Sanghoon Ahn

Some Love It, Others Hate It

Sanghoon Ahn

Sanghoon Ahn’s paintings resemble a mix of visible things, or images that emerge in the stream of consciousness. He continues with the same overall process, using rapid brushstrokes to apply and blend colors atop the canvas, while the paint is still moist. His composition of the pictorial plane—whether highlighted by color fields, outlines, or the materiality of the paint—shows the refined qualities of a typical “painterly painting”: impromptu, sensitive, intense, but also suitably withdrawn. Painterly painting is a significant approach that preserves the tradition of Abstract Expressionism while also encouraging the contemporary.

Since he started making his spontaneous paintings in 2015, Sanghoon Ahn has used a very unique, arbitrary method of composing titles for his works. Sometimes, for example, he chooses titles based on the serial number of photos of his works on Google, or from random words or phrases retrieved from his search. As of 2020, his titles have been emphasizing accidental or reciprocal analogies, thus highlighting the fragile relationship between titles and images of works.

This method of creating titles connects the abstraction of a painting to a certain event or narrative, thus providing a specific context. Unlike Abstract Expressionist paintings associated solely with conceptual or metaphysical ideas, Ahn’s works have titles—such as On Special Days, We Need a Story, or More Was Not Necessary—that contain narrative hints, transforming them into a page from a diary or a chapter from a novel, rendered on a canvas suffused with an intense pictorial materiality.

Of course, whatever narrative potential may be elicited by the title, the eyes of the viewer are still locked on the nonverbal, connotative pictorial events of the canvas. Indeed, what is the canvas but the evidence or site of decisive events caused or coordinated by the artist, who triggers their collisions? Just as events occur differently each time, the aspects of the objects in the pictorial plane also exist differently each time. As such, the modifiers and limiters of those events are also subject to endless variations. Painting uses the most visual materials to represent the interaction between consciousness and matter in space and time. Sanghoon Ahn’s paintings embody the pictorial event of applying exceptional colors and their materiality to the canvas.

With Ahn, it is never clear what type of consciousness of painting is being emphasized by the inscription of words or sentences. He decided to name this exhibition Some Love It, Others Hate It, a sentence that also appears as a pictorial element in some of the works. Perhaps this vague description reflects the feelings of the artist, or maybe it was derived purely by chance, as explained above. Much like a title itself, the relationship between the title and the works is also implicative. Marcel Duchamp once said that a title of an artwork is an “invisible color.” Certainly for Ahn, the title is one of the many pictorial properties of a painting. His mastery in creating and gathering all of these materials is the foundation for the superb atmosphere and sheer originality of his works.

Artistic Director Jinsang Yoo

A “100% painting” refers to a painting that is separate from any particular ideology, style, or trend. Sanghoon Ahn’s works are enriched by the utter lack of relation between the lines, stains, shapes, intensity, and nuance of the brushstrokes and the a mix of colors, shapes, materials, symbols or meaning.

from “Dislocation, an Approach to a 100% Painting” by Hyun Jung (art critic and professor at Inha University)

Sanghoon Ahn
b. 1975
Solo Exhibitions
2020 On Special Days, We Need a Story—Not to Wait Alone, to Remain Forgotten, Gallery Chosun, Seoul
2018 This Year’s Platform Artist: Embrace the Uncertainty, Incheon Art Platform, Incheon
Friendly Banter, Salon Artertain, Seoul
My Shoes Are a Bit More Colorful, Gallery Chosun, Seoul
2017 GOOD: PAINTING, Incheon Art Platform Warehouse Gallery, Incheon
2016 No Bread Grows on Asphalt, Kreis Museum, Osterburg
Capsule Collection, Artspace LOO, Seoul
Selected Group Exhibitions
2021 Public Art New Hero, Daecheongho Museum of Art, Cheongju
Flower, Museum Head, Seoul
2020 Soft Walls, Dry Fruits, n/a gallery, Seoul
2019 Uneven Growing Point, Culture Oil Tank T1, Seoul
The Haunted Walk, Gyeonggi Creation Center, Ansan
Surim Award, Surim Artcenter, Seoul
2018 Veni Vidi Vici, Plan B Project Space, Seoul
Image in Image, Artspace Hue, Paju
2015 Tempelhofer Art Exhibition, Galerie im Tempelhof Museum, Berlin
2014 Foerderpreis, Kunsthalle Münster, Münster
Strange House, Sparkasse Bank, Gelsenkirchen
Kunstverein Virtuell-Visuell e.v., Dorsten
Awards
2019 Surim Award, Excellence Award, Surim Cultural Foundation
2018 New Hero, Public Art
2017 This Year’s Platform Artist Award, Incheon Art Platform
Residencies
2020 MMCA Goyang Residency, Goyang
2019 Gyeonggi Creation Center, Ansan
2017–2018 Incheon Art Platform, Incheon
2015 Residency Kunsthof Dahrenstedt, Germany

