You only have a few days left to see South Korean artist Ran Hwang’s Becoming Again, which is an immersive multimedia one-work installation, comprising a curved wall of Plexiglas that forms a shimmering screen studded with buttons arranged obsessively as a conflagration of cherry blossoms. As you watch, the blossoms glow with projected, shifting lights, changing colour and shapes in a kaleidoscope of moods; a golden phoenix unfurls its wings to the left and majestically flaps through the cherry forest to the right before a climax of golden showers. This meditation on the cyclical nature of time, and the brevity and fragility of life is represented by the evolving flowers, and the mythical phoenix – a symbol of grace, infinity and renewal.
Born in Pusan and trained as a realist painter at Chung Ang University in Seoul, Ran Hwang moved to New York in 1997 to attend the School of Visual Arts. After studying, she worked in an embroidery design studio in the garment district where her drawings were scanned into a computer, generating gorgeous machine-made patterns. While working there she noticed boxes and boxes of unused buttons, stacked in a corner. She asked if she could use them and was told, “Take as much as you like."Hwang soon began incorporating buttons, first into small scale collages and later in room-sized installations.
Ran Hwang uses fashion materials to dress her wooden or plexiglass panels. Threads, pins, beads, needles or cristal buttons, the Korean artist uses these tiny elements to create impressive pieces, full of poetry and dramatic spirituality. Both artist and craftsman, Ran Hwang imagines her works, often monochromatic, with infinite attention to detail and unique dexterity. Taking shape with distance, these dreamlike reliefs break down and reveal their composition while one approaches it. This accurate work requires both physical rigor and mental strength. Being buddhist, Ran Hwang built her work as a session of meditation with devotion and spiritualism.
"The process of building large installations are time consuming and repetitive and it requires manual ef- fort which provides a form of self-meditation. I hammer thousands of pins into a wall like a monk who, facing the wall, practices Zen. My works are divided into two groups. In the first, pins are used to hold buttons remain free to move and suggest the genetic human tendency to be irresolute. I choose buttons, which are as common and ordinary as human beings. In the second group of works, a massive number of pins connect yards of thread creating a negative space of the presented images, threads suggesting connections between human beings and a communication network between seemingly unlinked human experiences. The filled negative space in the absence of the positive space suggests mortality at the heart of self-recognition.»