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“Finding precise colors that do not mumble about the truth of the world and relationships is important to me.”

Yooyeon Nam: Bridging Worlds Through Art

Yooyeon Nam, a South Korean artist with a business background, blends her unique experiences into her oil paintings, creating pieces that are as diverse and complex as her own journey. Her art, characterized by the use of imaginative colors and the portrayal of multifaceted relationships, is a reflection of her life’s transitions – from the rigid academic structures in Korea to the liberating art scene in the United States. Nam’s work delves deep into the realm of relationships, encompassing a spectrum of emotions from love to evasion. Her distinctive style is marked by the strategic placement of figures in spaces that combine interior and landscape elements, which she achieves through a rich and varied color palette.

This juxtaposition of business acumen and artistic passion defines Nam as both an individual and an artist. Her series ‘Kidnapped’ is particularly striking, featuring round-faced, nose-less characters that embody the weirdness and strangeness of the world and its relationships. These bizarre yet adorable figures highlight the uncanny nature of violence disguised as kindness – a theme prevalent in Asian culture and one that resonates deeply with Nam’s personal experiences. The duality of her upbringing in Korea, balancing the pressure of a business career against her true passion for art, significantly influences her artistic themes.

Yooyeon Nam

Oh Well, the Truth Is…, 2023. Oil on canvas, 40×30 inches

The Artist’s Journey: From Business to Brushes

Yooyeon Nam’s transformation into an artist is a tale of self-discovery and defiance against societal norms. Her artistic awakening occurred at a rock festival in Korea in 2014, where she experienced a profound admiration for creation, particularly captivated by the band ‘Nell’. This encounter led her to pursue visual arts, a field where she had always harbored a deep interest. Nam’s journey began with a shift from replicating photos to creating original works, marking the start of her unique artistic path.

Nam’s life in Brooklyn and Seoul, bridging two cultures, has enriched her artistic expression. Despite a rigorous academic background and a degree in business from Yonsei University, her true calling in art remained undiminished. Her path to becoming a painter included self-teaching, participation in painting clubs, and exhibiting in both group and solo shows. This journey culminated in her decision to study at Pratt Institute in the U.S., a move motivated by her desire to immerse herself in the world of oil painting and be part of a larger art scene.

I Am Like a Lemon Under Pressure, 2023. Oil on canvas, 24×24 inches

Yooyeon Nam: Through Solo and Group Exhibitions

Nam’s artistic journey is marked by a series of notable achievements that showcase not only her dedication but also the depth of her exploration in the art world. Starting with her first solo show, “Perfect Kidnapping,” hosted in Brooklyn as part of the Chashama project, Nam set a precedent for the caliber of work she would present to the world. This event drew the attention of renowned American artists, including James Hyde, affirming the quality and appeal of her work. At this show, Nam sold her painting “I Am Like a Lemon Under Pressure” to an individual collector, underscoring her growing influence in the art community. Furthermore, her participation in the virtual show “Kidnapped” at Artists Living Room NYC expanded her presence within the digital art space, allowing her to reach a wider audience. Her influence was also strongly felt in Seoul, where, from 2016 to 2020, she held more solo shows, continuing to build her reputation in the art world.

Beyond her solo endeavors, Nam’s works have been featured in both juried and invited exhibitions, including prominent shows like “Oasis of Color” at Van Der Plas Gallery in Manhattan and “Dark and Scary” at Greenpoint Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. These exhibitions, particularly “Oasis of Color,” visited by renowned American artist Ethan Ryman, have been pivotal in diversifying Nam’s exhibition portfolio and broadening her artistic exposure. Her active engagement in these group shows not only enriched her professional experience but also underscored her profound journey of personal growth and reaffirmed her unwavering commitment to her craft. Nam’s talent and dedication were further recognized when she won the first grand prize at the Arthouse.Z Art Prize, organized by Kaleido Art, which came with a $1,000 cash award.

Kidnapping My Own Ancestor, 2023. Oil on wood panel, 10×10 inches

Children of Bait, 2023. Oil on canvas, 48×48 inches

Yooyeon Nam: The Colorist’s Canvas

Yooyeon Nam’s artistic style, deeply rooted in colorism and expressionism, showcases her fascination with the interplay of colors and their impact on artistic expression. Her inspiration comes from everyday observations – the varying shades of a sunset, the changing light on a plant, or the colors in a scene from a movie. This attention to the subtleties of color is what defines her as a colorist, allowing her to create works that resonate with vibrancy and depth. Nam’s expressionistic approach is evident in her layering of oil paints, where each brushstroke contributes to the overall composition, creating a rich tapestry of textures and hues.

Nam’s work, while containing elements of surrealism, is more accurately described as fantastical realism. She delves into the realities of dreams and consciousness, creating narratives that are grounded in reality yet transcend the ordinary. Her focus on the eerie and uncanny nature of relationships, whether between individuals, objects, or phenomena, allows her to explore deep existential questions. Nam’s paintings, such as “Kidnapped Across the Border,” are inspired by personal experiences and emotions, yet they are crafted to resonate universally, inviting viewers to reflect on their own experiences and perceptions of the world.

Kidnapping Across the Border, 2023. Oil on wood panel, 12×12 inches

The Artist’s Creative Sanctum and Influences

For Yooyeon Nam, her studio is a sanctuary of creativity, where light plays a crucial role. The ever-changing quality of natural light not only inspires her color choices but also is a critical element in her paintings. This dedication to observing and capturing light underscores her commitment to her craft. Nam’s ability to immerse herself in her work, free from distractions, speaks to her deep concentration and passion for painting. The physical barrier created by her gloves while painting symbolizes her separation from the digital world, allowing her to remain focused and undisturbed in her artistic pursuits.

Nam’s artistic influences are as varied as her own style. She draws inspiration from the works of post-impressionist artists like Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, and Henri Matisse, along with the Les Nabis group. These artists, known for their use of bold colors and simple shapes, have guided Nam in her exploration of color and composition. Her favorite artists, including Félix Vallotton, influence her current works, as seen in her attention to bold, vibrant colors and powerful compositions. This reverence for the masters of colorism is a testament to Nam’s dedication to her craft and her continuous quest for artistic growth.

Kidnapped, 2023. Oil on canvas, 64×80 inches

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