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Jeju’s own ‘artist of the flowers’Inspired by flora
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승인 2010.04.19  15:45:04
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▲ Painter Kim Hyun Sook. Photo courtesy Kim Hyun Sook

Kim Hyun Sook, known to the art community as the “artist of the flowers,” is a Jeju-born professional painter who works from her studio in the City Hall area. Her nickname gives some indication of her success, as despite flowers being popular subject matter for many painters, she alone is known as Korea’s artist of the flowers. Her work decorates the halls of many public buildings in Jeju, including the Jeju Museum of Art, Jeju Health Center, Jeju National University Hospital, Jeju Provincial Office, Phoenix Island Resort, Halla Hospital and the Jeju Provincial Office of Education.

Kim’s work on canvas is distinct. To look upon her paintings is often to confront a lone, black, form of a flower standing against a diffused background of other flowers, butterflies and bees, the subtle details of which you only begin to notice after a few moments. The canvases seem to contradict themselves in that the solitary black form gives a sense of elegant, open and “empty space” that is characteristic of Asian art generally and yet this empty space is actually quite full and thrives with softer images, becoming almost busy with interesting things to look at. “Modern art is often very complicated,” Kim said, “so I chose to paint flowers for their simplicity. I think that everybody can understand, and feel happy and comforted by flowers .”

▲ Painter Kim Hyun Sook has just held her 10th solo exhibition. Photo courtesy Kim Hyun Sook

Kim’s ability to apply fresh strokes to Asian-style painting owes much to her long-standing devotion to her art. She said that during middle school she submitted a written assignment in which she stated that her goal was to become greater than Picasso. The memory of such immodesty now draws embarrassed laughter from her, but she remains diligent in her goals. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Asian art at Jeju National University and then completed her master’s in the same field at Seongshin Women s Graduate School. Since then, in addition to being the chairwoman for Jeju’s branch of the Korean Artists Association, she has been, at various times, an art instructor and lecturer at various universities and colleges, including Jeju National University, Seongshin University, Halla College, and Jeju Industrial Informational College. In addition to these duties, she sustains her daily studio work which, in the days and weeks preceding an exhibition, can amount to more than 12 hours a day. When not preparing for an exhibition, however, Kim devotes significantly less time to painting. She said that painting everyday is a key factor in her success as taking even short breaks - as little as 10 days - is often the undoing of other would-be artists, “especially women” she said, “who may neglect their art to serve other obligations such as family, pregnancy or the quick pace of modern living.” To stay motivated to paint daily, she keeps her studio tidy and comfortable, and retains it as a place away from worries, where she feels safe. Windows and good lighting keep it bright and the plants and flowers adorning the walls, window ledges and columns encourage her in interesting ways. “If my plants begin to wither and dry” Kim said, “then I know I am getting lazy, that I am not spending enough time in my studio.” It is fittingly poetic that flowers keep this artist on track. The only spot in the studio that seems a little disorganized is a pile of seemingly discarded paintings of flowers that resemble the backgrounds characteristic of much of her work.I stepped on these accidently, immediately apologizing and saying I hoped that I had not ruined something intended for her upcoming exhibition. It’s OK, she laughed, walking into the middle of the pile, It’s my garden.

Kim’s work has been shown in more than 300 art exhibits, in countries including Switzerland, Mongolia, Taiwan, China and Japan, as well as Korea. Of these, nine were solo exhibitions featuring her work exclusively. Her 10th solo exhibition was held from April 7 through 13 in Seoul’s art quarter of Insadong, at the Gong Hwa Lang gallery.

For those in Jeju interested in purchasing work by Kim, she can be contacted by e-mail or at her studio.

Kim Hyun Sook
5th Floor, Bldg 75-3, Do-Nam Dong,
Jeju City

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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