A thin and small body, she seems to be firm with her short hair cut, just like her compact works. Each painting went through an extremely elaborate process; minute and detailed geometrical patterns are painted very neatly, solid flower patterns are made only by being coated with acrylic over and over again, and becomes glitter thorough three-time varnishing.
On the center of this well-prepared setting, there always appears a chair (or chairs). Compared with its splendid background painting, the chair looks solitary. The artist, Jinah Sohn, has been painting chairs for more than ten years. For her, a chair is the most personal space, the space that you (and your soul) are or should be; it does, therefore, represent a person by itself. Emotions of a person are showed through the angles or positions of the chairs, as well as the complex background patterns. The checkered patterns symbolize the “network” or relationships among people, and it also stands for fixed daily routines, but sometimes twisted. With dazzling and various colors, it shows the images of our own mind.
After getting her second MFA from the State University of New York last year, Jinah’s exhibit “Blind Mind” was her first installation work shown in Korea, this past April. The huge, disjointed stainless steel “chair” is quite shocking; the shiny surface reflects one’s mind. This keen attempt to describe a human’s inside is “works for expressing loneliness, await, and hope of isolated human beings”. With this warm regard for every person, she is participating in many international art fairs in order to meet more people.
ASIANCE met Jinah Sohn at the Asian Contemporary Art Fair in November in New York City.
ASIANCE: What made you choose chairs for the main theme of your works?
Sohn: A chair has a similar physical structure to that of a human being and it can represent taste of personal status or liking – historical, social meaning and feature of a certain time. It can also be regarded as a symbol of thought or speculation – “ for me, this is the most important figure of a chair.
ASIANCE: The recent installation work, “Blind Mind” was very impressive as itself and also a huge challenge. What do you feel in the new field?
Sohn: The feeling that I get from flat work and solid work is quite different. I would say that two-dimensional work is like mindscape of mental images or confessions, whereas three-dimensional work is directing “space” by deconstructing the concept (of flat work).
ASIANCE: Is there any special reason that you decided to come to New York for further study? What was your life like in New York?
Sohn: New York is the city which has two sides – always keeps changing but at the same time not changing so much. It is my favorite city and the experience in this multi-cultural place was a deviance from routine. Life in New York was, therefore, the most worth and valuable time in my life, that let me possible lead myself to the most basic state.
ASIANCE: In general, it doesn’t seem to be easy to study abroad and spend much time for work when you have children. How does life as a mother (she has an 11 year old son, Hyunjun) influence the work?
Sohn: For me, the role as a mother is like rebirthing. There are many more things that I have received from my son than I gave him – “ I am always consoled or taught something by my son. I can look at myself when I see my child, and it makes me reflect on myself. So… there is nothing difficult in being a mother, because it is not that I should do SOMETHING to the child but just LIVE together.
ASIANCE: What are the good points in taking part in international fairs?
Sohn: Exhibits in foreign countries are quite experimental. I can show myself somewhere I am not familiar. People don’t know me only by my works. It always gives me fresh tension.
ASIANCE: Is there something different between fairs in Asia and other places?
Sohn: Well, the scale and preference for works are all different in Asia, America, and Europe. However, I think it is just personal taste, so I believe the real great work should make people moved wherever and whenever.
ASIANCE: Please tell us about future schedules, in and out of Korea.
Sohn: A solo exhibit and many international art fairs are planned. I will participate in the Arco Art Fair in Spain, this February… but my favorite schedule is the throbbing feeling I get doing any new work in my workroom!
Youl Mae is from South Korean. She is practicing her English and interning at Asiance Magazine.