Sunyoung HWANG | naïveté series

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Sunyoung Hwang moved to Belgium in 2007 when she was 18, to study at Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. This was where she decided apply to Slade School of Fine Art, UCL in London. She graduated from Slade in 2012, and embarked on a Master’s at London’s Royal College of Art, graduating in 2016.

Likes : Being alone in my studio

Dislikes : Being alone at home


We See the Invisible, Touch the Intangible, and Hear Silence 1 (2016)


How would you define ‘naïveté’?

A sincerity. It’s an honesty or innocence. It requires no effort or conscious thought... I’m not saying that naïveté is sincerity or honesty — but more, it’s a state of being sincere.

When you are naïve, you can achieve a sincerity. There’s no need to have a will, or to make an effort... you don’t even have to be aware of this need.

Whiteout (2016) | The Echo of Shadow (2016)


We See the Invisible, Touch the Intangible, and Hear Silence 2 (2016)


Your recent work  — We See The Invisible, Touch The Intangible, And Hear Silence (2016) — touches on invisibility. Do you think the ‘invisible’ maintains a relationship with naïveté?

I think the ‘invisible’ exists beneath or between layers — layers of what is perceivable. The ‘invisible’ always hints at its presence — it’s up to us whether we encounter it or turn a blind eye. We can reach it whenever we want. We can make a movement towards it — to see it, or know it.

Yet, we deny its existence. Maybe it’s too painful or troublesome to accept? Maybe, we want to ignore the fact that we are ignoring it? This makes us blind.

Yet, maybe it goes further… Maybe this is the mind’s way of achieving ‘psychic equilibrium’ — protection from an intolerable reality? I think those who are naïve don’t worry about this. They don’t care how knowledge might impact upon on their lives. Rather, they seem to believe that what is absent or hidden might be much more important than what is visible. In that sense, naïveté opens up the possibility of experiencing the invisible, the impalpable, and the inaudible.

You’ve described your work as "a place where the intangible can be touched”...

I think that the intangible is something that is quite intense — something that can be reached through the tangible.

I believe that all things visible, touchable, audible are, in a way, an echo of the invisible, impalpable, and inaudible.

In this sense, my work explores the ambiguity of time and space in silence — through my paintings I hope to open up a possibility for incorporeality. The audience can explore the realms of the intangible, feeling its visibility, tangibility, and audibility through the materiality of the layers of paints in my work.


And yet Still Here (2017)

To be silent in a world that is FULL of voices — is often mistaken for being naïve, no?

I think silence is an act of defiance. By being silent you can completely shift a situation, creating a different time, tempo, and movement.

In that sense, maybe silence is a gesture of inner voices — voices that can only be heard when you shut out the outside world.

I think it is an empty but intense moment, in which we can look into ourselves. I believe seeing into is also seeing beyond, and therefore, being silent can be an active response to the world—even resistance.


What role does naïveté play in terms of you as an artist and your audience?

Whilst I’m making a piece, I’m not always aware of where it’s going or what direction it’s heading in. I usually come to realise this towards the end.

I think this is because there is really no manual or recipe for a work in my practice. Instead, I have developed a way of working which uses the stream-of-consciousness technique to visualise my internalised ideas and images. Presumably this is where naïveté plays a valuable role in my work: I take advantage of naïveté to develop my intuition and instinct, and to prevent having a plan or intention.

It is entirely up to the audience whether they take a journey into my work in the same way as I did in the painting process. But naïveté would help them feel the air between the layers in my work, and make it easier to experience the hidden, the invisible, and the intangible. In that sense, it serves as a guide for tracking the process, and therefore, a better understanding of my work.


Shadowy (2017)


Farewell (2017)


Do you ever feel naive — in terms of your expectations what the art world has to offer?

I don't think so... but I’ve seen many young graduate artists quickly become disenchanted. The first year of practice as a “professional artist” is really tough — it’s near impossible to get picked up by a gallery nowadays and there’s no bridge between art school and a professional practice. They are likely to realise they no longer belong anywhere.

I also think it’s hard for an artist to accept the art world... and to adapt themselves to it.

If you are not taught about the “art world” at art school — which many still aren’t — you become quickly disappointed in both. You end up lamenting your false expectations on a world that simply doesn’t care. With respect to this, I don’t think I was naïve. I didn’t expect anything from either the school or the art world because I didn’t make a distinction between my life before school and after school.

Has the art world ever made you feel naive?

Artists seem to have complete freedom, but in fact they belong to the invisible structure of the art world. I didn’t know that until quite recently... I was wrong to think I wasn’t bound by anything... Even such as time schedules or fixed rules, both inside and outside the studio. Now I know that outside the studio, there is a different world waiting for me, and that I need to think of my position in it very carefully.


Dim (2016) | With Half-Closed Eyes (2016)


Is naivete linked to an inability to be “all-knowing”?

I think this need to be “all-knowing” is linked more to an arrogance — and arrogance is NOT naivete. We presume to be all-knowing because of modern technology... Knowledge seems to “at our fingertips”, so to speak. But in fact we are heavily reliant on technology. And this “knowledge” is clinical and ready-made.

Something undefinable, something that defies explanation — I think that is what art is. Art cannot be defined, or confined to “knowledge.” Some people use every trick in the book to define it, but they still fail. I think that is very much why art exists: it is a search for something inexplicable or intangible.

I think we are all naive in the face of art.


We See the Invisible, Touch the Intangible, and Hear Silence 3(2016)