티스토리 뷰













2022. 2. 아트인컬쳐 art in culture





heryun kim - 2022 by Dr. Seunghyun Lee

그림쓰기와 생동하는 기호: 역근대화를 전시하기 이승현 (홍익대학교 외래교수, 세화예술문화재단 이사) 전시를 기획하는 일은 기획자의 사유를 전시라는 형식을 통해 관철하는 행위이다. 




heryun kim - 2022 by Dongkook Lee

바람난 한글 김혜련의 <그림을 쓰다 : 훈민정음>을 읽고 이동국/예술의전당 수석큐레이터 문제제기 이번 전시 <그림을 쓰다 : 훈민정음>(이하 <그림쓰기>로 함)에서 선보인 김혜련의 신작 ‘그림



Hangeul as Free as the Wind

Reading Vibrant Symbols: Hunminjeongeum by Heryun Kim



Lee Dong-kook (Chief Curator, Seoul Arts Center)



Heryun Kim’s new works, presented in Vibrant Symbols: Hunminjeongeum, deal with those letters which cannot be read in an ordinary way. They cannot be interpreted in the framework and approach of Western abstract art, either. Her paintings are beyond abstract art in that she audaciously treats letters as non-letters, and prefers to call her work “writing paintings.” In ‘writing’ Hunminjeongeum, she paints sounds rather than letters, dealing with both sight and sound at the same time. It corresponds to what King Sejong wrote in Hunminjeongeum; “If heaven, earth and nature have sounds, they should have letters as well.”


Jeongeum Number 20

Deconstruction of Sound

Heryun Kim’s Jeongeum Number 20 shows two symbols of sky above earth, and another symbol of sky above another earth. It has neither man nor initial consonant. This breaks the rules of Korean orthographic syllables that require the combination of an initial consonant, a vowel and a final consonant. Consequently, it may be interpreted as a sound, but not as a proper human sound. From the perspective that the balance of yin and yang is necessary for sounds and scripts, Kim’s paintings cannot be comprehended as a human sound. It cannot be read either ‘, ’ or ‘으으, .’ Presumably, it somehow sounds like the primitive babbling of the 4.5 billion-year-old earth, or that of the 13.8 billion-year-old universe. In the cases of Jeongeum Number 13, Number 20, Number 24, Number 25 and Number 26, their sounds are even weirder and also far from being correct. In a way, they sound like the moaning of nature amidst climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, considering the existence of the Earth and mankind today in 2022.


Jeongeum Number 13,&nbsp; 25, 26, 24


Square Structure


Let us go back to the structure of Jeongeum Number 20. There are two universes overlapped together. Points and lines are piled up in four layers. In the case of Jeongum Nr. 24 the number of the sun gradually increases from one to five, and may increase infinitely as the artist wishes. Indeed, it creates a multiple universe. With perfect freedom, Heryun Kim plays with ,  and l, which are the basic three components of hangeul, and also with geometric abstract figures, such as ,  and , as if she were inspired by the god of strokes. In this regard, her practice of ‘writing paintings’ surpasses the level defined by King Sejong in Hunminjeongeum; “Hangeul can express all things, from the sound of wind to the cries of a crane, a rooster or a dog.”

We usually distinguish visual language from auditory language, but Kim’s paintings completely overturn this common idea. She pursues ultimate sounds, which precede letters and even words that are the other side of letters. Finally, she ends up ‘writing’ them rather than painting them. She overthrows the limited meaning of hangeul as a means to record words, and further proceeds to paint the sound of the universe in pursuit of the Tao of heaven and earth following the original principle of Hunminjeongeum. It leads to the creation of the ‘third script in painting,’ in which calligraphy melts into painting.

In this respect, Kim makes a leap beyond the existing trends in fine arts, such as minimalism, conceptual art and abstract expressionism. She is deconstructing letters by treating them as non-letters, but still constructing images in the basic structure of the Korean script. She builds up a composition or gestalt always in a square form, using only straight lines and abstract figures, such as , , , ,  and . Although her paintings are widely open, she is unwittingly aware of the architectural structure of Hunminjeongeum that requires an initial consonant, a vowel and a final consonant for a syllable, and manages to maintain it all the way through. In this sense, her works are different from abstract paintings composed of simple reduction, recombination or recomposition of points, lines and planes, as opposed to representational paintings. In sum, based on Hunminjeongeum and in the style of absolute abstraction, Kim’s paintings reveal the origin and the ultimate level of language and art.



It is certain that the meaning of modern hangeul has been diminished to a means to record the Korean language, and that the letters of hangeul and the sounds of Hunminjeongeum cover different scopes of time and space, respectively. By ‘writing paintings,’ Heryun Kim embodies the true nature of Hunminjeongeum that is able to describe the sounds of wind, cranes, roosters, dogs and so forth. In her paintings, therefore, the sounds of auditory language turns into the paintings of visual language written in the form of Hunminjeongeum.

