Born in Germany and raised in South Korea, Hiejin Yoo began painting when she was only 7 years old. “My mother wanted to teach me several different things, for example, music, art, or ballet, but I was only interested in painting and drawing,” said Yoo in an interview with Art of Choice. And so, by the time she was 24, she decided to pursue her artistic dream and moved to the United States.
Her work – colorful, bold, and seemingly digital – is based on Yoo’s daily observations. Those are recorded first in diary form and then translated into large, semi-figurative oil paintings on canvas. Mundane events and everyday moments are depicted with large abstracted planes of color and bold, layered marks. These instances and memories are cropped and arranged to focus on specific reflections that are relived through painting. Yoo’s works, therefore, reflect her personal history and act as intimate journals and meditations on self-discovery.
“The paintings are set in spaces that can be read as either interior or exterior, their ambiguous, hazy atmospheres locate them in a world that is primarily psychological,” she explained. “This allows me to reference the day-to-day moments that I find surprisingly infinite and beautiful.”
Though her work looks very much contemporary, Yoo says she’s largely inspired by Henri Matisse. “His work is known for its color, abstraction, intimacy, and reminiscence of his personal experiences,” she reflects. “Matisse’s paintings contain countless everyday elements that he returns to repeatedly to find something new in each encounter. Those objects create an intimacy and interact with the space that is filled with a variety of patterns and the white of exposed canvas. I similarly observe objects to find their representational imagery, extract an abstraction from it, and then create an imagined space, which is personalized to convey the unique qualities that I perceive.”
Here are some highlights from her Instagram page.