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  • Writer's pictureMonica

Horses, Hermès, and Art Fairs: A Journey through the Artistic World of Jimin Chae

Hi Jimin, it’s an absolute pleasure to talk to you! Please introduce yourself and your story as an artist.

Hello Monica, hello world - my name is Jimin Chae and I do fine art. My journey as an artist started at a very young age and for most of my life, I was very focused on painting. Now, for the first time I’m in the process of diversifying the mediums I work with and am doing more and more sculptures, installations and larger projects. So next time I introduce myself it might not be as someone who "just does fine art”... In terms of my history, as a kid, I painted a lot and produced my first artworks at three or four years old. My parents thought I was a genius - but quickly realized I wasn't (laughs). In Korea you have to decide quite early on what you want to do and choose a path to follow - very often related to a craft. It was during high school that I made the decision to be an artist and have been following that path ever since… Following my studies at a Korean college in Seoul, I entered the professional realm feeling somewhat adrift and found it quite difficult to set my vision as an artist. I would tend to get lost in the process and the craft of painting itself…

Artist Jimin Chae in front of his art
Jimin Chae in front of his art

At some point, I decided to go abroad and went to London for two years - which became a pivotal moment for me in terms of understanding the conceptual part of creating art. After being in London I spent 6 months in New York at a residency program at AHL Foundation and when I came back to Seoul in 2015 after that period abroad that’s when I’d say I really started my career as an artist.

Tell us about one of your recent endeavors - the Hermès project and how it came about.

It’s a real coincidence, because like I said I was very much absorbed in the world of painting, so didn’t see or project myself as anything other than a painter. I had started experimenting with a few installation projects with friends, but nothing serious. One day someone DM-ed me on Instagram saying that they work at Hermès and would like to collaborate with me. I thought it was a scam at first - but it turned out he was the International Chief of Windows at Hermès - to be honest I didn’t even know what that meant!

Following our initial exchange, they commissioned me to craft a window display for the Shanghai store, themed around autumn. Despite my self-identification primarily as a painter and my limited experience with installations, they were remarkably open-minded and afforded me creative freedom. Viewing it as an opportunity for exploration, I accepted the challenge, using it as a platform to experiment and push the boundaries of painting within a three-dimensional space.

Hermès Shanghai window art installation by artist Jimin Chae
Hermès x Jimin Chae Window Art Installation in Shanghai

The first painting I saw of yours was actually at Kiaf art fair in Seoul - it had a mountain, a horse and a blue sky backdrop… Can you tell me more about it?

Haha, I know exactly which one! The painting you're referring to that you saw at Kiaf is indeed quite characteristic of my style. I would describe my approach as surrealist, often blending images or snapshots from various contexts. In the case of that particular piece, I drew inspiration from photographs I had taken during a holiday trip to Switzerland— a habit of mine to capture moments and emotions. From these images, I extract key elements and feelings, reassembling them on canvas in a manner that's both unexpected and strangely familiar.

Oil painting by artist Jimin Chae with green grass, blue sky and wooden structure
A Very Calculated Scenery, 2023, Oil on Canvas

Where else do you gather inspiration for your art?

I find a great deal of inspiration in the outdoors, abroad and at home. Recently my wife and I have embraced the identity of a "camping couple," finding rejuvenation in nature. Both being artists and sharing a studio space, our lives naturally revolve around art. However, seeking a hobby we could enjoy together led us to explore various activities. While we experimented with different sports, such as bouldering, we ultimately discovered our passion for outdoor adventures, particularly because our dog could join us. These 1-2 day trips into the wilderness allow us to unwind, clear our minds, and return home feeling refreshed.

A couple camping with dog
Two artists working together and camping together

What is it like being married to and working in the same space as an artist couple?

(laughs) Well, it's certainly lively. We have our fair share of disagreements, but they're the kind that ultimately push us forward, both professionally and personally. Working alongside each other in the studio, along with four other artists, gives us a rich environment for professional exchange. My wife occupies the studio space right beside mine, essentially serving as a personal advisor— even if it’s one with very strong opinions!

Something I have always wondered - do artists like going to art fairs?

It's a bit of a mixed bag for me, to be honest. There are times when I find them quite enjoyable, while at other times, not so much. In the early stages of my career, I recognized the value of art fairs as a means to garner attention and establish a presence within the art world. However, during the mid-career phase, they became more challenging, especially when facing criticism of my work. Now, I find myself appreciating them once again, particularly for the opportunity they offer for international exposure. That being said, the sheer volume of art fairs can be overwhelming, making it difficult to be everywhere at once. It's crucial as an artist to choose wisely, selecting fairs and audiences that align well with both myself and my artwork.

Any niche art fairs you’d recommend to me and the readers?

Hmm... Well, Kiaf is always a solid choice, you made the ight one there! Although it might not be considered niche anymore. If you're looking for something more alternative and geared towards discovering new and emerging artists, I'd suggest checking out The Preview Art Fair. It's a great platform for uncovering fresh talent and unique perspectives in the art world.

As you know, I like to end my interviews with a little question from the game “We’re not really strangers”. The one I’ve drawn for you is:  Which are you more afraid of - success or failure?

That’s a good one but a hard one, also because success is such a subjective thing. While I do have certain life goals, they aren't necessarily tied to conventional notions of success. Interestingly, I find that failure often serves as a catalyst for growth, particularly in my artistic practice. I have started to embrace failure more in the practice of art because it brings me further. Especially now as I navigate through experimenting with new mediums. Accepting failure as an inherent part of the process allows me to push beyond my comfort zone and evolve creatively.

Oil Painting by artist Jimin Chae featuring mountains, a horse, a man and green grass
When I got there he was leaving, 2023, Oil on Canvas

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