"I brought all my confusion and depression to the canvas."
- Minjoo Kim
Meet Minjoo Kim. A London-based painter currently completing an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts. Her current explorations focus upon the concept of identity and the issues we face with self-identification. There exists a captivatingly personal approach to her artwork, always with compelling amounts of human emotion and beautiful refinement.
How did art find you? And when did you realise you were an artist? Painting and drawing have been always been apart of my life since I was a little child. However, it had never been something more than a hobby, I just enjoyed depicting what I was attracted to which were mostly portraits. But as I grew-up, my outlook of life totally changed. When I was twenty-five I began to see myself in the real-world, not in my own fairytale. That was the beginning of my ‘identity’ concern. So I brought all my confusion and depression to the canvas to comfort myself, and one thing led to another and they formed a certain series of works.
What’s your creative process like? Usually I design the stories from my daily experiences that are mostly related to the emotions of anxiety and confusion. When something comes up in my head, I then explore lots of random visual references which I feel perfectly match to the story. I'm following many kinds of visual artists on instagram (illustrators, tattooists, fashion designers, photographers etc.) and they have a huge impact on me, sometimes more than renowned fine artists. I think it's one of the elements that keeps my painting staying in a contemporary-looking area.
Your work captures a stunning amount of human emotion in your work. Has this always been crucial for you? And if so, what are the ideas and inspiration behind this? When I was young, my dream was simply to be a 'portrait painter'. I loved depicting attractive and emotional looking faces. I used to get inspired a lot by portrait painters such as Elizabeth Peyton, Alex Katz or Alice Neel. I was fascinated by the way they captured the emotion without life-like depiction. That is what I've always been practicing and pursuing. So yes, delivering human emotion has been a very crucial thing in my works to make every story genuine.
There is an intriguing and enigmatic girl who is recurrent in your paintings. Who is she? And when did she enter into your imagination? Simply, she represents myself because I always invite myself to my work as a protagonist. But at the same time, it can be anyone who wants to reflect themselves to the stories within. This girl was accidentally born from my earlier painting called 'Bearded Peter Pan' in 2014. My intention was to depict myself somewhere between a child and a grown-up, from that moment I enjoyed delivering the narratives by presenting her as a leading role. I still believe that 'artist-as-protagonist' gives me a strong identity as an artist and it is a very genuine way to deliver the stories about the true-self.
How do you see your work evolving in the future? My works before 2017 were all about identity crisis in South Korean ‘society'. But I came to London to start a new chapter as an artist. Now I keep questioning myself about how I should see myself in this strange world. So I will continue my experiment of self-reflection amidst these different surroundings (as a foreigner, a female artist, as an Asian etc.) Eventually, I hope to form a meaningful conclusion about my identity issue.
Your aspirations as artist? Identity issue has been a significant trend in contemporary art world. Maybe this means it's not an interesting subject anymore and really hard to differentiate. But, in the long term I hope I can leave a meaningful trace in this area. Finally, any messages or words of wisdom for the people reading this? I'm always open to every kind of feedback and opinion. Sometimes it's a very important experience for me to receive unexpected interpretations of my work, as it can expand the range of my imagination and gives me more enlightenment. I hope that kind of mutual communication with viewers can happen again and again.
You can enjoy more of Minjoo's work on her website: https://www.minjookim.net/paintings