Wart Paintings

A closeup of a massive circle of black ink, cratered and three-dimensional, with metallic silver highlights and dust on thick grained white paper. Written in pencil above it is: The clock is always wrong.
by Johanna Hedva

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Begun in 2021, Wart Paintings is an ongoing series that is part of an ever-growing body of warts Johanna Hedva has been cultivating for years. Mysterious, recalcitrant, and oddly sentient, warts testify to an animist reality, antagonizing our belief in individual agency by forcing us to negotiate with and relate emotionally to an inanimate foreign body embedded in our own. An old wives’ tale states that warts will leave the body if you simply ask them to, as if they are listening. There is a relationship there—what is it? Hedva doesn’t over-theorize their wart drawings; they follow the blood clots, stars, galaxies, and textures as they emerge from the materials. Hedva tends to make the Wart Paintings alongside whatever else they’re making at the time, turning to drawing when an idea or thought or form is strange and they want it to be both more strange and more available. 

Ink, liquid watercolor concentrate, and metallic pigment on 300 gram and 250 gram paper, various sizes.

A blotch of tangerine, red, and black ink, with lines etched or scraped in its center. Next to it is written in pencil: .…the wound and unwound springs of a clock on the other side of the earth.
This ink spot is ovular, the shape of a human head or a fingerprint. It is black with elaborate markings, topography, and stubble in silver and gold.
An irregular ink oval in blood red, yellow gold, with black edges. It’s the shape of a tick, and glows as though translucent, filled with liquid, and lit from behind.
A globe of ink on thick grained white paper in intense and shimmering gold. Veins of darker metallic golds, browns, and bronzes stain the circle. Below it in pencil the text says: It works on the material level causing immense pain as illusions are shattered.
Here is a spot of ink in silver covered in a rash of intense lilac pink. There are splotches of dirty gold in the pattern of dots characteristic of warts. Handwritten in the upper left are the words: Each day is a whole year.
A watercolour painting. It is a grey circle, with lilac bleeding into it.
A small dark blue water blot with shimmering highlights of gold.

Images and text by Johanna Hedva (they/them) is a Korean-American writer, artist, and musician, who was raised in Los Angeles by a family of witches, and now lives between LA and Berlin. Hedva is the author of Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain (Sming Sming/Wolfman 2020), a collection of poems, performances, and essays, and the novel On Hell (Sator/Two Dollar Radio 2018). Their album Black Moon Lilith in Pisces in the 4th House, a doom-metal guitar and voice performance influenced by Korean shamanist ritual, was released in January 2021, and their 2019 album The Sun and the Moon had two of its tracks played on the moon. Their work has been shown in Berlin at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Klosterruine, and Institute of Cultural Inquiry; The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; Performance Space New York; Gyeongnam Art Museum in South Korea; the LA Architecture and Design Museum; and the Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon. Their writing has appeared in Triple Canopy, frieze, The White Review, and is anthologized in Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art. Their essay “Sick Woman Theory,” published in 2016 in Mask, has been translated into ten languages.