[CRITIQUE] Kwon Hyuk: Energy Following The Line, The World Bound By Lines

JUNE 29, 2020

By Ungyu Yeo

With Wind, thread stitch, Acrylic, Linen, 130x162cm, 2019

Kwon Hyuk has created works in various genres including installations, video works, drawings, and paintings. In all of these works, there always exists a certain drawing made of lines that meet each other and scatter about. The reason for beginning with the description of Kwon’s general drawing style is because all the processes she mentions, which express different type of phenomena such as movements, energy, wind and water, all have in common the ‘line’ element. For such expressions to be effective, we can observe that in all its versatility, the ‘thread’ is one of the important materials used by Kwon.

I first encountered Kwon’s art world in 2006 through her solo exhibition at the Gallery Ihn. There was a video work illustrating her interactive-performance of carrying around a huge round shiny disc in the street. The disc was made by the artist and she would hand it to a passer-by and take a photo, resulting in a performance involving public participation. This performance was filmed in several European cities, and there was also a mini-interview where she asked, “what is the biggest seduction for you?” The filmed images of people she met through this work were transferred onto the canvas, and the figure’s silhouettes were also stitched using thread and needle onto a canvas. The ‘Moving Project’ which began in 2005 was completed in this manner. In 2008, for her solo exhibition at the Gallery Factory, the interactive work/performance, ‘Nanuda Project’ which had previously taken place in Australia and the U.K., was illustrated in Seoul as an installation work. The project consisted of making Korean traditional patchwork cloth and passing them out to random people and asking about their thoughts upon seeing these patterns. The survey was then visualised into the installation work. The texts of common answers were expressed via thread and hung on the wall.

As such, Kwon’s early works involved active interactions between the artist and the viewer. and when compared to her recent 2-dimensional works, there are certainly different traits, and Kwon’s recent works are closer to abstract art. Her inner world has been communicating with the principles of the world and cosmos, and therefore her work is a display of her expanded view of the world. She often mentions the term ‘flow of energy’ and this indicates that she has changed directions, and is moving on a different course to her previous engagements with performance works or communication with others. The major change seems to have developed after Kwon’s experience during her 2009 residency in Mongolia and 2010 residency in Venice, Italy. According to Kwon, in Venice in 2010 she realized her ‘all-time dream’ of expressing the flow of water. During this period, she would use charcoal on paper and draw water flowing, like keeping a diary while sitting by the sea. She finally made use of the flow of water as the medium to visualize the flow of energy, which later became the series titled ‘Invisible Phenomenon’. A little while before that, when Kwon was in Mongolia in 2009, she experienced life sustained by solar energy in the middle of the desert. It is not difficult to deduce that the process of how she installed the green work that she undertook near the barren desert area was a strong inspiration for the concept of the flow of energy. Since then, Kwon’s work has changed to abstract images on canvas, mainly images of something invisible to the eye and it depicts energy, wind, and water.

C code SE18, thread stitch, Acrylic, Linen, 60x76, 2018 

Since this period, Kwon Hyuk had begun discarding figurative images in her work. She mentioned that she was influenced by Man Ray’s work and quoted as follows “I would no longer from nature. In fact, I had decided that sitting in front of the subject might be a hindrance to really creative work. .omitted. not only would I cease to look for inspiration in nature; I would turn more to man-made sources. Since I was part of nature- since I was nature itself- whatever subject matter I choose, whatever fantasies and contradictions I might bring force, I would still be functioning like nature in its infinite and unpredictable manifestation.” Kwon used Man Ray’s philosophical idea to realise her methodology of becoming one with nature along self-effacement. Since 2012, Kwon had completely removed the subject matter presented abstract images, and this continues until today.

With this background in mind, we observe that Kwon is maintaining a macroscopic view on the ‘flow of energy’ that stems from her work or ‘energy of the cosmos.’ I am additionally focusing on the relation between the surface, the material of this series resembling abstract expressionism, and the performative and meditative process demonstrated in her previous works. In 2017, during her solo exhibition at Space: Willing N Dealing, titled ‘Controlled and Uncontrolled’, Kwon presented paintings that had paint running randomly on the canvas with a thread stitched onto them. The uncontrolled flow of liquid paint and stitched image going across the paint-dried surface created another different layer of the structure. Thus, the thread appearing in repetition creates a global harmony. It is a type of gesture that captures visually what is invisible to our eyes: elements of nature such as ‘energy’ which Kwon studies in earnest. The artist’s gesture has something in common with expressions through relationships among people, communication through her work, and harmony between objects that can be seen in her earlier works. This is because her canvases are the result of concentrated time and labour. Therefore, it is not simply a visualized abstract language.


