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[Herald Interview] Emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae moves on to ‘emosculpture’

‘Emography’ creator Huh‘s work encompasses calligraphy, painting and installation art

Emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae poses in front of his new work,“The Vibration of a Heart,” at his studio in central Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae poses in front of his new work,“The Vibration of a Heart,” at his studio in central Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The fragrance of Indian ink and old mulberry paper fills the studio of emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae in central Seoul.

In the corner of his studio, sculptural works that he has been pursuing in recent years are laid aside.

In the mid and late 2000s, Huh attracted global attention for his “emography” – a portmanteau of emotion and calligraphy. The term was coined by Ryu Byoung-hak -- an art critic and independent curator based in Seoul and Germany who also directed the Busan Biennale in 2006 – after viewing his solo exhibition in Germany in 2006.

“Ryu came up with the term emography, saying the calligraphic letters aroused emotion,” Huh said during an interview with The Korea Herald at his studio in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul.

For example, his calligraphic writing, “Good Fellowship,” shows Korean letters “Wu Ae (good fellowship)” which also looks like a painting of two friends putting their arms around each other’s shoulders. 

“Good Fellowship” by emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae (Courtesy of the artist)
“Good Fellowship” by emographic artist Huh Hwe-tae (Courtesy of the artist)

Gaining popularity with the new genre – which combines calligraphy with painting and symbolism – Huh took his solo exhibition, “US Traveling Exhibition of Emography,” to New York, Virginia and Washington D.C, in 2009 and 2010.

In the recent years, Huh has moved on to sculpture, aiming to reinterpret his calligraphy in a contemporary way.

He refers to his recent work as “emosculpture.”

Completed this year, “The Variation of a Heart” is the most recent of them.

“I received a lot of compliments and attention both in Korea and abroad in the 2000s for creating emography, but I wanted to expand my art work to installation art, moving on a different stage,” he said.

He chose Styrofoam and “hanji,” traditional mulberry paper, as the main materials for his emosculptures for their longevity.

Some of his emosculptures are based on canvases full of Huh’s writing about his philosophy and thoughts about his art.

He carries a notebook to write down his daily thoughts and philosophy and reflects them on his emosculptures, Huh said.

“The sculptures encompass thousands of letters about my philosophy. Some of them are about the birth of the universe, for example,” Huh said.

Born in 1957, Huh was a child prodigy in calligraphy. He won the top prize at the National Calligraphy contest at age 15. In 1995, he won the grand prize at the Grand Art Exhibition of Korea. He is now a professor at Yanbian University Academy of Fine Arts in China.

Huh is planning an exhibition of new sculptural works in June 2021 at Gallery is in Insa-dong Seoul.  


By Park Yuna(yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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