Critics’ Picks

Jiha Moon, Painter’s Argument, 2009, ink and acrylic on hanji paper, 33 1/2 x 32".

Atlanta

Jiha Moon

Saltworks
1100 Howell Mill Rd NW
January 23–March 6

Jiha Moon’s increased confidence is evident in this new series of paintings. The tension between figuration and abstraction still pervades her repeated layering of traditional Asian landscapes and gestural expressionism. But this new work seems to revel in the joy of painting, alternating thin washes of ink with delicately rendered objects and thick impasto brushstrokes, all on Moon’s favored handmade hanji paper. Collage also figures in some of the works, as when she adds paper to extend her painted surface from the rectangular picture plane or incorporates fabric appliqués, possibly an influence from her ongoing residency at the Fabric Workshop.

The South Korean–born, Atlanta-based artist still wrestles with the notion of shifting identities, particularly in our image-laden society. Pac-Man-like figures with razor-sharp teeth, butterflies, and even Wonderland’s Alice find their way into her peaceful landscapes with floating clouds and trees, which are interrupted by bursts of energetic color. The work speaks of a society that not only straddles two cultures but also occupies a third—in cyberspace. Moon’s professed hero Philip Guston stated in 1960, “[P]ainting is impure. It is the adjustment of impurities which forces painting’s continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden.” Moon seems to have taken this to heart in her current exhibition (titled “Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts,” in Guston’s honor), providing thought-provoking interpretations of the multilayered and image-rich world she inhabits.