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Starts With A Bang

Weekend Diversion: Reverse-Pointillist Art

Incredible canvases, created with the burning ends of incense sticks.

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” –Pablo Picasso

When it comes to the art we make, we usually think about taking a blank canvas and adding to it. Yet every once in a while, we find that a new technique rooted in destruction can, ironically, open up a whole new world of creation. Have a listen to the sweet sounds of Tony Trischka as he plays his remarkable composition, French Creek / Burning Springs,

while you consider the new artistic technique of Korean artist Jihyun Park.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

Having been fascinated with the relationship between a concept for an artistic series and the materials he used, he linked the concept of “utopia” (which is “Yi Sang Hwang” in Korean) with the material of “incense” (which is “Hwang” in Korean), creating what he called The Incense Series, where he created artwork out of incense sticks.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, working on a reverse-pointillist masterpiece, via

But then he took this connection to the next level. Using the burning property of incense while it was alight, he noticed the holes and the surrounding chemical changes that occurred to rice paper as he touched it with a lit incense stick, and found a new way to create art.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

Using single sticks of lit incense to create “points” (actually, tiny rings) of pigment, he then mounts these pieces of burned rice paper onto a varnished canvas, creating everything from single trees to skyward clouds to vast, spectacular landscapes.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

Through it all, the only “brush” he uses is a single, one-at-a-time stick of lit incense.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

In his own words:

The burning of the incense sticks creates emptiness where there once was substance, both in the stick itself and the paper used. At the same time, the emptiness creates space in the paper and empty spaces show new image.The holes in the paper allow one’s eye to see shadows while at the same time light is reflected back from the varnished canvas. This balance of dark and light, emptiness and substance is the essence of ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ and through this balance utopia is achieved.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

I also really appreciate his philosophy on what he’s attempting to create:

The subjects addressed in my work range from the natural world to memories of the past, reflecting the constant physical and emotional changes in our environment. It is my hope that the “moments” I captures of my subjects are ones when they are at their most ideal– true utopias.

Image credit: Jihyun Park, via

The level of detail — and thus the attention to detail of light and dark — is simply astounding. Have a look at a couple of extra spectacular examples, below.

Images credit: Jihyun Park, via

Check out his full gallery at The Drawing Center, and note that his Incense Series was just featured from March 13–21 at Asia Week New York, which is how (unfortunately, after it was over) how I found out about it.

Hope you’re having a great weekend, and I’ll see you back this coming week for more wonders, joys, views, and stories of the Universe!

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