Traces of Murmuring
Hyun JUNG

For Sanghoon Ahn, painting is the object of a question as well as a world of inquiry. Ahn poses the question of how drawing and painting—as works of art—and the artist are organized practically through exhibitions and projects. Although Ahn’s paintings are dominated by an abstract sentiment, such sentiment should be viewed as a means rather than an end. He is wary of painting being held captive by interpretations and meanings beyond the division between what is concrete and what is abstract. Hence, he strives to escape from such obsessions with meaning. Consequently, his painterly vocabulary arrives as a trace, like the halo of the moon or a murmuring, instead of a clear statement. Ahn prefers to let the process of painting reveal itself by focusing on the most fundamental act of drawing, rather than through the goal of depicting something concrete. At this point, drawing is ironically linked to erasure. Although the artist uses terms found in abstract painting such as a dot, materiality, and a brush, he attempts to achieve a disagreement between form and meaning. This intended discordance, after going through the process of coincidence and inevitability and selection and abandonment, is erased or otherwise leaves room for unexpected meaning.

Unlike modernist abstract art that pursued transcendental ideals, Ahn’s abstract paintings are closely related to reality. Yet he doesn’t provide personal statements or explanations. “Drawing/Erasing,” a metaphor for painting methodology, refers to his method of drawing forms. Instead of drawing a concrete form, the artist makes it a rule to find a form that resembles nothing and cannot be verbally compared to anything else. Perhaps his paintings reveal their form through repetitive deletion. Ahn’s paintings resemble the traces of a journey to find a world that is reminiscent of nothing other than visual representation. Regarding such murmuring, French writer Maurice Blanchot uses the metaphor of a window to language, which goes beyond image and the depth of a word, and finally reaches a point of emptiness.

Sanghoon Ahn’s solo exhibition “Good: Painting” at the Incheon Art Platform Warehouse Gallery in 2017 raised questions about the existence of painting, which marked a turning point in his work. He developed the exhibition into a project for viewers to participate in a forum that posed the question of why painting exists. “Your Museum of Art,” held in his studio in 2017, allowed participants to take five minutes to appreciate one of 125 artworks chosen by the artist. A total of 17 participants took five minutes to gaze at a painting filled with hollow meaning chosen by the artist. Artworks from a storage receive someone’s attention: this elegant seems to tell us that art can serve as a bridge between objects and humans. It also echoes French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s reflections on painting. Derrida attributed the construction of a painting to the relationship between the painting and its surroundings. He suggested that the relevant discourse as an explanation, and the title and size of a painting, created its artistic value. With a small leap of logic, the philosopher’s view is tantamount to saying that it is only when attention is paid to art, that its vitality revives. “Everyday Window Project,” held at Incheon Art Platform in 2018, was a project in which Ahn performed creative work in a window-like square space over 22 days. By revealing his creative process during the 22-day period, the artist candidly exposed the time in which his paintings were generated. In such a way, art and temporal and spatial reality are woven together—as passers-by, people concerned, and neighbors become the witnesses of an abstract world of art. In this way, painting encounters creative time, audience viewership, and reality. A painting is not just a graceful image surrounded by a frame that is hung on a wall but becomes a record of the journey to find meaning as it expands its relationship to its surroundings.

Since 2017, Sanghoon Ahn has been experimenting with painting on vinyl, a medium quite different from canvas. In his 2017 solo exhibition “I saw the wind,” the artist used banners and vinyl that he had collected on Daebudo Island and at Surim Art Center. By employing found objects to create his work, Ahn’s world of painting accepts certain parts of reality. With discarded objects being utilized as a substitute for canvas, both purity and reality and abstraction and existence are combined, which in turn reflects Ahn’s voice as an artist who moves towards an absurd reality in which the exaggerated meaning ascribed to abstract art acts in collusion with market logic. And such, a wide range of experimentation and projects surrounding the painting, just like a rhizome, are connected to each other by necessity and form their own ecosystem. Such an ecosystem is likely to circulate as if it were an organism that builds relationships despite being a chronicle of the times. In other words, his work is its own painterly circulatory system that is formed through those that have been deleted and abandoned. Though the artist does not try to include a clear social message in his works, behind his world lies the sorrows of life connected to reality.

