Contemporary visual culture is the ultimate melting pot. It lumps together an assortment of images, slogans, brands and ideas that we unwittingly absorb until the blurred line between image and reality becomes the definition, not the regulator, of American identity. South Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist Jiha Moon navigates this chaotic system with a sophistication and familiarity that comes from a life spent straddling worlds. In her art it is possible to see the mirror image of everyday American life, crowded with ideas that swarm against each other with equal parts opposition and harmony.
Jiha Moon is an Atlanta-based painter whose gestural paintings explore fluid identities and the global movement of people and their cultures. Featured in editions editions 63, 70, and 82 of New American Paintings, Moon was recently a finalist for the Hudgens Prize, selected by jurors that include the Curator of Prints at The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Director and Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at The New Museum. I had the chance to visit with Moon at her studio where we discussed her recent incorporation of fabric and collage, a bold step for someone who self-identifies as “a painter’s painter.” More images, and our conversation, after the jump. —Paul Boshears, Atlanta contributor
Jiha Moon's increased confidence is evident in this new series of paintings. The tension between figuration and abstraction still pervades her repeated layering of traditional Asian landscapes and gestural expressionism. But this new work seems to revel in the joy of painting, alternating thin washes of Ink with delicately rendered objects and thick impasto brushstrokes, all on Moon's favored handmade hanji paper. Collage also figures in some of the works, as when she adds paper to extend her painted surface from the rectangular picture plane or incorporates fabric appliqués, possibly an influence from her ongoing residency al The Fabric Workshop.
The South Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist still wrestles with the notion of shifting identities, particularly in our image-laden society. Pac-Man-like figures with razor sharp teeth, butterflies, and even Wonderland's Alice find their way into her peaceful landscapes with floating clouds and trees, which are interrupted and by bursts of energetic color. The work speaks of a society that not only straddles two cultures but also occupies a third – in cyberspace. Moon's professed hero Philip Guston started in 1960, “[P]ainting is impure. It is the adjustment of impurities which forces painting’s continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden. Moon seems to have taken this to heart in her current exhIbition (titled "Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts” in Guston's honor), providing thought provoking interpretations of the multilayered and image-rich world she inhabits.
"Painter's Argument," the title of a painting in Jiha Moon's boffo exhibition at Saltworks gallery, might also serve as a declaration of purpose.
The imagery in Jiha Moon‘s paintings can thunder with laughter, whisper of legends long forgotten and some yet to be lived, and shed mournful tears of dripping blue and pink paint. Her new exhibition, opening at Saltworks Gallery this Saturday, January 23, from 6-9PM, is titled Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts. As Atlanta-based curator Stephanie Greene observes in her essay on the exhibition, “Traditional pink or white peonies represent luxury and wealth—the opposite of lotuses, which signify spirituality—but blue peonies don’t exist in nature.” In our interview below, the artist elaborates on her title and her influences and challenges in creating her recent work.
Jiha Moon studied both traditional Korean painting and Western painting at university in her native Korea. She furthered her knowledge of the latter in the United States, but it remains particularly telling that her early training was based in a system in which the two practices were distinctly separate. In her small- to medium-size works, she has developed a style of painting that is not so much a fusion as a harmonious layer- ing of the two traditions' distinct mark-making and leitmotifs.