At first glance, simplicity may seem to define her work, but simplicity is merely a thin veil over an intricate and thoughtful process resulting in an alluring and seductive body of work. Ran Hwang uses buttons, or threads, with pins to produce provocative images of vessels, of birds and of the Buddha both as installations and as objects on their own. Her practice speaks to the meditative nature that a repetitive process inspires where the experience of the work cannot be separated from its materiality and how it is made. In her most recent series, Hwang reflects on the nature of the vessel. As she explains, “Containers can be empty or serve to contain something. Like our bodies, they can be filled or emptied.” Her works can be seen as a contemplation of impermanence and mortality. The strength of Hwang’s work is in its process and the resulting immediacy and resonance with the viewer.
Hwang constructs the complex textuality of her works with simple, everyday objects, such as buttons, pins and threads, and, by recontextualizing them, they are transformed and seen anew. Because they have been removed from their recognizable, functional context into an unconventional one, they create a visuality that is tactile, and call upon a mimetic knowledge that becomes re-experienced in their presence. Her objects offer a familiar site in which to delve deeper in order to generate reflection, and even wonder. For Hwang, contemplating and representing a larger wholeness bring a sense of peace. The process of constructing these works is an object of meditation for Hwang.
One way to approach Hwang’s work is by considering the Buddhist ideas of the interdependence of form and emptiness, in other words, form is emptiness, and emptiness is nothing other than form. In the case of Hwang, this concept can be seen in the interdependence of negative and positive space. The self (body and mind) depend on all that is not-self, just as the vessel’s form depends on the space around it. Similarly, a vessel’s usefulness depends on the interplay of form and emptiness.