Han(한) in Korean means sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul.
I was born in a Korean immigrant family living in the North-East region in China. North and South Korean culture have been a deep influence on our family tradition. I moved to South Korea when I was two years old, but I never felt that I belonged 100% to either Korean or Chinese ethnicity. In fact, I was afraid of being categorized as someone whose identity was ambiguously wandering in between these two regions.
I admit that I used to be jealous of someone who is from a majority group, who doesn’t have to worry about being suspicious just because of where she came from, and whose family members don’t have weird and strong dialects that cause other people’s unnecessary attention. I admit that my mind was often full of jealousy, wishful thoughts, and shallow dreams, but I never wished to verbally express them nor did I try to forcefully ignore them. However, I’d like to honestly explain my thoughts in the pictorial world. The work from this exhibition is not about complaining as a woman who is from a minority, but it is about the process of accepting my reality or Han(한) and moving on to the next step.
Han’s works on panel are a series of colorful explorations of spaces, and how people inhabit them. Within these themes, questions of identity arise, as she touches on race and gender. The motif of hair pulling is seen in several works in the exhibition. Henpecking presents two women in the center of the painting, while two distant men are positioned on opposite sides of the scene. The men are preoccupied with cigarettes, while the two women are violently pulling at each other’s hair. Han explores the embodied experience of minority women. Han speaks about the passivity of the men explaining, “I believe any witness’ silence and participant’s violent acts are equally crucial.” The spaces that Han depicts include many cultural symbols. The wall in the background of Oasis is a Korean traditional tile and rock wall that is used for protecting the house for privacy and security. Han continues with this exploration of privacy through the drawers that she includes in her paintings. Drawers act as secret chambers, hidden from the public. The open and closed drawers that Sally presents depict a duality that exists in our lives, between what is hidden and what is shown. Throughout the exhibition, Han poses several questions for the viewer to consider. She does not provide answers but prompts her audience to think critically about what she has put forth.