Young In Hong: This is Not Graffiti

Miyoung von Platen

Cecilia Hillström Gallery and independent curator Miyoung von Platen are proud to present Young In Hong’s solo exhibition, This is Not Graffiti.

Young In Hong, born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1972, has been based in London for the past eleven years. Her work includes site-specific installations, sculpture, painting, embroidery and photo collage as well as documentary film and video. Hong holds an MFA in sculpture from Seoul National University, and a PhD in art from Goldsmith College, London.

In her first show in Northern Europe at Cecilia Hillström Gallery, Young In Hong presents a series of new works using painting and embroidery as well as a collaboration project with a local graffiti artist. Hong’s art reflects a questioning of underlying social values in using ephemeral documentary images and graffiti art. Hong puts two different types of imagery into a new context, creating an intriguing juxtaposition. Her art shows her interest in the structure of social norms and public opinion as well as her own experience of different urban spaces.

Hong’s earlier embroidered images on cotton, made partly by machine and partly by hand, are reinterpretations of architectural images and monumental statues which she transforms into playful assemblages. The act of sewing allows her to visualise and materialise her thought process and the synchronised body movement of the sewing illustrates the time-consuming process. Sewing has been a major industry in Korea, China and Taiwan, still dominated by female workers who are paid minimal wages. At the same time, sewing is an important aspect of modernity.

One of the crucial concerns of Hong’s art is her careful observation of certain aspects of society. In one of her early site-specific projects in Seoul, I will commit crime forever and a day (2004), her view of the difference between what is morally correct and what is legally permitted was expressed in a satirical way. She stole flowerpots from streets, cafes and parks and installed them in front of a police station. The installation seduced the passers-by and transformed the symbolism of the police station from an extension of cold authority to something appealing and welcoming.

Young In Hong’s interest in rearranging the hierarchical order of the world is visible in site-specific projects such as, The Curtain (2001), The Pillar (2002), Open Theatre (2004) and The Performing City (2005). In the public art project Miners’ Orange (2009), around five hundred people wearing orange garments paraded without any slogan, theme or purpose in the small ex-mining town Gohan-Sabuk in South Korea. The government had recently established a casino business in this town, and the purpose of the parade was to question the impact this transition had on the villagers’ lives and how they looked upon themselves. In Miners’ Orange, Hong made the complexity of Gohan-Sabuk’s identity visible though an act of collective performance.

The exhibition, This is Not Graffiti comprises a series of works, which deal with the obscure boundary between reality and illusion. In Bad Lover (2013), the collaboration project with a local graffiti artist, Hong presents a situation where two artists participate independently in a creative process. One is mimicking graffiti through her art, and the other is in a sense breaking the autonomy of art in the gallery space.

In the work, A girl with a Slogan (2012), Young In Hong unites the images of anonymous graffiti photographed on the street with the image of a young girl she found on the internet. The girl is holding up a sign saying “mi-chin-so an-meo-geol-lae (I am not going to eat a mad cow)” during one of the biggest anti-government protests in 2008. She rebels against the controversial Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and USA, in which South Korea agreed to import US beef possibly infected with mad cow disease.

“ – I try to formulate a language that confuses hierarchical order where a certain word and image relate to each other through the juxtaposition of two different categories of images, says Hong. In this way, I attempt to capture a moment where the factual (found images from papers and magazines) is fictionalized through our subconscious experience of public space (represented by found images of graffiti). My embroidered works densely sewn by threads materialise and transform this moment of perceptual experience into something more tangible.”

The main theme of Hong’s work lies in overlapping social and political issues. Her experience of social norms in different cultures is an important subject in her concentrated and vivid but also highly allusive work. Hong’s art lets the viewer explore a utopia where public space and subliminal messages are brought together to break boundaries.

Young In Hong’s selected institutional and museum shows include, Playtime (2012), Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul, South Korea, City Rituals: Gestures (2012), Art Club 1563, Seoul, South Korea, Korean Eye: Energy and Matter (2011), MAD, New York, USA, Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary (2010), Saatchi Gallery, London, UK, Another Masterpiece, New Acquisitions (2008), Gyeonggi MOMA, South Korea, Good Morning, Mr. Nam June Paik (2008), Korean Cultural Centre, London, UK, International Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (2007), Incheon Culture and Arts Centre, South Korea, Particules Libres (2007), Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris, France.

Her recent awards include Sindoh Artist Support Programme (2012) in South Korea, where Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dong-Yeon Koh are jury members and Kimsechoong Art Prize (2011) in South Korea.

Miyoung von Platen