Artist captures tenderness, strength of female body in silks - Korea Times
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Artist captures tenderness, strength of female body in silks

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"Shinhwa ― My name is red (Part I)," Kim Sun-jeong (Chinese ink on silk, 134 x 91 centimeters, 2019) / Courtesy of Kim Sun-jeong

By Jung Da-min

Artist Kim Sun-jeong, who focuses on drawing portraits of women or their body parts on silk using traditional pigments, says she believes the meaning of art does not come from the artist's definition but from the feedback of those who enjoy it.

Artist Kim Sun-jeong / Courtesy of Kim Sun-jeong
Artist Kim Sun-jeong / Courtesy of Kim Sun-jeong
"One of the most impressive responses I got from a viewer of my works was that they show images of the female body seen from a female perspective," Kim said during an interview with The Korea Times in her studio in Seoul, Tuesday. "In everyday life, we are often exposed to images of women seen from a male perspective. But the viewer, also a woman, told me the images of women in my works are different from such commercial images, because they are not about sex appeal but rather show the strength of the female body."

Kim says her drawings of women and silk, the medium for her drawings, share similar features of tenderness and strength.

"Silk is really thin. The material seems weak but it is a strong enough material to me," Kim said. As a female artist, Kim went on a career break after giving birth and raising her children. But she restarted her career when she got a request from a client to work on a portrait of his deceased ancestor on silk. That was how the artist started to begin her works on silk.

"Drawing on silk, I felt comfortable as it felt like silk was accepting what I was drawing, unlike other times when I drew on canvas or traditional Korean paper hanji and felt as if they were rejecting me. The relationship between an artist and a material is important. Silk was the material for me," Kim said.

"Shinhwa ― Where the wind comes from," Kim Sun-jeong (Chinese ink on silk, 123 x 89 centimeters, 2021) / Courtesy of Kim Sun-jeong

Kim takes a long time to work as she depicts that her pieces are about "the accumulation of time." She uses fine brushes for drawing, and for coloring them she applies traditional pigments gradually from the backside of the silk, using a very small amount of pigment at a time, repeating this process more than 20 times.

"As I am using fine brushes, the amount of work I can complete within an hour is smaller than the span of a hand," Kim said. "The silk is able to endure the pigments as I apply them layer by layer to make the color I wanted to portray as vivid as I wanted it to be."

"Her ― Outing (Part III-II)," Kim Sun-jeong (Chinese ink on silk, 65 x 68 centimeters, 2021) / Courtesy of Kim Sun-jeong

One of Kim's series of works, titled "Her," depicts images of a woman of the 1392-1897 Joseon Kingdom. Kim said she adapted the image of a woman from "Miindo," or "A Beauty," a famous painting representing the Joseon era and portraying the aesthetics of the period by painter Sin Yun-bok.

The collection received an enthusiastic response from U.S. viewers at the LA ART SHOWS, a comprehensive art platform based in Los Angeles, in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Kim said Americans especially liked the images of a woman of Joseon chewing bubble gum.

"I try to use basic and simple lines and colors in my works and I think that is why people get a sense of moderation from my works," Kim said.

Jung Da-min

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