Seongmin Ahn received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Asian traditional painting from Seoul National University in Seoul Korea and then received her second M.F.A from Mount Royal, Maryland Institute College of Art.
Her work takes Asian traditional painting as starting point and transforms it into something experimental with her own interpretation bridging tradition and contemporary, and East and West. Minhwa, Korean folk painting from 19 century, is recent inspiration, where she expands her territory with her whimsical and surrealistic interpretation.
Ahn held numerous exhibitions, nationally and internationally. She is a two times grant recipient of the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and the first prize winner from the AHL Foundation, Visual Art Competition. Her exhibition has been also reviewed on Washington Post (Washington D.C.), the Philadelphia Inquirer, NY Arts Magazine, Baltimore Sun (Baltimore), Plain Dealer (Cleveland) and other press outlets.
I believe in tradition, where we fundamentally came from, which we have to learn, internalize and create a new by adding our own narratives. This is foundation of my personal creating process as well. I am interested in pushing boundaries of traditionalism, thus opening up new dialogue in global context. Through this dialogue I encourage my audiences to think about inter-connectedness between tradition and contemporary, West and East, and two contrasting, but not contradictory, elements.
Through my personal history, growing up in a conservative family in Korea, studying Korean traditional painting and then went on studying contemporary art in America, I have struggled to adapt myself in a new cultural environment and to adopt the new while keeping the old with doubt and confidence. However I have made very interesting trace as an artist, and this trace of my history had made my artwork unique with strong identity.
I use iconography from Minhwa, Korean folk paintings from 19th century, juxtaposing them with unpredictable objects from either Western culture or daily surroundings to create interesting narratives in each painting. For example Peony, which represents wealth and prosperity in Asian culture, is juxtaposed with western sweet dessert or architectural elements of a brownstone building. Mountain as an Asian landscape painting element is juxtaposed with Western teacup along with image of water transforming into noodles. Each object has slightly different representation in each painting. Mountain sometimes represents primordial nature, masculinity or myself.
Materials and techniques from Korean traditional painting were used. Multiple thin layers of translucent color with rabbit skin glue were applied to create deep and saturated color.