Understanding Intimacy Through Art: Hiejin Yoo’s Paintings

Describing intimacy to an outsider visiting Earth is as hard as describing color to a blind person. True intimacy is understood through experience, and negotiating feelings through words oftentimes dwindles a complex experience into syllables. And yet, through visual art, such feelings might be better understood.

Take for instance Hiejin Yoo’s paintings. Based on daily observations, they capture mundane moments—snapshots in time—that make the tapestry of memory and feelings. Moments like reaching out your hands to touch a friend, pet a dog, or grab a fruit.

Mundane events and everyday moments are depicted with large abstracted planes of color and bold, layered marks that evoke the subjectivity of Yoo’s inner life. But oddly enough, these very personal moments have a truthfulness about them that resonates with others.

“The motivations of my works are from very personal stories, but they’re also from everyday life,” shared Yoo in an interview with Juxtapoz. “I’ve met lots of people who have told me personal stories based on their own interpretations of the works, so I think people must be reminiscing about their own personal experiences when they see my work in their homes.”

According to Yoo, being able to express those experiences as paintings and sharing them with other people has been exciting and she’s grateful for it. “I hope those who view my works can also find happiness in their lives when thinking about these moments with their families, friends, or sometimes strangers,” she notes.

It is through these relatable snapshots that a connection is made, and intimacy is being translated to visual experience. “The paintings draw connections between my own personal experiences and those of others,” relays Yoo. “By highlighting and amplifying these moments, my work responds to the otherwise overlooked and underappreciated aspects of daily life. While deeply personal, these works also hint at the ways art can address shared feelings and experiences, whether grandiose or mundane.”

Born in Germany, raised in South Korea, and based in Los Angeles, California since 2015, Yoo admits that painting has been a huge passion throughout her life. “Living in the United States with a Korean cultural background inspires me more because of the differences between them,” she notes.

Scroll down to see some of her recent work.