Monday, January 14, 2008

Nonsense Paradise

Korean born artist Jiha Moon opened her first solo show at Saltworks Gallery, with the excellent title "No Peach Heaven: MuRung Dowon" on Saturday night.

"Peach Cliff Zigzag" Ink and Acrylic on Hanji Paper

Moon's paintings are a beautiful combination of the quirky and the studied, the painterly and the kitsch, all swirling together in a highly fluid dream that never ceases to reveal new details.


Moon begins with ink on traditional Korean paper and layers with acrylic paint, using line to transform paint smears and stains into dimensional shapes, creating landscapes full of creatures, floating peaches, and the like.

Things began with an artist talk in which Moon had a lot to say about her work and the way in which it is a fusion of Asian and American cultures and deals largely with the idea of paradise or heaven. Moon is intrigued by the notion of paradise and the way in which all cultures have different stories and descriptions of what this paradise would be like. Moon said that a pristine utopia in perfect harmony would be boring, and in her work she tries to paint another variation of this paradise, her own vision of a world in constant flux, filled with kitschy creatures and morphing land and sky.

"Silent Turbulence" Ink and Acrylic on Hanji Paper

I would have to agree her vision of paradise does seem far more compelling.

"No Peach Heaven" Ink and Acrylic on Hanji Paper

The blobular shape of some of the paper surfaces derives from the abstraction of the fan shape. I have to say I preferred the paintings on rectangular paper because the different shape distracted from the painting itself.

Moon also included traditional stamps on the surface of the paintings. Historically, these stamps are used initially by the artist to sign their work and every owner of the painting would then add their signature stamp. I asked Moon about this because some of her paintings would be signed with different stamps, and sometimes more than one. Moon has these stamps made when visiting Korea and has been toying with the composition of her name, turning the characters into a landscape. In the example above the stamp says "Nonsense Paradise" in Korean. Moon uses the stamps to balance the composition (just as they were used historically by the artist) but also to reference traditional Asian painting methods while translating them into contemporary painting and giving them new meaning.

The one and only Cinque Hicks with the very friendly Jiha Moon.

"Rhetoric Channel" Ink and Acrylic on Hanji Paper

This was one of my favorites in the show. Another comment of interest was that Moon said she did not begin using traditional Koran materials until she moved to Atlanta. It was this move to a new culture that prompted Moon to begin using ink and paper, and thinking about Asian painting within the context of a different culture.


The incorporation of the MSN butterfly icon and the Georgia peach into the works are examples of Moon merging cultures and placing modern symbols in an abstracted Asian context.

In the back room small canvases were incorporated into ink murals that worked together nicely.

When looking at this, Cinque made the comment that Moon paints with an obvious confidence and boldness while pointing to the blue smudge of paint covering the carefully painted female figure. I totally agree, all of the paintings show Moon's prowess with paint and her ability to allow her creative mind and skilled hands to work together organically, in a stream-of-consciousness, that may even surprise her when she steps back to reevaluate.

The show is up until February 16th '08 and very much worth checking out.

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