Critic's Note: Ham once wrote, “Ironically, I examine the inner and outer world at the threshold of painting, surface.” The term, “threshold of painting” amuses me. The artist intends to embrace both sides of the world at the surface. Surface does not belong to either side; it belongs to both. It is impossible to go in or out of the painting; however, the painting’s surface has such depth and effects. A painting is made on a flat surface. Displaying how the flat surface is planned and worked - an artist’s unique sense and handling of surface - is painting. In Ham’s paintings, diverse variations of the surface are evident. Somewhat bizarre, humorous and unfamiliar as they are, they are from peculiar brush strokes of the artist. The brush strokes may suggest a certain object and may even seem to reproduce it. As a matter of fact, brush strokes on their own stimulate some self-contained situations, textures, and senses. Initially, it seems that the brushwork was to delineate an object; gradually, the brushwork was to expose their flesh by escaping from a certain image. These “odd” touches – or movement of the hand – render cityscapes. The usual, everyday cityscapes on a seemingly familiar flat canvas are now transformed into the unusual.
I am provoked to confront the surface, which has been believed to be familiar; the surface is now unordinary from aerial view, distorted images, atypical composition, incredible colors and textures created by absurd brush strokes. The cityscape in his painting seems reproduced as it is; at the same time, it becomes absurd and fictional. The painting solely made from brushwork is an abstract painting; it is illusionary as a multi-layered space, which covers the canvas and creates depth on the flat surface. Such illusionistic characteristics are amplified as an artificially translated image of the world through human eyes. It is again processed by painstaking analogue activity, painting. It becomes even greater and conflicts the illusion-soaked world, disturbing the laws of nature, such as the law of gravity. Ham’s paintings cast the pleasure and humor from the “alienating” world. He, with his brush strokes, taunts this gigantic city, our conventional thoughts and senses.
The brushwork is meandering, streaming, wriggling and swinging, rather than customary brushwork applications, which is the physicality of a brush. The artist also expresses the trembling of his body. Overall, evenly applied winding brushstrokes transmit the calligraphic rhythm and musical waves. It is almost as if you can hear sound from the painting. The brushwork reminds the viewer of peculiar textures. Everything is covered with unaccustomed textures; hence, the world depicted in the painting seems even more bizarre. Transformation of the crust or the skin reverses familiar memories and learned experiences. On the canvas’ surfaces, the surface or skin of everything is overthrown. Brushstrokes, which normally bring up images like hair, grass, noodles, etc., now replace the exteriors of familiar objects. Strange textures throw us into confusion; it allows us to look at the world once again, creating a transformation of the sense. While senses in traditional paintings have been mostly about the retina-centrism, senses in Ham’s paintings use different sensory organs. The world stirring up the transformation! The tools he uses are traditional color paints and slender brushes, and for too long he created a surplus of paintings with such traditional colors and brushes.
Ham's paintings lead us to contemplate the painting of various textures on flat surfaces that brings variations; also upon the brushstrokes that causes all kinds of transformations and variations of the flat surface. Brushstrokes may be another metaphor of the body. Borrowing an object and transforming it into different sensors and organisms is like inhabiting it on the surface of other sensors. Is it not like the transformation of one’s body surface?
Artist's Education: Mokwon University. Korea. B.F.A., Painting.Dongkuk University, Korea. M.A., Art Education.
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