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Sohee Ahn

(South Korea, 1983)

Artist Sohee Ahn (b.1983) studied Western painting at Jeju University. Native to Jeju, the volcanic island off the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula, she continues to live and base her painting practice there.

Ahn journals her days as paintings, fleeting thoughts and inspirations caught on canvas, often enhanced with her unique imagination. Some are journals of herself seated in the foreground with nature in the background; couples sliding away into sweet slumber; and peaceful times with pets.

Her paintings foreground figures with a delicate brushwork that pauses their deep, enigmatic gazes with expressive ambiguity. They are informed by her exploration of early surrealist portraiture such as Lucian Freud (1922-2011) as well as the more feminine perspective of Chantal Joffe (b.1969).

The eyes carry most of the emotions in Ahn’s works, and the vitality of the seeing organs she takes pleasure in capturing. The peculiar pappardelle hair texture and comic-illustration-like elements of meticulous detail add an unexpected hyperreality, beauty, and vitality. From oil paints, colored pencils, and watercolors, Ahn has crafted a distinct original style that can be between traditional portrait and comic-landscape.

Much like her style, she avoids conjuring any real life figures or personal narratives, choosing to blend the mundane with the dreamy and fantastical. Unimagined and unexpected scenes come together in a single frame, from a female figure gazing indifferently to outreached hands, a smoldering piano with a seascape background, and a puppy with a sorrowful gaze.

Ahn beckons viewers into the ambiguously real and fantastical canvas to connect at an emotional level. There are no preset messages here. Smile or giggle; her works will bring back memories of memories and inspirations from the spectator’s long forgotten mind-journal.