Written by Anna Berghuis.
Raymond Hwang’s new body of work conquers perceived memory, often elaborating on the cracks that exist within our imperfect recollections.
Hwang questions how memory works in relation to family and why we remember certain moments so vividly. We take these memories as truth, bite-sized treasures from the vault in our head. But more times than we can begin to imagine, our brain stretches and warps these details until they become unrecognizable. (As Hwang pointed out, this is why eye-witness accounts are sometimes unreliable.)
As a child of immigrants, Hwang is interested in why objects that exist in memory change overtime. He spoke about returning to Los Angeles and realizing a beloved childhood table was adorned by a seeming new tablecloth, only to realize the tablecloth was always there.
Hwang brings these shifting memories to life in his lighthearted and often comical narratives from childhood.
Hwang’s ethereal works on paper confront nostalgia and fragmented memory with a playful maturity. The 3-hole punch notebook paper invokes schoolyard days. The drawings in the margins of notebook paper is familiar and cozy. The works invoke and prod nostalgia through the use of materials associated with childhood. While the materials may be humble, the works themselves are far from it. Hwang uses painted over Dragonball cards as visual representations of our confident, yet ultimately fragmented, memories. His use of negative space in drawings through abnormal and calculated rips further emphasize the imperfection of memory.
The three-ring binder paper makes a painterly comeback in “daydreaming of a sunset Hydra whose heads grow in the Margins of misfortune.” But this time, the seemingly innocent sketch in the margins has a darker undertone. By choosing to depict the hole-punched paper at 36×48 inches, multiples larger than its real-life counterpart, Hwang uses scale to further emphasize the brutality of memory. His choice to use paint to portray paper (which is, of course, an art object itself) further elevates the status of a seemingly ordinary object and questions how we perceive the mundane. Of course, perhaps the Hydra is behind the notebook’s growth spurt.
In “grappling with the euphoric paranoia that guides your Sixth sense” Hwang brings us back to the childhood rush of playing Gameboy under the covers, invigorated by being caught up past bedtime. As Hwang puts it “doing something wrong, but it’s fun.” Through a pallet of warm cools and magnetic shapes, Hwang pulls us into an abstracted childhood memory and heightens the idea of risk and reward.
Hwang’s identity as a child of immigrants is an important factor in his work, charging not only his exploration of boyhood memory, but of generational divide. This is perhaps most evident in “last night I dreamt of my Unfortunate demise sitting in the shade of a sun kissed tofu Palm,” where Hwang compares and combines traditional Chinese imagery with his childhood home on the West Coast.
Through his relatable narratives and seamless ability to combine humor and gravity, Raymond Hwang is a visual storyteller of the times.
About the writer: Anna Berghuis is a New York based visual artist. Berghuis’ work explores connectivity and identity in a digital world. Berghuis received her BA from Princeton University in Art History and Studio Arts. She currently works out of her studio in Chelsea. Her website is annaberghuisart.com and her Instagram is: @annaberghuisart.
About the artist: Ray Hwang is an artist from Los Angeles, currently living and working out of Ridgewood, NY. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2016 and has participated in exhibitions in Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey and throughout New York City. One day he hopes to exhibit on the moon as well. More of his work can be found at www.rayhwangart.com or on instagram @rayhwangart.