Hwi Hahm

July, 2019

Brooklyn, New York


Dead Baby's Breath, I'm Not Jesus   2018

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I’m sure no one is a novice at lying. Knowing that it is bad, and doing it to feel relief is the biggest irony of all. We know lies as good lies and bad lies, but lies nonetheless. As if the only truths were told by adults; and in an attempt to be a "good" kid, we adopt their “ways”(morale) like manifestos ingrained in our minds. However, as we grow up, the lines between the quintessential "good" child and "bad" child have been blurred.


This strange observation was a conclusion to meeting Hwi. In our short encounter, we spar with the ideas of lies, indifferences, truths; in painting. Hwi’s paintings had first caught my attention with his curious forms, and moody color palette. But it was his titles that really gave the punch. To me, they were funny, satirical, and even dark. I would coin the titles, "the cherry on top", the "zest to the pound cake with a sour twang"; Dead Baby’s Breath, I’m Not Jesus or, The Three Worst Lies in the World. I think these titles rang true to me, relatable.  Odd that they were titles of paintings that were surreal and abstract because they seemed so real.


I struggled to make sense of our conversation, to put our encounter into words, but it took me a while to come to a conclusion. Here realizing what I found so interesting in conversing with Hwi, was his direct, honest and unfiltered discourse. We discussed the practice to him, a stressful process, but well worth the aggravation. His works don’t seem to make an attempt at resolving confusion, they seemed more like an immediate observation of the present state. Exposing a bystander's perspective. Maybe a result of the horizon lines consistent in his works that put the viewers in the paintings, almost helpless to do anything but observe the happenings. They disclose a see-saw of the interior and the exterior, a balance of the mind, and the current state. That’s why for me, the paintings seemed like pages in a diary. 


"Honesty is a privilege, not a given". Hwi's explorations on mythical imaginations of his childhood through painting was the answer to the equation of an upbringing that deprived latitude. Sans decor, his works seem to practice a liberating self-discovery, resistance. Our exchange was a contemplative, almost too philosophical and confusing experience in an afternoon coffee haze. Looking back at the images taken, my favorite one has to be an image out of focus, of a page made with his left arm when he had broken his right. 


Photos taken by Cookin' Up Magazine, July 2019

Artwork images courtesy of the artist


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