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(Yonhap Interview) Obsession with color behind Yoo Hee-young's unique art

All Headlines 15:08 October 10, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Oct. 10 (Yonhap) -- Yoo Hee-young expresses himself through colors. He mixes different shades of colors multiple times and paints over and over again until he gets the exact hue he's looking for.

The repetitive, tedious process often ends up in him tearing off canvas with a knife and burning it near his atelier in a small village in South Chungcheong Province when he doesn't get what he wants. Once firefighters were dispatched, mistaking it for a forest fire.

He acknowledges that his behavior sometimes comes across as rather obsessive and excessive, but the tireless, persistent passion helped him establish the unique art style that sets him apart from other artists.

Artist Yoo Hee-young poses for photos after an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Hyundai Hwarang in Seoul on Oct. 10, 2018. (Yonhap)

At 76, his decades of experimentation with hues is still ongoing.

"Every artist has one's own critical moment at one time or another. No one would be completely satisfied with one's works. That dissatisfaction is what keeps artists going," he said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Hyundai Hwarang in Seoul on Wednesday. He will open a solo exhibition, "Color-Field Paintings of Yoo Hee-young," on Thursday at the gallery, his first domestic exhibit since 2003.

"It is hard for me to settle for the way things are. You have to constantly knock the door for changes," he said, adding that, for him, change comes with trying and inventing different, new colors.

Until the early '80s, he used to apply a lot of blue paints, to the point where people recognized his paintings by their bluish colors. As he rarely used red, he always had plenty of never-used red paints in store.

"I didn't necessarily mean to do that, but I started experimenting with red colors. I think it is the power of art, in that it makes you want to change," he said. He increasingly liked the color's intensity and the vivid contrast it offered.

This image provided by Hyundai Hwarang shows "Work 2010 R-8, 2010" by Yoo Hee-young. (Yonhap)
This image provided by Hyundai Hwarang shows "Work 2018 G-4, 2018" by Yoo Hee-young. (Yonhap)

In the late '80s, he began to forgo painterly elements and instead has been working on his own abstract style that focuses only on colors and simple geometric lines and sides. Over time, his style has evolved to color field abstractionism from lyric abstractionism.

A graduate of Seoul National University in 1962 as an art major, he received a special award in 1961 from the National Art Exhibition, once the country's most prestigious art competition considered a surefire channel to getting acknowledged as an established artist. His professional art career has since taken off smoothly. From 2007 to 2012, he served as General Director of Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and is now Professor Emeritus at Ewha Womans University's art department in Seoul.

"I express myself through colors' variety, density and uniqueness. It is always challenging to blend different shades of colors to create my own and paint them in a simple form," he said. "It is like homework to do."

The exhibition runs through Nov. 4.

This image provided by Hyundai Hwarang shows "Work 2016 G-5, 2016" by Yoo Hee-young. (Yonhap)


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