Images by Hogn Il Hwa
The movie ‘Still Alice’ which was released in 2015 brought quite the shock to my parents. The Harvard university linguistics professor whom we normally wouldn’t associate with Alzheimer is diagnosed with such a fearful disease. Early onset Alzheimer takes over Alice’s life in her 50s. She says in the movie “I wished I had cancer instead. I really do mean it. I wouldn’t feel so ashamed.” With cancer, she’d have something to fight. She could be the intelligent herself until the end at least.
The movie portraits realistically how a person deals with tragic humiliating Alzheimer by even presenting how she prepares f suicide. The movie doesn’t attempt to squeeze some tears out of the audience with a tragic story but it is about how we must face the reality of lives and raising awareness on how to accept basic cycle of living including inevitable diseases, aging and death.
However I have never seen scarier movies. The fear started me and frightened my parents. The line from the movie took its place in my head and caused so much confusion.
When you take a look at some of legendary artists who have committed suicide, you realize how a lot of them have received privilege of beautifying their suicides and innocence of their lives from critics and fans.
You hear comments like they were too innocent for our time and they had to leave such tarnished world and disappear into history after dedicating their innocent souls to arts. Next on the “beautiful tragic death list” would be a death by accident. Then the comments would be in line of something like heaven must have loved genius, that is why they are taken so quickly. Then they become a legend.
When people say that an artist have lived happy life, it is as bad as calling one shameful for compromising oneself with the world. However people must remember that an artist gotta eat too. An artist is after all a human being who has a family to take care of and must make ends meet, yet many critics and people suffocates artists by caging them with adjectives like ‘innocent’.
Many artists suffers poverty and hunger as being trapped in the frame of innocence. Then when an artist passes away after suffering through the life with “artist hunger’, people call them how artistically passionate they were then forget about them the next day.
The reason why I draw the essay from Alzheimer to this point is because I have never heard any of us talking about an artist who has passed away with Alzheimer.
The name for these two paintings is ‘Madame’. The meaning of the word ‘Madame’ has been tainted in Korea somehow and people use it sarcastically but it’s a formal title used for expressing one’s respect for older woman.
The old ladies in my paintings are grandmothers around us and are mothers of all of us. I paint them in Victorian accessories and dressed in queen’s outfit as to put them in good mood to smile and have good time thinking of the saying ‘Fine feathers make fine birds’.
The painting wasn’t done with careful strokes over long period time but was done in short period time with quick strokes. Instead of taking my time fixing the paint carefully over and over to perfection, I wanted the painting to convey the freshest impression. These two paintings aren’t for satire or sarcasm or compliment of the beauty of modern woman.
I started this because somehow I can paint other old ladies around me but it seems impossible for me to paint my mother side grandmother who has passed away already and my father side grandmother who is in her deathbed whom I am so scared of losing. The two ladies whom I wish to paint more than anyone in the world and yet I simply can’t.
Contributor, Hong Il Hwa
A Korean artist, Hong Il Hwa is a member of the Korean Modern Contemporary Printmakers Association, and a member of SONAMU artist association in Paris. He was attracted by public when he won the Chunghyun Mecenat young artist award in 2008.
홍일화 작가는 한국 현대판화가 협회 회원이자 재불 소나무 작가 협회 회원이다. 2008년에는 정헌메세나 재유럽 청년작가상을 수상 등 다양한 대회에서 예술성을 인정받았으며 현재 파리와 서울을 중심으로 작품 활동 중이다.