Hiejin Yoo’s paintings explore the artist’s daily observations. Yoo finds fascination in ordinary occurrences, depicting them with large swaths of color and forms that are both representational and abstract. She incorporates her own memories and deeply personal experiences into her work, telling stories that connect to universal emotions. Coming off of a solo exhibition at Half Gallery in 2018, Yoo’s work will soon be on view in a solo booth at The Marfa Invitational, also with Half Gallery, and in a solo exhibition at Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami in May. Yoo is based in Los Angeles, CA.
What is your background? When did art enter your life?
I was born in Germany and raised in South Korea. I started to paint when I was 7 years old. My mother wanted to teach me several different things, for example music, art, or ballet, but I was only interested in painting and drawing. When I turned 24, I decided to move to Unites States to pursue my dream.
Are the scenes derived from source imagery or memory?
The paintings are set in spaces that can be read as either interior or exterior, their ambiguous, hazy atmospheres locate them in a world that is primarily psychological. This allows me to reference the day-to-day moments that I find surprisingly infinite and beautiful.
Your work often includes the outline of a certain limb – hands, arms, legs, — on top of a scene. Why do you include this motif?
I started those ghostlike lines of limb while longing for my boyfriend who lives in Chicago. I spend times with him in Chicago, come back to my studio in LA and make paintings of our memories. We are still doing a long distance relationship over 4 years and I want to express the person who you love is not next to you right now but remembering and missing how he touched me or our gestures to each other.
What themes does your work explore?
My work is based on daily observations that I record first in diary form and then translate into large, semi-figurative oil paintings on canvas. Mundane events and everyday moments are depicted with large abstracted planes of color and bold, layered marks that evoke the subjectivity of my inner life. These instances and memories are cropped and arranged to focus on specific reflections that have been strongly etched into my consciousness. These moments are recorded and relived through painting, the result of which are works that reflect my personal history, and act as intimate journals and meditations on self-discovery.
Do you leave room for chance to occur while you paint?
I don’t make studies for paintings because I’d like to explore on the surface while I paint. I do like to have happy accidents on my paintings like drips of paint.
What art historical movements most inspire you?
Henri Matisse has been one of the greatest influences on my painting. His work is known for its color, abstraction, intimacy, and reminiscence of his personal experiences. Matisse’s paintings contain countless everyday elements that he returns to repeatedly to find something new in each encounter. Those objects create an intimacy and interact with the space that is filled with a variety of patterns and the white of exposed canvas. I similarly observe objects to find their representational imagery, extract an abstraction from it, and then create an imagined space, which is personalized to convey the unique qualities that I perceive.
Your work has an innate femininity – as a female painter is it important to you to create work that females connect to?
I don’t think about gender specifically when I paint but I think it’s my personality that is subconsciously influenced by my mother.
You’ve had a very successful year with your work popping up at major art fairs and exhibitions. What’s up next for you?
I am planning to have a solo booth at Marfa Invitational in April with Half Gallery and a solo show at Fredric Snitzer Gallery in May.
With success coming to you at a young age, have you set long term goals for yourself?
My dream has always been to live and work as a painter. I hope I can do it until I die.
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?
My dear friend, Anabel Juarez. She is a fellow UCLA grad and an amazing artist. We support each other’s careers and find inspiration in one another.