Traces of Murmuring
Hyun JUNG

For Sanghoon Ahn, painting is the object of a question as well as a world of inquiry. Ahn poses the question of how drawing and painting—as works of art—and the artist are organized practically through exhibitions and projects. Although Ahn’s paintings are dominated by an abstract sentiment, such sentiment should be viewed as a means rather than an end. He is wary of painting being held captive by interpretations and meanings beyond the division between what is concrete and what is abstract. Hence, he strives to escape from such obsessions with meaning. Consequently, his painterly vocabulary arrives as a trace, like the halo of the moon or a murmuring, instead of a clear statement. Ahn prefers to let the process of painting reveal itself by focusing on the most fundamental act of drawing, rather than through the goal of depicting something concrete. At this point, drawing is ironically linked to erasure. Although the artist uses terms found in abstract painting such as a dot, materiality, and a brush, he attempts to achieve a disagreement between form and meaning. This intended discordance, after going through the process of coincidence and inevitability and selection and abandonment, is erased or otherwise leaves room for unexpected meaning.

Unlike modernist abstract art that pursued transcendental ideals, Ahn’s abstract paintings are closely related to reality. Yet he doesn’t provide personal statements or explanations. “Drawing/Erasing,” a metaphor for painting methodology, refers to his method of drawing forms. Instead of drawing a concrete form, the artist makes it a rule to find a form that resembles nothing and cannot be verbally compared to anything else. Perhaps his paintings reveal their form through repetitive deletion. Ahn’s paintings resemble the traces of a journey to find a world that is reminiscent of nothing other than visual representation. Regarding such murmuring, French writer Maurice Blanchot uses the metaphor of a window to language, which goes beyond image and the depth of a word, and finally reaches a point of emptiness.

Sanghoon Ahn’s solo exhibition “Good: Painting” at the Incheon Art Platform Warehouse Gallery in 2017 raised questions about the existence of painting, which marked a turning point in his work. He developed the exhibition into a project for viewers to participate in a forum that posed the question of why painting exists. “Your Museum of Art,” held in his studio in 2017, allowed participants to take five minutes to appreciate one of 125 artworks chosen by the artist. A total of 17 participants took five minutes to gaze at a painting filled with hollow meaning chosen by the artist. Artworks from a storage receive someone’s attention: this elegant seems to tell us that art can serve as a bridge between objects and humans. It also echoes French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s reflections on painting. Derrida attributed the construction of a painting to the relationship between the painting and its surroundings. He suggested that the relevant discourse as an explanation, and the title and size of a painting, created its artistic value. With a small leap of logic, the philosopher’s view is tantamount to saying that it is only when attention is paid to art, that its vitality revives. “Everyday Window Project,” held at Incheon Art Platform in 2018, was a project in which Ahn performed creative work in a window-like square space over 22 days. By revealing his creative process during the 22-day period, the artist candidly exposed the time in which his paintings were generated. In such a way, art and temporal and spatial reality are woven together—as passers-by, people concerned, and neighbors become the witnesses of an abstract world of art. In this way, painting encounters creative time, audience viewership, and reality. A painting is not just a graceful image surrounded by a frame that is hung on a wall but becomes a record of the journey to find meaning as it expands its relationship to its surroundings.

Since 2017, Sanghoon Ahn has been experimenting with painting on vinyl, a medium quite different from canvas. In his 2017 solo exhibition “I saw the wind,” the artist used banners and vinyl that he had collected on Daebudo Island and at Surim Art Center. By employing found objects to create his work, Ahn’s world of painting accepts certain parts of reality. With discarded objects being utilized as a substitute for canvas, both purity and reality and abstraction and existence are combined, which in turn reflects Ahn’s voice as an artist who moves towards an absurd reality in which the exaggerated meaning ascribed to abstract art acts in collusion with market logic. And such, a wide range of experimentation and projects surrounding the painting, just like a rhizome, are connected to each other by necessity and form their own ecosystem. Such an ecosystem is likely to circulate as if it were an organism that builds relationships despite being a chronicle of the times. In other words, his work is its own painterly circulatory system that is formed through those that have been deleted and abandoned. Though the artist does not try to include a clear social message in his works, behind his world lies the sorrows of life connected to reality.