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In conversation: Ana Kim

Ana Kim is a South Korean-born surrealist painter who calls herself an artist who creates a new genre and translation through miscellaneous rearrangement of animals and nature, and her practice is pursuing modern surrealism.

Insights of an Eco Artist Team
Would you mind telling us a bit about your background and studies? How did your art career begin? When did you first know you wanted to pursue art as a career?

I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a Bachelors of Arts degree as a class of 2018. Right after my graduation, I started my life as a full-time artist. After about a year as a full-time artist in South Korea and the United States, I realized that I wanted to learn more about the art market from the perspective of the art industry. By that time, I worked as a curator at a gallery in Korea and worked as a part-time artist at the same time. After months of learning as a curator, I became confident that I want to pursue my full-time job as an artist.  


In your artistic statement, you mention that you are an artist “who creates a new genre and translation through miscellaneous rearrangement of animals and nature…”. Can you deconstruct these ideas for us?

I call myself an artist who is trying to make a new artistic style through my message and method of expression. By arranging my subjects on the canvas with the uncommon composition, I am to express my message regarding environmental issues and animals’ life. 


Diptych: Elephants by Ana Kim. Image courtesy of Ana Kim

You define yourself as a contemporary surrealist painter. What was your inspiration to start working within this style?

Since my undergraduate, I always loved to get inspiration from other artists and my first attraction was from many modern and contemporary surrealist artists. I was into the idea that I would love to create a scene that photography cannot do, or that could not be found elsewhere. That is how I continue creating a scene that is surreal. 


You were born in South Korea, but studied in Illinois and currently work as an artist in two cities - Seoul and Chicago. How have these relocations influenced your work? 

As a Korean artist living in the States, it allows me to reach more opportunities when I first started my career. By speaking both languages, I was able to have exhibitions in different cities in Korea and the US. From the experiences, what I value the most was hearing feedback from different cultures. I believe that experience helps me grow and makes me more actively engage in projects, exhibitions, and fairs in other countries as well. 


Most of your paintings have a similar color palette which draws from the intersection of being bold, positive, strong, and independent. What is the symbology behind this visual choice?

As an artist, I put my own identities within my painting by using colors. My color palettes are mostly saturated and strong with the message behind it being a bold, positive, strong, and independent person. Not only does the message regards environmental issues and animals’ life, but I also put some symbolic meaning towards the animals in my paintings. Since I value the different translations by the cultural backgrounds, I do not really open what I intended. However, with each animal and my color palette, they are one of the tools that I use to express myself within my paintings. 


Diptych: Tigers by Ana Kim. Image courtesy of Ana Kim.

You investigate two major subjects in your practice - direct depiction and implicit depiction. What can you tell us about these themes? 

Series Direct depiction is the series that I actually express all the subjects in visually recognizable ways. However, I sometimes feel like I want to convey some subjects in simplified ways and that is how the series Implicit depiction started. I call these my ways of communicating with my audiences. I am now trying to construct a scene that all my series are happening on one surface. 


What messages are you trying to communicate through your art, and what makes your approach unique?

My main message is to make people aware of environmental issues and animals’ lives. I believe that more people at this time need to care about what is happening on the earth. Also, animals and humans have to live together on this earth in order to keep the earth in its way, as people do not really differ from some species. I am trying to communicate my message through my artistic approach, and my ways of placing animals are unique from the others. 


Diptych: Clouded Leopards by Ana Kim. Image courtesy of Ana Kim.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind the acrylic painting Diptych: Clouded Leopards?

First, I chose to make a diptych with clouded leopards, one of the rare wild cats. With the diptych, I enjoy placing two canvases, by the circumstances. With the distance between the canvases, I can make different translations and visual images. Then, I placed clouded leopards on canvases with the background of the canyon, while they are the species living in the dense forest, as an artist who intentionally places animals in incorrect habitats. I intend to make my clouded leopard communicate with the audience, so audiences can find some eye contact with the clouded leopards. Also, I worked on their body patterns, which differ from other leopards.  


You have exhibited your works in several galleries around the world. What was for you the most influential experience? 

Throughout my whole career, I value all the experiences but directly communicating with my audiences/collectors is the most influential experience. I really love to hear feedback and their own translations. I also participated in many art projects where artists need to be directly engaged. As a young emerging artist, collaborating with other artists was another experience that influenced me. 


Finally, any upcoming exhibitions or collaborations? Are there any new projects you'd like to share?

Yes! I am working with galleries in Chicago and some of my pieces are now travelling throughout the business buildings in downtown Chicago, with the Artwalls program. Also, I am also having group exhibitions in Chicago and London. I will travel to Japan in the summer for the Tokyo International Art Fair and am now considering another offer from London as well. More things are coming up and I am excited to create more and show more. 


Cover Image:

Tri_Lioness by Ana Kim. Image courtesy of Ana Kim.

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Ana Kim (b. 1995, South Korea) is an individual artist or painter. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018. She is now working as an artist in two cities- Seoul and Chicago.


Ana calls herself an artist who creates a new genre and translation through miscellaneous rearrangement of animals and nature, and her practice is pursuing modern surrealism. By using animals and nature, she creates a different atmosphere by arranging subjects together, which does not usually go along together. She wants to go beyond the notions of life, nature, and everything by breaking the habitats. She is trying to open up her own and her audiences’ perspectives. Creating new order, that is her way of communicating through art and challenging herself against norms.


Moreover, Ana focuses on the originality of fine art because making it in traditional or non-duplicable ways is important to her. Yet, she also values the transition of the art world. Therefore, she utilizes new tools to produce and present her works. She hopes that her audiences approach her paintings with unlimited definitions, and her paintings give her audiences as much pleasure as she has received while painting.

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