When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

1858 Prize Finalist: Jiha Moon

Most Everyone's mad here, 2015, by Jiha Moon

“Why [do] people love foreign stuff so much?” questions Jiha Moon, Korean-born painter and Society 1858 Prize Finalist. Perhaps it is the allure of unfamiliar beauty, the mystique of unknown cultures, or the pleasure of acquiring “exotic” objects. Jiha Moon believes this partiality to foreign cultures and items stems from a misunderstanding of authenticity. “We add our own experience and imagination to the unfamiliar, which can lead us to misunderstanding it,” says Jiha.

Traveler, 2014, by Jiha Moon
Traveler, 2014, by Jiha Moon; ink and acrylic, tie dye cotton fabric, screen print on Hanji; 48 x 50.5 inches; Courtesy of the artist

As a foreigner residing in the United States, Moon ponders a person’s warped perspective of a certain society or culture. In her recent body of work, she delves into this perplexity of foreign misunderstandings and recreates the complex experience of misinterpreting authenticity. While viewing her exhibit of paper, sculpture, and prints, you must look carefully in order to understand what you are truly experiencing.

Moon intertwines a variety of cultural influences in order to create a visually intriguing and stimulating body of abstract artwork. She combines Asian landscape painting, calligraphy, and imagery from Western popular culture. In Most Everyone’s mad here, a 2015 work of ink and acrylic on Hanji mounted canvas, Jiha achieves a level of confusion yet coherence through layered images and a bright color palate. The complexity of the painting draws the viewer into the composition, inviting its audience to unpack the image layer by layer, looking closer for new interpretations. In this way, Jiha mimics the confusion that shrouds cultural understanding.

Like, 2015, by Jiha Moon
Like, 2015, by Jiha Moon; ink and acrylic, nail decals on Hanji; 58 x 42 inches; Courtesy of the artist

Moon’s abstract work is receiving recognition with growing momentum. Prestigious collections, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., show her avant-garde exhibits. Most recently, she earned a spot on the Gibbes Museum of Art’s 1858 Prize finalist list. The annual 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art awards $10,000 to an artist who contributes a new understanding of art in the South. Fiercely competitive, this prize attracts artists residing throughout all Southern states. Moon, currently living in Atlanta, Georgia, is a natural fit for this competition as her artwork challenges preconceived notions of Southern art through fresh interpretations of “foreign concepts” and visually innovative compositions.

Double Welcome: Most everyone’s mad here, 2015, by Jiha Moon
Double Welcome: Most everyone’s mad here, 2015, by Jiha Moon; installation at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC; Courtesy of the artist

Walking through a Jiha Moon exhibit transports you into a foreign sphere with multi-cultural components. Her warped reality creates a dreamlike atmosphere that challenges the viewer to engage with each painting’s unworldly composition. Jiha guides you through her artistic exploration of understanding the idea of “foreign” with paper, sculpture, and prints.

“Ultimately, everyone except ourselves is foreign. Examining misunderstanding is part of the necessary process of understanding others,” says Jiha. “I want to share that experience.”

Helen Clay, Summer Intern, Gibbes Museum of Art

Top Image: Most Everyone’s mad here, 2015, by Jiha Moon; ink and acrylic on Hanji mounted on canvas; 28 x 44 inches; Courtesy of the artist


Published August 11, 2016

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