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Figurative Abstraction

“For me, abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. I'll go further and say that abstraction is nearer my heart. I prefer to see with closed eyes. »

Joseph Albers, quoted in: Arts/Canada, Vol. 23 (1966), p. 46


FORMALISM = BOREDOM… If this thought comes to mind… you might consider giving this exhibition a pass… but if you are still here, it probably means that you are either a follower of formalist aesthetics, a bit curious, or maybe simply a little masochist. Who knows? As the curator for this exhibition, I prefer to think that you are here to understand and feel the essence of the artworks of South Korean artist In-Young Ha. You might remember her past exhibition entitled “Arcadia” at the Gallery Seescape three and a half years ago, when she presented figurative paintings based on a process of colour substitutions between photographs and paintings. If you do not remember the inauguration evening, it is likely that you overindulged in soju that was served on that particular evening… However, this time she’s with us to share her Aesthetic Formalism exhibition. As appealing and exciting as it could be, I will not go into the theory of Nick Zangwill and the differences between Extreme Formalism, Moderate Formalism and Anti-Formalism but rather only target the topic of this exhibition.

Weary to focus only on figurative art, In-Young Ha crosses new boundaries to open the doors of the world of abstraction. Continuing her research on colours, she broadens and includes in her artistic practice the study of movement and texture in order to develop her own personal art process. Nevertheless, with its apparent lack of standards, abstraction gives a deceptive illusion of freedom, a fact that she recognises straightaway. At first, she begins her process by applying brush strokes and organic coloured shapes on paper that she later cuts out. To better imagine what these sheets of paper might look like, think about artworks of artists such as Roy Lichtenstein or Louis Morris. This first step accomplished she finds herself with a panoply of pieces of coloured painted papers with various forms that she will put together to create abstract artworks. If the forms are visually akin to Jean Arp’s artworks, her method of composition is however closer to the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse. Placed on wooden or on canvas base, these three dimensions artworks correspond more to the term Specific Objects coined by the Minimalist artist Donald Judd who defines new types of three-dimensional artworks which incorporated aspects of painting and sculpture but was neither. Less colourful and imposing than the late works of Frank Stella, they nevertheless raise many questions. Her work could have been completed at this stage, but she wanted to go further in the exploration of the links between figurative and abstract art. Her four Specifics Objects become models for figurative paintings. In-Young Ha offers us with her four canvases an opportunity to perceive three dimensions abstract artworks as figurative painting. They thus become the realistic pictorial representation of an abstraction…

Sébastien Tayac

Mar 22, 2017

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