Stella Im Hultberg is a Korean born, New York based artist. Her work is self-described as being driven by intuition and process. The impression of spontaneity and resolve when faced with her work speaks to this willingness to allow it to define its own end results. The artist produces across media, experimenting with materials and applications, and allows the work to evolve organically through its execution. At the heart of her practice is the exploration of identity, and an interest in shifting possibilities for the self and other. Her paintings of ethereal women subtly excavate the possibility of multiplicities in a single self. By combining detailed figurative rendering with surreal imagery, Im Hultberg probes the porous boundaries between self and other. The figures in her work appear in various guises, and she mobilizes them as vehicles for affect and suggestion. At times they are mirrored, multiplied, fractured; they emerge as haunting spectral entities without definitively binding selves. In this respect the figurative in her work seems a symbolic trope for the impermanence and inconstancy of our unremittingly changing lives and relationships. These beautifully executed images are populated with figures who seem unspecific and somehow symbolic, rather than literal individuals. The mutability and amorphousness in the figure, conveyed by the artist's work, speaks somehow to the excesses of subjectivity.
The artist's background in industrial product design helped to eventually guide her towards painting. A self taught painter, Im Hultberg's aesthetic has evolved from an intuitively realized place and is informed by her material command of aesthetic and design. Her penchant for experimental investigations seems to permeate the materiality of her work. The artist's command of several media is evident in her ability to take material risks, and to allow each material incarnation to have its own life. At times very graphic and guided by a clear acuity for design, the artist's work clearly draws from several aesthetic influences. This is particularly visible in her use of abstract geometry and patterning, something Im Hultberg is able to seamlessly integrate compositionally with the figurative. These juxtapositions of the organic and the graphic create compelling tensions and associations. The "self" in her work is always positioned in relationship to an external reality or competing force or framework. Though the figures seem unspecific, they are intensely emotive nonetheless: they are vehicles for intensity. We are left with a very relatable impression of a fractured and unresolved contemporary existence, in which the self remains nebulous and shifting. Seductive and enticing, her work beckons us to lose ourselves in the world of the image.
- written by Marieke Treilhard
Industrial Design, California State University, Long Beach.