KAB Dialogue


InterviewSeptember 20, 2012 UP

Standing on the line, conflict desperately.

Hyon Gyon(Visual Artist)

  • interviewer:Satoko KIYOSAWA

We interviewed her at “@KCUA”, the gallery of Kyoto City University of Art on Fri. April 13.
The works of Ms. Hyon Gyon are mostly paintings which are so energetic like a powerful swirling wind. But she also creates images and installation art. She won the” Special Award for Arts and Culture” by the City of Kyoto in 2012. She has participated in the overseas exhibitions, broadening the scope of her activities.

-I heard that you are from Korea. What made you come to Japan and study at Kyoto City University of Arts?

There was no definite reason. After graduating from a university in Korea, I got a job and worked for one year. At the university, I painted several pieces, but I did not particularly wanted to be a painter at that time.
As for the job, though I liked it, I never wanted to continue that forever. Then I decided to break out without thinking too much. Since it was easy to enter Japan and I was interested in Japan since my childhood, I came to Japan and started studying Japanese. When I discovered that Kyoto was a comfortable place to live, I decided to stay here longer. To fulfil this wish, I enrolled in Kyoto City University of Arts. While in the university, I got more interested in creating art works and finally found what I wanted to do here.

- I understand how you started creating art works in full swing. Your recent works is centered on drawing faces which even with one glance they give unforgettable impression. This attracts me a lot.

In the early days of my carrier, I didn’t draw faces. Although I had painted a lot of people, a large part of the faces was covered by hair. One reason is that face expressions can easily convey emotion, and can be a very easy tool for communication. Another reason is that I had several chances to draw faces with the expressions I intended to give to them, but I failed. Later I realized that I was running away from drawing faces and felt the limitation of my skill. When I was seeking for a new way of expression, I found that drawing faces by solder iron to melt some part on the layer of cloth fitted in my expression. I was not particular about drawing a specific face. I felt that the images of faces came to my mind spontaneously.
I felt that the images of faces in my head were the clump of emotions that had piled up in the past, depicting the experiences of the people to whom the faces belonged to. I liked it and thought that I would imbed them in my paintings. After that, I was able to draw faces.

-You often draw women in your works. Have you ever thought about those women? Are you aware of the fact that you are a woman?

It is a fact that I am a woman. Actually, I did not like the word “feminine”. I was uncomfortable with the fact that my works were related to feminism and gender. I ignored these assumptions. On the other hand, I was very much interested in the living creatures called women. I have read a lot of stories and autobiographies of women since I was a child. I was attracted by their strong will to overcome difficulties and to struggle for survival.
After entering the doctor course, I thought that it would be better if I try to understand feminism instead of ignorantly rejecting it. Then I started reading books on feminism and realized that it was because of the hard works and efforts of many feminists that the society has become a comfortable place for women today. Realizing this, I felt that being a woman is an advantage and it is important to accept the fact that I am a woman. On the other hand, living in an era free from most oppressions, I wonder what I can do for the society. This often becomes a source of inspiration for me.

- Your new installation work is exhibited in the “Kyogei Transmit Program #3 which is being held now. How did you prepare for this group exhibition?

First of all, I was very much attracted by the sub-theme “Fighting Arts”. Then I asked myself what is fighting, my answer was to live. People fight to live. If you give up, you do not have to fight or compete. I think “fighting” means the hope and strong desire for living.
Like every other artists, I have difficulty in achieving good balance between creating works and spending daily life. I also have financial difficulties. I have to fight with myself and with others around me. Although in such difficult situation, I find happiness in fighting to seek for something invisible while creating works. If I did nothing, I would suffer and not be able to bear it. In this exhibition, I created my work with the feeling that I am fighting for hope.

-Hyon Gyon’s work titled is expressing the sense of “fighting”. The barbed wire in your work attracts the attention of many audiences.

I have been curious about barbed wire for a long time, and have wanted to use it in my works. Because it is something that protects me but harms others. Here the roles of defence and offence unite, and you can interpret them in many ways. At the same time, I feel silly to separate an area into two parts by a wire only. For the Koreans in particular, barbed wires are symbolic, reminding them of the partition of the country into North and South. Since this is so symbolic, in my work I tried to change this image by decorating the wires floridly with a piece of rainbow colour cloth. As the title shows, we are always standing in between something. We are living while swaying between things. I selected the theme “Fighting Arts” by placing myself in the space between things. I am aware of swaying between the two poles such as “yin and yang”, “reality and unreality”, “birth and death” and “sanity and insanity”. My answer is to keep standing on the border between the two and struggle for fighting.

- As an artist, what do you think about Kyoto?

Kyoto is well known as a popular tourist spot in Korea. However, I think she has a long way to go to be known as the art city. There are a lot of young artists who have studios in Kyoto. However, they are not known to people outside Japan. This is quite a waste. I hope Kyoto will be regarded more as the art city. I hope the artists in Kyoto including me will have chances to introduce their works in Korea, as a result of which, Korean people will have the opportunity to know Kyoto and Japan.

■ date:13. April 2012(Fri.) ■ place:@KCUA

Her future activities:

At present, some art works by Ms. Hyon Gyon are exhibited at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It is the first time for her works to be exhibited outside Japan and Korea. Artists from Asian countries participated in this exhibition and exhibited 31 pieces of work.

PHANTOMS OF ASIA: Contemporary Awakens the Past
Duration: May 18 to Sep. 2, 2012/05/14


Hyon Gyon

Born 1979 in the Republic of Korea. After studying western paintings at Mok Won University, she came to Japan. She finished the doctor course at Kyoto City University of Arts in 2011. At present, she is creating art works in Kyoto. She has exhibited her works at “Tokyo Wonder Wall Tocho 2007 Hyon Gyon Exhibition ” at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, two solo shows at g3/gallery in 2010, “On a knife Edge- Hutatsuno mukougishi Exhibition” at Kyoto Art Center in 2011 and other places. She won the” Special Award for Arts and Culture” given by the City of Kyoto in 2012.

What is your favourite place in Kyoto?

Although I have been living in Kyoto for several years, I have not visited many places. I think Kyoto is the best place for strolling rather than visiting a particular spot of attraction.


After working at Kyoto Art Centre as an art coordinator, she has been involved in the planning and production of exhibitions in the KYOTO EXPERIMENT 2011 and Kyoto International Festival for Stage Performance. She also writes reviews on the exhibitions.

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