“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then,” writes Lewis Carroll in his classic Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Seoul-based visual artist Jaeyoun Shin explores her subconscious universe just as Alice does with her series Through the Looking Glass, a bold exploration of pain and personal identity through therapeutic means.
Each piece in Shin’s mixed-media series is visually tied by a pitch-black background, which represents the stillness of her mindscape. “This dark background is my thoughts, calm or silent emotion, and self-consciousness,” she tells NOT REAL ART. Decorating her “mindscapes” with obsessive line work, florals, and Asian-style paper collage, Shin describes “the boundary of safe and unsafe social environments,” rendering her own vulnerabilities in shimmering Gelly Roll inks. Just as our memories, emotions, and thoughts shape our personal identities, Shin’s work acts as a record of her evolving identity, each piece representing the artist’s individual memories and experiences.
The dark backdrops in Through the Looking Glass also allude to Shin’s search for personal refuge in a strange land. “I felt like a stranger between Korea and the United States,” she writes of her time at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she received an MFA in 2016. As a form of therapy, Shin began processing her anxieties and traumatic experiences through her artwork. “The dark background has dual meanings,” she explains. “One of them is a refuge where my unstable self can rest; the other is my hidden trauma.”
Shin’s artwork contains characteristics of her own personality—she often views herself as fragile and vulnerable, even weak—comparing herself to an unguarded bee in the mouth of a Venus flytrap. That’s also why she uses delicate mediums, such as paper and thin washes of watercolor.
Shin may see herself as fragile, but Through the Looking Glass ultimately challenges the notion of vulnerability as weakness. Processing her past with captivating colors and an unshakeable nerve, Shin guides us into the recesses of her own mind with steady hands, clear eyes, and a full heart.
“The dark background has dual meanings. One of them is a refuge where my unstable self can rest; the other is my hidden trauma.” — Jaeyoun Shin
Through the Looking Glass
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All photos published with permission of the artist.
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