Furthermore, there is no reason why the sounds of robots and Martians cannot be written in paintings. Hence, Hunminjeongeum takes a leap forward to become the script of a new, mythical age. Based on Hunminjeongeum embedded with the memories of the Earth and the unknown sound of the universe, Kim’s paintings transcend Hunminjeongeum, even running back to the time before it. Hence, ‘writing paintings’ is like ‘typing’ a keyboard to invoke the accumulated and embedded memories, and also like revealing the act of ‘painting.’ It is open to all civilizations of ‘typing,’ ‘writing,’ ‘engraving’ and ‘painting.’ In short, she resists and confronts the machine civilization through body language, and embraces all in the end. It proves that Hunminjeongeum is not only a script but also an all-encompassing worldview. Thus, Kim has created new memories by realizing the unity of speech and art, which is beyond the unity of speech and writing.


Spatialization of Time


By ‘writing paintings,’ Heryun Kim secretly communicates with the ancient creators who engraved so many geometric abstract patterns on the petroglyphs in Cheonjeon-ri more than ten thousand years ago. Abandoned and neglected in the memories of Koreans, the language of Cheonjeon-ri has been brought to the present by Kim so that it can be in oneness with Hunminjeongeum. Ten-thousand-year-old strokes made the numerously repeated and overlapped patterns of X and W, and also the curved and straight lines in the forms of rhombus, concentric circles and waves in Cheonjeon-ri. These ancient patterns resonate with the sound of today, and also with that of the future ten thousand years from now. The same is true of prehistoric earthenware and copper mirrors as well as the earthenware pottery from the Gaya era, all of which share the common patterns of circle (), square () and triangle (). Keeping in line with this tradition, Kim let the fading identity of Korean art manifest itself here and now through the spatialization of time, that is, the temporalization of space.




Originally, Hunminjeongeum or hangeul is peculiar in that it uses only points, straight lines and circles in a square form in order to catch, bind and construct sounds, making them visible. The heart of the Korean language, script, sounds and paintings lies in the three basic components of ,  and  representing heaven, earth and man, respectively. According to the traditional cosmography, “The sky is round, and the earth is square.” Hence, the archetype of ancient Korean thought, philosophy and way of thinking may well be expressed as heaven (), earth () and man () in the language of art.

Patterns are in themselves highly developed symbolic systems made by each speech community. The frame of patterns is defined by the structure of curves and straight lines, reflecting the aesthetic sensitivity and the DNA of a speech community. In this respect, Heryun Kim’s practice of ‘writing paintings’ clearly suggests a solution to the two problems of Korean fine arts; the identity issue and the globalization issue. Owing to her reinterpretation of Hunminjeongeum, thousands of years of myths or the collective memories of the nation have been brought to the present by her new language in painting. The order of Korean aesthetics manifested in her images have been accumulated in multiple layers by countless mothers who have endlessly repeated body language. In other words, resulting from infinite repetition in the name of the nation for thousands of years or even for ten thousand years, the essence of the aesthetic order came to manifest itself in the artistic language written in her paintings.


The Brush Paints the Mind


In conclusion, Heryun Kim’s practice of ‘writing paintings’ is her own answer to the question on the origin of material and mind or the origin of language and art. She demonstrates that the bodily act of writing and painting is in itself language and art, and therefore, her paintings turn out to be sound and speech, as well as stories and songs. All sounds are embedded in them, from the primitive babbling of the beginning of the universe to the sound of the machine age. In this context, one may say that she is jumping straight into the cave of Hunminjeongeum which is the origin of calligraphy abandoned by modern painters, and with unbelievable strokes, mining for the identity and global qualities of Korean art. Simultaneously, she is trying to create the third language of art in the age of machines by integrating calligraphy with painting. In particular, by adopting calligraphy embedded with thousands of years of abstract energy, she is writing time/sound in space/painting.


It may well be said that Kim’s paintings should be defined as the integration of Eastern and Western arts, or as the unity of language and art, in which painting and calligraphy become one, with paintings and letters intertwined with each other. On the basis of Hunminjeongeum and with the help of powerful brush strokes, she is successfully wrestling with time and space in the art of language. She is energetically running all around, to the beginning and the future of sound and speech in history, to the east and the west, and to the nature and the universe. As long as she is engaged in ‘writing paintings’ and follows in the footsteps of the literati artists who treated calligraphy as a means to express their mind, the vague identity and even the scope of Korean fine arts will be much clearer in the future.


- in the catalog of <Heryun Kim-Vibrant Symbols, Hunminjeongum> in KRX & Koskom Seoul






artist monograph