▲ “Blackberries and Crow (2014)”. Provided by Savina Museum.
Unlike the stereotype that creative works are always revolutionary or entirely new, effective merging of existing elements may form an original work. While subjects such as flowers and the human body, and genres like painting and photography may be plain and ordinary, the combination of these elements ends up introducing something we have not seen before. The solo exhibition of Emma Hack held in Savina Museum—Body Flower—which runs from July 23 to October 30, exploits the world of collaboration, delivering a profound message of unification of humans and nature.
When you first takes a brief glance at the picture “Blackberries and Crow” (2014), you only notice a pattern of white flowers and black leaves on a blue background, and a black crow on the right side of the piece. However, if one looks closely, they can discover the silhouette of a woman’s body on the left. Similarly, Hack, a former body painter, employs the method of camouflage, disguising the human body with its surrounding environment, to show that there is no real gap between nature and humans.
The exhibition is held in Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located in an alley near the exit 1 of Anguk Station. As the size of the museum is relatively small and the rooms for each section are surrounded by walls and columns, it gives the feeling of coziness to visitors. In the exhibition Body Flower, 49 works are arranged in chronological order from the first basement level to the second floor, illustrating the maturation of Hack as she develops her understanding of the relationship between humans and nature and weaves it into her work.
Although her most famous works are displayed on the first floor, where visitors first enter, observing the earliest works of Hack on the first basement level before appreciating the others is recommended. Appreciating Hack’s work from the earliest to the latest, it gives a better chance to appreciate how she came up with her motifs and developed through them.
On “Wallpaper 1” (2005), her very first piece, a naked woman, the periphery of her body partly partly camouflaged, is standing in front of a floral-patterned red wall. The body paintings look more like clothes, for Hack did not paint the entire body. Hack’s style of art, camouflaging with one’s surroundings, was developed after she became successful as a body painter, inspired by textile patterns. Not only did she utilize body painting and textiles together, she also merged them with photography, in order to maintain the sense of unison as a physical artwork.
▲ A photograph of the first floor of the exhibition. Photographed by Kim Ji Won.
Moving up the stairs to the first floor, visitors can recognize the most famous works of Hack, which are focused on the perfect camouflage of models, covering the entire body with flowers. Florence Archives are a series of pieces made in collaboration with the world class Australian pattern designer Florence Broadhurst, after Hack granted the copyrights exclusively. A series of Native Mandala, which portrays a utopian view of Australian native wildlife, are hanging on the other side of the wall. Created with around the same time, the two series have a difference which shows the progress of Emma Hack. For the former, she exploited what others have made as the backgrounds, whereas for the latter, she also began drawing her own backgrounds. Her efforts to escape from reliance on existing factors are a notable point for appreciating the exhibition.
In her latest works, Hack became experimental, collaborating other techniques into her style of floral camouflage. She used a technique similar to decalcomanie, to portray two girls secretly chatting with each other. The usage of lenticular, a technology in which images are produced differently if viewed from different angles, gives a three-dimensional effect, and deepens the liveliness of the image. With these variations, Hack begins to convey stronger messages regarding her ideal, where there is no distinction between humans, animals and the natural environment, where they exist together. One of her latest series Utopia is on the maximum point of unification with nature, as the body of the model is not simply covered with blossoms, but the body itself becomes a flower.
The appreciation of Hack’s works should not be limited to the art itself, but also broadened to the process of creation, which is very distinctive from other forms of art. Since most pieces of Hack necessitate a human model and an animal, the work of creation must be completed in a single day, as fast as possible. It took 19 hours for Hack to complete “Wallpaper 1,” and it still takes approximately 18 hours straight to complete a work, in which the models have to endure the whole time. Thus, she thinks of harmony with the model very importantly, and prefers to work with models whom she has known for more than ten years.
T hough Hack’s works and efforts are astonishing, the exhibition and the artworks still leave some rooms for improvement. Though Hack’s artworks look revolutionary at first, the pieces look quite similar, and the differences between the pieces are within the boundary of our imagination. Using a different range of colors or adding an extra model does not seem surprisingly original. This may make the visitors somewhat bored, especially without a sufficient amount of explanation provided. Her repetitive style of art may even seem commercial at some point.
Still, Hack is training and changing herself tirelessly in order to achieve a state of artistic nirvana where humans, animals, and nature mingle as one. In the exhibition where Hack’s utopia has been brought to reality, visitors can rest and repose, trying to become a part of nature themselves, too. This is due to her efforts to effectively fuse different elements and various genres of art. Subjects such as humans, animals, and nature deliver a single message of harmonizing with nature, and various genres of art―body painting, textile designs, and photography―pioneers a new sector of camouflage. The power of amalgamation realizes the naturalistic utopia of Emma Hack as well as the ideals of so many people.