The subjects in Korean artist Han Young Wook’s photorealistic portraits are ordinary people, their life experiences hinted at in age spots, pores, wrinkles, unkempt white hair and crooked teeth, their emotions revealed in soulful eyes and subtle facial expressions. The paintings celebrate humanity in all of its imperfections and invite the viewer to wonder about who the people are, what they have been through and how they feel. The paintings invite empathy, evoke compassion.
Portraits by Han Young-Wook
I also mentioned this idea of celebrating humanity in all its imperfections when writing about the hyperrealistic sculptures of Sam Jinks. Perhaps, as I am starting to get ‘old’, I am trying to put a positive spin on the effects of the aging process. A more negative interpretation would be to say that the artist ‘lays bare’ or ‘boldly exposes’ our flaws and imperfections. I think I will stick with ‘celebrate’ for now 🙂
Han Young-Wook’s large paintings are produced through an interesting and painstaking process that ends up giving them a glittery, metallic sheen:
- The artist imprints the lines of the image on aluminium foil using a ballpoint pen.
- The next step involves working brownish oil paints onto the imprinted image.
- A fine needle is then used to scratch the painted aluminium, creating the finely detailed textures that make the paintings look so realistic.
At this exhibition—Art Central 2016—the paintings attracted a lot of attention and aroused the visitors’ curiosity. The exhibition-goers tended to first view Han Young-Wook’s work from a distance and then move up to within inches of the painting to get a close look at the textures and scratches.
In the painting Stranger (detail view shown below), a more negative view of humanity is presented. The painting is packed with people, but there is no interaction at all. They are strangers; they exist as part of a crowd but are caught up in their own cares and concerns and oblivious to those around them
I came across The following six paintings on display at the Art Central 2018 and 2019 exhibitions.
Mini-bio: Korean artist Han Young-Wook was born in 1963 and studied at at Hong-Ik University in Seoul. He specializes in large, realistic portraits like the ones featured on this page.
This section includes links to online photo galleries and websites, discussion questions and an art challenge.
Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:
- Han, Young-Wook, the Beauty of Our Mortal Life (an article by Seo Seong-rok that gives a lot more insight into the artist’s philosophy): www.galeriebhak.com/exhibition/2008112/exhibition_e.critic.html
- Oil on Aluminum Scratch Art by Han Young-Wook (a short article showing several paintings): www.designsmix.com/design-magazine/oil-on-aluminum-scratch-art-by-han-young-wook/
- Which of the portraits do you like best? Why?
- If you were the subject of photo or painting would you prefer a more ideal version of you or one that shows your flaws? Why?
- What do think of the artist’s special technique—scratching away paint to reveal the metallic surface beneath it?
Take a photo or draw a portrait of an elderly person. Try to bring out the effects of age@mdash;the wrinkles, the silvery hair, but present them in a positive way.
~ photos and text by longzijun
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