Where the Moonlight Was Most Tranquil
Heekyoung Jeon paints landscapes. Although Jeon’s paintings may seem abstract, with their emphasis on gestural brushstrokes, they can still be considered landscapes, based simply on their titles. But more than that, every brushstroke in her works conveys the sense of a huge outdoor space because of their size, direction, superimposition, and perspective. Also, thanks to her characteristic use of various rich shades of blue (e.g., cobalt, ultra-marine, and cerulean), often combined with clear white, many of Jeon’s paintings seem to represent the clouds unfurling across the blue sky. Other works have a dynamic, fluid resonance, as if depicting the ocean, waterfalls, or fountains.
It thus feels natural to find descriptions or representations of actual, concrete landscapes in her works, even though they resemble Abstract Expressionist paintings. The sense of a certain location or landscape is heightened by the exhibition title, The Place Where the Moonlight Was Most Tranquil. To create such landscape paintings, each brushstroke must be quick and intuitive, allowing the paints to mingle before they dry while also recording the pictorial spontaneity and physical movement. Such an approach is quite challenging, requiring tremendous precision, speed, and judgment. Making matters more difficult, Jeon uses acrylic paints, which not only dry very quickly, but also tend to lose their saturation and chroma when mixed, resulting in somewhat dull colors. In order to maximize the color, Jeon tries to use shades and tones that are very similar to one another, through not identical. She also practices bold and unconventional techniques, such as applying multiple colors to a brush at the same time, or “leather brush painting,” which involves using a flat strip of leather as a brush. Through such methods, her pictorial planes resonate with mesmerizing gradations of rich colors and clear spectra of light, like gazing out the window of an airplane.
Her works manifest intense body movements, arbitrary mixtures of colors, lush atmospheric light from the white paint atop the white canvas, and dense textures of darkness and the earth. As suggested by the title The World That Droplets Gather (2020), her works seem to be filled with vapor and mist, evincing a realm of pure imagination. Another prevalent theme is “One Day in the Future,” when light penetrating through clouds illuminates an ethereal paradise, with a purple rainbow in the distance.
Also featured in this exhibition are works from Jeon’s Moon series, which consist not of paintings of the moon, but of idealized landscapes rendered on round canvasses. Befitting the moon as something that is always visible but impossible to touch, Jeon’s Abstract Expressionist paintings imply the beauty of a world that has not yet arrived or is just out of reach. Of course, there is a long tradition of projecting such ideals onto the moon, which has a very connotative meaning in Heekyoung Jeon’s paintings. The past tense of The Place Where the Moonlight Was Most Tranquil indicates not only the disappearance of the place, but also its continuance in the form of memory. By recalling that specific place, Jeon’s paintings converge on the very essence of place.
Heekyoung Jeon’s colors are closely interrelated with her brushstrokes. Of course, many artists use brushes to apply colors. But just as novelists have different writing styles and singers have unique vocal tones, artists have distinct ways of telling stories with their colors and brush. Even artists who attempt realistic representations have different brushstrokes and colors. It is no exaggeration to say that the relationship between the brush and color represents the essence of the act of painting, particularly for abstract painters who use color to organize and express their thoughts and minds.
from The Place Where the Moonlight Was Most Tranquil by Daesik Im (director of ARTERTAIN)