C code 18bo1, thread stitch, Acrylic, Linen, 58x71, 2018 


First, the paint that she allows to flow on the canvas is not simply about pouring paint and waiting for it to dry. As water flowing follows the path of the wind and moves according to its flow, the artist’s body and the paint’s movement interact as one. Colours flow on the canvas while they blend to create harmony by chance, but the artist’s action exists as the base. The movement of ‘water’ that she wanted to express is also a form of labour which is captured by the body. This labour exercised by the artist is maximized in the thread stitching process. Upon the irregular image, another type of irregular shapes, the stitches create harmony. The artist must have needed a strategy to structure the unexpected form. Hence, she had to combine numerous stitch patterns repeatedly, and the process of controlling these stitches was necessary. Various coincidental effects caused by the final image of the completed layers of the whole, made Kwon ponder on its meaning as a ‘phenomenon.’ This is because she has doubts about pure coincidence. She is always interested in signs that indicate that something will happen that would pretend to be a coincidental moment. Her method of exploring inevitable control and intent, searching for the invisible principle, is well revealed in her installation work titled ‘Breath’. A blown balloon was bound by a thread with a wet medium and when it finally deflated, the surface maintained its balloon shape because of the hardened thread. This installation of the thread structure was the result of the reactions among complex factors after the deflation of the balloon. The solidifying time and hardened shape vary depending on the temperature, humidity, the force of the wind, and the amount of medium used. The balloons were placed in the same place in similar surroundings, but the minute details that interacted with each balloon created the results.


C code 180a, thread stitch, Acrylic, Linen 41x63, 2018 


Perhaps, Kwon Hyuk is demonstrating to us that the principles of the universe are not as grandiose once you understand them. Alternatively, she is informing us that many trivial things that we take for granted are, not trivial at all. Exchanges made between individuals, phenomena between society and individuals, and living beings in the natural environment and other phenomena entailed by their mutual influences, these are the objects of applaud for the artist as she is fascinated by all of her surroundings, phenomena, and the strange harmony of cause and effect. The repetition of coincidence and control in her work is believed to be one of the energy flows that was created in the grand-scale itinerary circling the vast space. In her sensitive attitude of acknowledging every detail that cannot be deemed as trivial, Kwon seems to maintain her drawing as a metaphor for networks, linking these with the threads in her work. In the tiniest network of relations, there exists a clear cause and effect. Furthermore, her action of digging up the chains that link all the phenomena and expanding them cannot be achieved simply by chance.

Kim Insun (Director, Space: Willing N Dealing)



MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, USA

MFA, Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea

BFA, Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea


Solo Exhibitions


2017 Controlled and Uncontrolled, Space Willing N Dealing, Seoul, Korea

2016 COSMOS, space k, Daegu, Korea

2014 NATURE DMZ, Park SooKeun Museum, Yanggu, Korea

2013 ENERGYSCAPE, Severance Art Space, Seoul, Korea

2011 Grasp the phenomenon, Soma Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea

2010 Journey, 16 Bungee Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea

2008 Nanuda / Interchanging project, Gallery Factory, Seoul, Korea

2006 Moving project, Gallery IHN, Seoul, Korea

2004 Thread, Kingswood lower Gallery, Michigan, USA

2003 A sign, Gallery HYUNDAI window show, Seoul, Korea

2003 Symptom, UM Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2002 Conceal & Reveal, Gallery SAGAN, Seoul, Korea

1998 Intersection, Dukwon Gallery, Seoul, Korea

1997 Intersection, Artemisia Gallery, Chicago, IL, USA


Selected Group Exhibitions


2017 Korean eye/ START, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK

2017 Project ACTS, CR Collective, Seoul, Korea

2017 'Meditation & Material' Atelier Aki, Seoul, Korea

2017 Suwon Art Space Project 2017, Experimental Space UZ, Suwon, Korea

2017 Portrait of the Artist, DOOIN Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2015 Mindful Mindless, Soma Museum, Seoul, Korea

INFINITY, space k, Gwacheon, Korea

2014 Neo-Sansoo, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea

2013 Innovators and Legends, Muskegon Museum of Art, MI, USA

2013 Innovators and Legends, Schweinfurth Art Center, NY, USA

2013 Landscape Perceived, Arario gallery, Seoul, Korea

2012 UP and Comers, Total Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea

2011 Co-Existence & Co-Prosperity, Jeju Museum of Art, Jeju, Korea

2010 Time and Space, Jeju museum of Contemporary Art, Jeju, Korea

2010 16 bungee Special Edition, 16 bungee gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea

2009 The Seoul Art Exhibition 2009, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea

2009 Mindscape of 21 century, Andrew James gallery, Shanghai, China

2009 Lead in Korea, withspace gallery, Beijing, China

2009 25th International Textile Symposium & Exhibition, Graz, Austria

2009 Time&space, Dalanzagard City Museum, Mongolia

2008 Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne, Australia

2008 Contemporary Korean Fiber Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA

2008 Rosenwald-wolf Gallery, Philadelphia, USA

2007 Affordable Art Fair, London, UK

2007 Line In Space, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan, Korea

2007 east scent, no more grey Gallery, London, UK

2006 Seoul Art Fair 2006, Seoul Art Center, Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul, Korea

2005 International Textile Kunst, Graz, Austria

2004 The Seoul Art Exhibition, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea

2004 6595miles(10614km), Network Gallery, MI, USA

2004 Paper not paper, 175 Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2002 Scythia, the 4th International Exhibition, Kherson, Ukraine

2000 Young Korean Artist Exhibition, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea


Prev [INTERVIEW] Interview with Sui Park: Creating 3D Flexible Organic Forms
Next [SHOWS] Nine Eyes of Google Street View @ Sprüth Magers, Online Exhibition