Illustrations of Illness

Yoon sung hur

My work often involves a questioning of the stigmas towards people with mental illness, and society’s attitudes on those matters. From a public standpoint, stereotypes depicting people with mental illness as being dangerous, unpredictable, responsible for their illness, or incompetent; these false stereotypes often lead to social exclusion. I consider paint, marks, layers, colours as a persona of myself, which helps me experiment with surface and techniques. My work not only focuses on the negative aspects of various stigmas towards mental illness; but aims to complicate the way we generalise mental illness, into good or bad. The process of painting is different from series to series. Moreover, each series depicts different time periods of my life. My painting process is a metaphor for psychological landscapes, and pressures which I have experienced, that are influenced by the unspoken rules set by the society. The elements of the unseen and ambiguity speak about my own personal relation to schizophrenia.

The black and white series is a body of work that heavily explores the idea of unknown fear, and how my own actions have placed me in a position of jeopardy before the diagnosis of schizophrenia in December of 2016. Mediums for this body of work, includes: charcoal powder, ink, varnish and turpentine. Rather than applying paint with brushes, I apply this mixture through various pouring techniques. The combination of soluble and insoluble materials ensures that I never have complete control. That material lack of control acts as a metaphor for my intimate relationship with mental illness and the way that society approaches it.

My other series, Monochromatic series, is a depiction of events that are subsequent to my diagnosis. In this series, I start my process by varnishing an empty white linen, then a layer of  turpentine is applied, which alters the characteristics of both of these layers. This step allows me to convert the permanence of varnish into impermanence, that is not stable, thus losing control once again. The monochromatic series is a negotiation between two substances and my own ideas of what can or cannot be controlled. This series is a continual process of breaking and mending the surface of the paintings.

YOON SUNG HUR is a second-year senior visual art major at Interlochen Arts Academy. He is from South Korea and currently resides in both Jakarta and Seoul. He vastly works with oil paint and illustrates his experiences of dealing with mental illness. He received a Silver Medal for his prints and Honorable Mentions for his paintings in the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Next year he will be attending Parsons School of Design and be continuing his academic and artistic pursuits.