On one of the coldest days in January, a SMT reporter braved the weather to travel to In-sadong. There she met up with Hur Eunoh, an Oriental drawing artist who is pioneering a new road between Oriental painting and Western painting. As the reporter ascended the stairs and opened the glass door before her, she entered a dreamy exhibit hall full of splendor. The reporter was quickly welcomed by the artist, and in a warm friendly atmosphere, the two enjoyed time hearing of her world of art.
Q. What prompted you to start drawing?
To be honest, nothing led me to painting. It all sort of started naturally. Ever since I was little, I was interested in drawing. During my school days, I was drawn to water painting, but it was during my senior year of secondary school when I became drawn to Oriental painting. I was drawn to the stillness of Oriental paintings and the sense that the ink permeating the rice paper suited my calm personality. That is the reason why I became an Oriental-style painter.
Q. You are known for combining Oriental ideas with an Occident style. Which elements or events influence your paintings?
Both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are in Oriental painting. After graduation, I participated in the Art Fair for East countries. There I encountered various types of Oriental art and became interested in Western Art, too. I decided to travel to New York, where I stayed for a year. I was introduced to various artworks created with intensive colors and a variety of materials, and I also learned about the influence of various media forms. Through the experience, I decided to combine Western styles with Oriental ideas. In order to do that, however, I needed to study more, so I decided to enroll in a Master’s program in the United States. It was quite a challenge to add intense coloring to Oriental ideas but I was determined.
Q. What are your favorite materials to work with?
I enjoy flowers and birds. The life of a flower is similar to the mortal life of human beings. In addition, I make frequent use of full-blown flowers in my artwork to expose the vitality of humanity. A bird travels between earth and heaven, so it symbolizes freedom and liberation from the earth. In the East, the bird transcends earth and heaven and as such is a messenger for humans. For these reasons, birds represent the desire to be free and the longing for unknown places. Besides birds, I enjoy scuba diving, especially the serene feeling of being under water. Using the deep sea as a background for some of my work, I make a strong effort to convey that same feeling in my work. Regardless of the elements I use in my work, I try to make use of their essence in the real world. In other words, I link the elements to truth and reality, between humanity and feelings. I do not wish to portray an escape from reality.
Q. What is the ultimate message of your art?
In the East, it is believed that nature brings people peace and stability by achieving harmony with one’s emotions. In other words, it is believed that suppression of one’s desires makes people more stable and provides them with the time to reflect on themselves. Nowadays, modern urban society is mentally fatigued because of the perceived notion that people must keep moving forward and not fall behind. Hence, nature is the perfect place for people to manage their hearts. I convey arcane natural sceneries in my work. It is my desire to deliver peaceful moments by describing transcendent natural scenes like the deep sea or heaven.
Q. You hold a private showing of your work each year and participate in art fairs frequently. It would seem like you are constantly working to better develop yourself as an artist, or are you under pressure to do so? How do you handle pressure?
The biggest challenge for me as an artist is to maintain my active lifestyle and be positive. In order to expand and challenge yourself, artists must gather new and fresh ideas from exhibits and art fairs. Saying that, an artist still needs to seize opportunities and make your own destiny. In reality, I’m actually quite quiet and calm, but realized early to catch chances when they present themselves. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I had waited for a chance to showcase my work when I was studying abroad. I worked on overcoming my shyness and it is that effort that brought me opportunities. I’m not being vain, nor do I want to seem complacent. I began with Eastern philosophy and extended its scope to art. Knocking on the door led me down this path in life. I have been invited to lecture at various universities during my doctoral days, and I’m still teaching at my former alma mater. I am continuing to challenge myself and will always seek good opportunities.
Q. What are your goals for the future?
Up until recently, I’ve been working on creating my own style of blending by combining the techniques of the East and the West. For example, I use stone powders, Oriental Art material, and mix it with oil paints. In future, I hope to learn more about Oriental ideas and improve my technique. To help me, I’m presently studying Eastern philosophy. In addition, I hope to keep challenging myself as an artist of Oriental drawing now and forever.
Q. Would you please leave some final words for Sookmyungians who dream of becoming an artist?
As with all things, patience and endurance are the keys to success. I also suggest frequent introspection so that your work expresses you as an artist. Grow your ego by considering what you wish to show others. This will expand your world of art and one day you will find yourself also dramatically changed as well. In addition, draw daily. On days when you draw a blank in your head, just doddle on the paper. Your work will grow through the process, and later lead to opportunities to showcase your ability.
* Bachelor of Fine Arts (2005), Master of Fine Arts (2008) Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, Korea
* Master of Fine Arts (2014) Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA
* Ph.D program student at Sookmyung Women’s University (2014~present)