Ran Hwang's large-scale art installations are as mind-boggling as they are beautiful. Although some of the silhouetted images may look simple from a distance, a closer inspection shows the extreme level of detail in her work. The Korean-born artist uses thousands of pins, beads and buttons to create intricate images of vessels, birds, and even people. Hwang describes her artistic process as being similar to meditation, and that sense of peace and ritual is conveyed in her artwork.
Hwang experienced a major shift in perspective on society and her art after witnessed people jump from the twin towers on 9/11. Realizing that the multitude of numberless people are what make up mass society, she began to place new meaning on each individual button, pin and stitch in her art. “Each individual unit in Hwang’s works represents the common person as a member of society,” writes Ki Hye-Gyeong, the curator of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea.
Zen Buddhism also plays a major role in Hwang’s art. The artistic process itself is highly meditative, as Hwang projects an image on a wall or other surface, traces the outline, and then she begins filling it in with thousands of colorful buttons and beads that are attached to long pins. “The process of building large installations are time consuming and repetitive and it requires manual effort which provides a form of self-meditation,” she explains in her artist statement. At the outer edges of the image, sometimes Hwang disperses the pins, making it look as if the image were coming apart.