political consciousness with rituals of celebration, Young In Hong mediates on fire as metonym for movement and transformation. The moments she chooses to reproduce expand in time and solidify as matter; fixed on threads and textiles, they gain texture and form. They reverberate as narratives, fixed on surfaces. Hong commissions value and resonance to the moments she depicts to work with, engaging herself in a meditative process of production. She forms associations between sewing and painting, not only through combining them in a singular frame, but also provoking their labour intensive qualities. Each image is formed of threads, that exceed the frame. Each thread provides a definition to the moment Hong depicted; each bead magnifies its spectacularity.

Fatos Ustek