“My painting is all about my experience: What I see and what I do goes in every brushstroke, and through them, they are transformed into a landscape of memories, real and desired.”
For the Korean artist Guimi You, the most interesting subject is as mundane as her everyday life. Yet, by elegantly floating between winter breezes and spring blossoms, through each brushstroke, she is able to transform the ordinary into a continuous landscape of hazy, desired memories.
The interplay between our perception of reality and its transformation through subjectivity has long captivated philosophers and artists alike. Leonora Carrington, a celebrated surrealist poet and artist, would say that art “is a magic which makes the hours melt away”: in the misty sceneries painted by You, we are granted a look into the intimate, dreamlike transformations of the every day into the picturesque where time seems to stop, capturing our full attention in the stillness of a portrayed second.
The uniqueness of this sensation resides in the blending of a sweet longing for something fleeting (a memory), and a surreal ambiance that unlocks the door to the realm of the subconscious (the transformation of a memory into a dream). Formally expressed by the peculiar synthesis of both Eastern and Western artistic traditions, the harmonious alternation between vague and precise lines defines the distinctive atmosphere of Guimi You’s body of work. At times, it evokes the traditional Korean painterly approach to depicting nature, while at others, it connects with the work of Nabi artists such as Pierre Bonnard, whose choice of color resonates with her painting in the ability to render gentle expressionism.
Each palette becomes a manifestation of the artist’s emotions, deeply interwoven with seasonal representation, in an alternating fusion of winter and spring. This transformation occurs when interwoven with the personal, offering an intimate glimpse into You’s daily moments through vibrant renditions. Throughout the exhibition, we come to experience a unique take on the charm of the city of Seoul: in Still Books, the view from a local bookshop visited with the artist’s son is dyed pastel pink, while in Yellow Flowers, the idyllic park of Seoul Forest is depicted through a warm blend of yellow, purple, and red tones.
Recalling Goethe’s study on the psychological dimensions of colors, You’s oeuvre narrates a world intrinsically romantic, one where a gloaming sunset welcomes someone dear home, or where a contemplating moment in front of a familiar lake is caressed by a cool breeze. While each centers around a personal element, it exudes a sense of familiarity, connecting with the viewer’s own life and experiences. Thus, while belonging to what Kant would refer to as the picturesque, where beauty is captured by each painting becoming expansive, the artist also transcends these bounds, reaching into the realm of the sublime, where beauty touches our inner selves.
In a balancing dance, the works presented at Make Room serve as a reminder of the significance of our everyday, ordinary lives, and how, when we hold onto these memories of the mundane, we transform them into a poetic dreamscape.
—Valentina Buzzi, October 2023