Open ends

Eunjung Hwang and Siebren Versteeg

Portrait of the artist as a young cassette tape collection:   “18 and Life,” by Siebren Versteeg.

Portrait of the artist as a young cassette tape collection: “18 and Life,” by Siebren Versteeg.

Photo By Brad Bynum

Due to an ironic and unfortunate turn of events, Dutch artist Siebren Versteeg was unable to make it to the opening night of his own exhibition. Versteeg’s work, alongside the work of Korean artist Eunjung Hwang, is on display at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Sheppard Gallery. Versteeg was scheduled to give a talk about his art but, after having a hard drive crash that contained eight or nine months of work for an upcoming show, he sent a video instead. But the video presentation was extremely fitting, entertaining and perhaps gave more insight into his work than a live lecture might have. It was an experiential, time-based artwork that fit right alongside his other pieces in the show.

Versteeg’s work largely addresses the digitizating of music. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is drawn in by a wall-size mural of black-and-white lines radiating out from a central point. Upon closer inspection, the central point turns out to be a small LCD screen embedded into the wall. The screen contains an image of the Napster logo and the words “Own Nothing, Have Everything"—a slogan from a Napster campaign and also the title of the piece. By extending the lines out of the digital space of the screen onto the wall, Versteeg is attempting to ground it in material space. But after the show is over, the piece will no longer exist—at least not in the same form.

At a deeper level, Versteeg’s work deals with perceptions of time and space from a subjective point of view.

“I became fascinated working with time-based media early on,” says Versteeg. “It seemed to speak to the way I was personally assimilating to the changing technology.”

In “18 and Life,” the artist took his cassette tape collection from when he was 18 years old and replaced the inserts with his high school portrait. While this piece reflects his personal feelings, a majority of his work is concerned with the viewer’s perception and experience of it.

The other half of the gallery is occupied by the work of Eunjung Hwang. An entire wall is filled with large digital prints displayed alongside her animations. The complex prints are loaded with fantastic creatures—some human-like and disembodied—inhabiting flat environments. The prints serve as storyboards for her animations.

All of her creations start with drawings made by hand—something Hwang calls an “automatic movement” inspired by subconscious imagery. The images come from her dreams, memories and childhood. She then digitizes the drawings by re-creating them on the computer. Hwang says the computer drawings, perhaps because they are so rudimentary and cartoon-like, seem light.

“It doesn’t feel very serious. I think there is some humor in the work; sometimes it’s a little dark.”

Hwang’s characters show up in different forms and combinations in her animations. During a residency in Austria, she decided to create her own crests after seeing them everywhere on the local architecture. The characters from these crests end up in an animation called “Bestial Delights,” where they are superimposed over a photographic image of snowy mountains taken from the Austrian landscape. The characters pass in and out of the landscape as they mutate and interact with each other—often in violent and gruesome ways. The animations are narrative, in the way that dreams are, but have no logic.

On the surface, the two artists’ work seems vastly different. The curator of the show, Marjorie Vecchio, director of the Sheppard Gallery, planned it this way.

“The open-ended presentation allows for other lines of connection rather than thematic or media-based ones. Even though [Versteeg and Hwang’s] work [are] unrelated in many ways, they are both deeply involved in the postmodern cultural subconscious.”

Perhaps a common thread is that the artists are interested in the intangible. They both deal with spaces that don’t exist in material form, whether it is in the world of dreams or the world of cyber-space.