SungYong Hong, Heuristic #1, Lenticular 3D Print, 2013
SungYong Hong, in calling his current series of images "Heuristic," offers a clue to the meaning behind the work, but as much as it reveals an idea, it conceals as well. Heuristic refers to a method of study, or learning, whereby the tools of deduction, and trial and error, lead the investigator to a discovery. In SungYong Hong's art, the tools are numerous and the discoveries are many. In his lenticular prints, depths and layers emerge in striking three-dimensional images, where circles and whorls of bright colors jump out of a black ground.
The artist started his creative career as a photographer, using the camera to record images around him. His development in technique and imagery evolved, leading him to interests in optics, science, computer technologies and printing methods. As is often the case, the road he set out upon led him in directions he may not have planned at the outset. He has arrived to a body of work that relates strongly to the Op-Art movement of the 1960s and its current resurgence in contemporary art.
In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art presented The Responsive Eye, an exhibition of works which focused on optical illusions and the perceptual possibilities in relationships of certain colors. The Op-Art movement was born, and grew to include important modern artists like Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. Like these earlier artists, SungYong Hong's work explores the relationships of color, depth of field, and the inherent possibilities and limitations in two-dimensional works.
SungYong Hong, Noise 11, Lenticular 3D Print, 2012
Hong's synthesis of the artist's sensibility with the scientist's ingenuity enabled him to join the team at LG Electronics tasked with perfecting the image quality of advanced cameras. And yet, he is not only seeking to hone technologies or extend scientific boundaries. Rather, he states, he seeks to find a way to express emotion through the tools of the 21st century.
In his series, "Heuristic," and his earlier group of works titled "Noise" on exhibition at Able Fine Art NY Gallery, Hong delves into explorations of the way the brain records images. In doing so, he taps into the deep recesses of the human psyche and consciousness as it develops, and even as it slips back into the void. Hong states that part of his work is an attempt to explore the visions that exist beyond the eye's capacities. His vibrant hues pop off the background, leaving behind the two-dimensional surface, as if that flatness, not his images, were the illusion.
SungYong Hong has created a complex technique, in which over seventy layers are applied to achieve this startling three-dimensionality. It is reminiscent of eastern traditional lacquerware, in Korea and other areas, in which numerous layers of resin were applied to allow for highly developed three-dimensional carvings on objects of wood or metal.
SungYong Hong, Heuristic #4, Lenticular 3D Print, 2013 SungYong Hong, Heuristic #3, Lenticular 3D Print, 2013
His imagery, as well as his technique hearkens back to earlier times. There are certain motifs that repeat across cultures and ages and seem to emerge from deep within the human experience. Some of the earliest pictographs are of swirls and circles, earth tones on earthen objects such as pottery or cave walls. It is a universal response to circles of life, from seeds and fruits to symbols of motherhood that surround us and are intrinsic to that which is human. Adding to that, Hong incorporates depth and movement as if to suggest the swirling vortex of galaxies or a visual representation of the wheel of time. Through the simplest of patterns, circles and lines, Hong brings to viewers an image of the void of space, and at the same time, the endless invented universes of the imagination.
SungYong Hong, Noise 14, Lenticular 3D Print, 2012
Interestingly, the series "Noise" brings a sense of meditative silence, and "Heuristic" engages the viewer in an exploration for which no definitive answer can be found. In these works at Able Fine Art NY Gallery, SungYong Hong performs the task only the artist can--to pose questions that are unanswerable and to create sensations that exists beyond the experiential.
Mary Gregory is an art historian, novelist and arts writer.