A Fresh Image of Hanbok in Paintings Full of Whimsy
Shin Sun-mi has created paintings brimming with humor wrapped around her favorite subjects, hanbok and women. The compilation of paintings in this book has been selected and organized by the artist to show changes in her themes and motifs through the prisms of childhood and memory. A world shared with fantastical playmates seen only with a child’s eyes becomes invisible as those eyes turn to the noise and distractions of the world of adults. The child becomes a woman and a mother’s joy is mingled with concern: how long can the child’s world of imagination and companionship sustain his attention before he too turns his gaze away? How much of that joy and spirit will the child retain? Women clad in traditional Korean clothing populate Shin’s paintings: some are shown looking for something on a littered floor, almost prostrate in the folds of her hanbok; some have fallen asleep while reading a book; someone washes her face or wipes the floor clean; one shows off her pretty new dress to her child. All these women look as comfortably familiar as your own mother, sister, or neighbor. Although they are dressed in traditional hanbok, they never pose to look noble or elegant but seem pleasantly natural. The artist leads the viewer to fully enjoy the beauty of hanbok by rendering them in delicate details and gorgeous colors, offering a fresh image of the traditional dress as elemental in the everyday lives of women. Full of visual pleasure, the book will surely be a prized possession for every reader and a perfect gift for loved ones.
Women’s Life and Culture as Themes
Some paintings by Shin Sun-mi may be seen as picture diaries of women candidly describing their everyday lives. The viewer can peek into the life and culture of Korean women of past generations through her paintings, because the images carefully depict not only their exquisite clothes but also everyday objects that denote their times and daily lives: personal ornaments, musical instruments, writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and inkstones, as well as furniture and pottery, from prized Goryeo celadon to Buncheong stoneware. The appendix provides brief descriptions of the material settings of the paintings, situating them in the Korean culture of their times and the present.
A Comic Twist on the Dark Side of Modern Civilization
Tiny human figures appear quite frequently in Shin’s paintings. They are the gaemi yojeong, or the “ant fairies,” imaginary beings that are said to exist in a realm between the artist’s imagination and visible reality. These elfin figures create funny scenes in her paintings, as they are depicted frolicking with a cat, a child, or sometimes an adult, bringing a smile to the viewer’s face. The candidness of the artist, combined with her deft touch of whimsy, invites the viewer to her world of imagination. In her other paintings, women from the three neighboring countries of Korea, China and Japan enjoy playing the unique string instruments of their respective countries or are shown painting pictures, relishing one another’s company. In yet other paintings, repetitive patterns resembling the Tibetan mandala conceal and reveal playful elements. However, fun and laughter are not all that Shin Sun-mi’s paintings are about. Her paintings of adults and children clad in traditional clothing and immersed in tablets and smartphones seem funny, but they are also trenchant observations and concern about a lack of direct, person-to-person communication in our times dominated by modern technology.
The Artist’s Statement 작가의 말
1. Ant Fairies 개미요정
2. While You are Asleep 당신이 잠든 사이
3. Child Rearing Diary 육아일기
4. Reunion 다시 만나다
5. Pattern Stories 문양이야기
6. Welcome 웰컴
Explanation of her work 작품 해설
Shin Sun-mi majored in Oriental painting at the University of Ulsan and the Graduate School of Hongik University. She was admitted to the Grand Art Exhibition of Korea (2003), and participated in the Korea–Japan Exchange Exhibition (2007), the Korea International Art Fair (2008), and the New York Scope Art Fair (2009). She has also presented her paintings of “ant fairies” (gaemi yojeong) in a number of exhibitions since 2006.