While growing up as the youngest of four children, Ehja Kang remained shy and reserved. Yet, early on in her childhood, she discovered an affinity and natural talent for art and has since dedicated herself to pushing the boundaries of the imagination. As she entered junior high, she realized the difficult path that is the artist's life, but was determined to use every spare moment to persist in her studio work, often with long hours into the night.

Unfortunately, Ehja was rejected for two consecutive years while applying for art college, and she recalls those years as being the most depressing time of her life. She regrouped and redirected her energy into a positive effort that ultimately got her admitted to the Chookye Art School in Seoul, Korea where she majored in oriental painting and focused on concrete art. After graduating in 1985 she married and immigrated to the United States

Ehja settled in Simi Valley, and after giving birth to her daughter and son, she continued to paint while her husband attended school. With his encouragement, Ehja enrolled in Moorpark College in 1989. Speaking little English, she communicated with her instructors through her paintings. At Moorpark College she met Gerald Swigger and Frank Sadisco, wonderful teachers, she explains, who became dear, supporting friends. With Swigger's advice and support, Ehja held her first solo exhibit at Moorpark College in 1994. She received many favorable reviews and critiques for her work, but none of her paintings were purchased. A breakthrough soon came when her pastor purchased a painting for $600. His appreciation for her art gave Ehja renewed courage and confidence to continue. Since then, she began holding exhibitions across the state and has recently begun showing her work on a broader spectrum.

Ehja explains, "Koreans say, 'Once you get started, you have already finished halfway though.' When I start a new project, I never know how it will end. I develop my painting much in the same way I would solve a complicated puzzle. I start by choosing one piece of that puzzle - canvas size, a color, a texture - and then allow the painting to dictate where to go next. Although this process is intuitive and spontaneous, many of the choices I make while painting come from nature. For example, I may start a painting based on the particular color of a leaf or a texture I had found on a piece of tree bark. Since I came to America, I have taken many road trips with my family throughout the country. I always return from these trips with strong memories of the experience of viewing the natural landscape. These memories are converted into the colors, shapes, textures and lines that make up my paintings. Although my work is heavily based on nature, the end results are not landscape paintings. I feel my work can more accurately be described as inscape, because they are reflections of my inner world. When I paint, I am not attempting to make a reproduction of the natural world, but instead I am trying to capture the actual sensations I have experienced while in that world."

Creating bold, reductive images that appear charged with spontaneity and immediacy, Ehja Kang's paintings and installations converse with the traditions of painterly abstraction that have been ongoing in California since the 50's. Constructing allusions to space, time, and memory, her works explore the meaning and significance of color, often setting luminous passages against those of impenetrable darkness. While occasionally the contour of a leaf, tree, mountain, or figure seems to appear, for the most part Kang's works allude only indirectly to the world of appearances, exploring instead terrains of the psyche and mind.

In marked contrast to the conceptual and often cynical approaches that abound in today's art world, Kang's works project improvisation and charm. Stimulating the liberated freedom of a child, Kang's pieces extend Modernist premises that value immediate over rational, experience. Seemingly childlike, her sophisticated works manifest an interest in the processes of making art, embodying traces of consciousness as inscribed in notations related to intuition and instinct.

Using color along with gesture, she conjures voids and objects, air and earth, fire and water, light and mass. Her intense color harmonies have been described as, "celebrating life's triumphs one moment and whisper of its restraints and struggles to the next." In paintings filled, for example, with the somber intensity of ochres, siennas, and browns, Kang introduces a tough of chartreuse green or hot pink creating illusion of light amidst an otherwise darkly shaded realm. Other works balance radiant yellow passageways against haunting terrains of dark cobalt, midnight blue, and brown. Evoking and expressing sensations of the body and mind, these works manifest a breadth of experience that is both delicate and deep.

Ehja Kang 19441 Business Center Dr. #102 Northridge, CA 91324
e-mail: ehjakang@hotmail.com

Text and critique of artwork by Collette Chattopadhay

Story by Ryon Harms