Mixed media artist achieves artistic balance
The painting is titled Return to Nature. On the 68-by-32-inch canvas, melted Downy detergent and Minute Maid bottles peek through a portion of darkened land, with dried plants sprouting from the ground. Layers of highly toxic acrylic resin coat the entirety of the piece, giving it a glossy, polished glow. The unexpected materials refuse to lie flat, instead jutting out from the canvas, encouraging viewers to examine each detail and to study each piece in greater depth. The message is clear: Like art, the natural world is subject to interpretation.
This isn’t your traditional landscape painting.
Artist Hyunsuk Erickson likes to push boundaries. Her mixed media artwork features a variety of uncommon materials set on wood canvases: Wood, aluminums, cork, acrylic, milk jars, plant matter, and fabric—to name only a few—create breathtaking results. Each detail plays a part in the final composition. The result is a blend of old and new, life and death, tradition and modernity.
“I’m looking for plus/minus bonding,” Hyunsuk says. “I follow the Oriental philosophy of Yin (female -) and Yang (male +), and I use metal, flowers, scratches, cuts, mixtures of curvy and straight lines—whatever is necessary to create the duality and balance of Yin-Yang.”
In the past, some critics have attacked Hyunsuk for using unconventional objects such as flowers and beads in her artwork, insisting that those media appear too craft-like. But these criticisms don’t bother her. “Anything can be art,” says Hyunsuk, who has been exhibiting her artwork in galleries around the United States and in South Korea since 1993. “There are no boundaries.”
Her style, influenced by both her Korean background and her current American lifestyle, fuses complementary factors to create a balance of power and energy in her bold, colorful pieces. In Korea, Hyunsuk learned to use traditional media, such as acrylics, oil paints, sculpture, and four-dimensional artwork. Now, she experiments with unconventional mediums, such as dried plants and flowers, socks, fabric, metals, Coca-Cola cans, melted yogurt containers, rocks and parts of smashed kimchi pots. Hyunsuk’s mastery of more traditional styles of art has given her the freedom to break rules as she chooses.
For instance, if she senses that a floral piece is becoming too feminine, Hyunsuk might add glass or rocks to balance out the work. Hyunsuk finds that using mixed media allows her to create dichotomy in art.
In a recent exhibit titled Hyunsuk Erickson’s Spring Solo Art Exhibition, Hyunsuk debuted her sixty-three-piece art display, Transforming Nature. Custom-built for display on Hill Design and Gallery’s twenty-by-ten-feet cobblestone rock wall, the piece depicts the natural course of a person’s life. Hyunsuk’s overall goal for each piece of art is to “capture the mortal instinct of all living things by seeking the origin of how things are born, how they exist, and how they perpetuate themselves.”
Life’s dualities run throughout her artwork, blending together bright colors with darker hues, soft textures with harsher surfaces, and feminine and masculine materials to evoke the dualities of human existence.
Hyunsuk points to a brightly colored piece that represents childhood and then gestures to a darker piece that represents death or loss. “If you look at it here,” she says, “you can see happiness, sadness, childhood. . . .” Hyunsuk estimates that the project took four to five months of intensive labor and ten- to fifteen-hour-long workdays to complete each original piece by hand.
Like her other pieces, Transforming Nature incorporates the mixed media techniques for which Hyunsuk is well known. Even her cutting techniques vary depending on whether she wants to create harsher or softer qualities. For a more organic feel, she might cut a piece with a saw or an X-acto knife— gouging, sanding, and torching materials for additional effect.
“The beautiful cycle of life is an endless process,” says Hyunsuk, who models her art after the totality of human existence, creation, and the cosmos. “I am less than a piece of dust in this huge universe. However, my heart beats strong, and I understand my significance as an essential component in the life cycle and balance of all living things.”
Several of Hyunsuk’s works of art will be on display at Hill Design and Gallery through the summer. Visit www.hilldesignstudio.com for more information, or visit the studio at 1623 Rivery Blvd.
You may also view Hyunsuk Erickson’s work at her Gallery Facebook page.