Artist note



a safe zone-nowhere 201618, 250x160cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2016


The main idea behind my current work is the notion of a ‘safe zone’, as I have always been interested in the spaces where I feel safe and comfortable. Everyone feels differently in different places, and I came to consider where my personal ‘safe zone’ is and how it relates to my self. Through my experience of living in different cities, I realised that my safe zone was my hometown, a town on a beautiful island where my family lives. I grew up in a very supportive and nurturing family. I was always the little girl in the family and was protected by my parents, grandparents and brother. When I had to leave home to attend university I felt very nervous and vulnerable, so I started to draw my hometown to connect my present with my past. I then painted a corner or swimming pool where I could stay calmly with my personal objects. These spaces have been extended to other places having a sense of utopia. My piece ‘A Safe Zone-Nowhere’ (2015-6) shows a paradise-like place that does not exist in reality but I tried to make the image look familiar. It looks like the kind of place that is represented in travel books and magazines - places which people fetishize and desire to visit. As previously mentioned, I grew up on an island, surrounded by a beautiful sea. This starting point of a blue sea is a great natural icon that allows me to represent a utopian vision. I want the experience I had, and which is represented in my paintings, to become part of other people’s experience. For myself, I understood utopia as a comforting space where people can explore their feelings and emotions, but through my research, I found that heterotopia more aptly describes the essence of my work and beliefs. The difference between a utopia and a heterotopia is that a heterotopia possesses a material reality. In my painting, this material reality exists as a plant or ordinary object set against the unrealistic blue sky or sea.

a safe zone-nowhere 201615, 30.5x40cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2016

My series ‘A New Old City’ (2015-2016) relates to construction sites that I often encounter in the quickly developing part of London where I live. These are real places that are being developed every day. People are seeking their dream houses and trying to make their locality nicer, improving the old town and constructing a brand new urban space with tall buildings and smoother roads. This sounds very promising and positive but I sense that the construction process has negative as well as positive effects, such as disturbance, pollution and anxiety. I want to acknowledge this fact by reflecting it in my painting like a mirror based on Foucault’s idea of heterotopia. Thus, a construction site is shown as a ‘real-space’ with various objects, shapes, or other sites shown as an ‘other-space’. I intentionally combine two different places to represent what I see and feel when I am confronted with the real world. One place is the real-place I live in but I am intrigued by an other-space where I see myself to be safe. Even though these places are real, at the same time they are not real. As they are all connected in one scene, I hope the spectator is able to find a feeling of unfamiliarity and unease, but peace and tranquillity at the same time.

Hwa seon Yang

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