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Boy’s imaginative oil painting hit gallery row... Shin Se-won, attending high school in U.S. shows talent at Seoul exhibit 「Korea Herald」

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Boy’s imaginative oil painting hit gallery row

Shin Se-won, attending high school in U.S. shows talent at Seoul exhibit


Seoul, Sunday, August 26, 1990 「Korea Herald」


An exhibition of oils by Shin Se-won opened since Tuesday at the Kyungin Gallery in Insa-dong, downtown Seoul, has got to be the most exciting display to hit Seoul’s gallery row.

Some 50 art pieces on view show exhilarating motifs, wide-ranging styles and color mixes indicating the painter definitely is blessed with a rare talent for a 16-year-old high school student.

“I just tried to transfer onto the canvas what I exactly feel inside. Painting is a medium of my expression. I would like to employ all kinds of techniques and methods there are in painting,” said the painter.


Currently a junior at the Georgetown Preparatory School in Washington D.C., Shin said he has no time to do sketches before painting, saying that he has them all in his mind already.

The youthful artist would rather go directly to applying paints, skipping sketches for a more powerful impact.

Shin, however, said it doesn’t mean he is disregarding all the current norms in western-style oil painting.

In fact, he said he abhors off beat painting styles such as the avant garde style, out of a healthy respect for traditional painting disciplines.

Chagalle and O’Keefe are the painters he admires most : He likes the way chagalle used colors in his works, while O’Keefe’s illustrative painting style fascinates him.

Asked to comment on some of his art pieces, he said he didn’t want to limit his paintings to a certain style in the way of explaining a wide-ranging style of his works including abstracts, landscapes, and ink brush painting.

“Illusory Image,” 52 x 45cm oil piece, shows a naked woman embracing a human skeleton in which the painter said he wanted to demonstrate futility of life as believed by Buddhists.

“It didn’t take more than three days to finish,” said Shin. At first, he thought of having two skeletons hugging each other.

But, he thought otherwise : He drew a starkly naked woman instead for a sharp contrast later.

The boy painter’s extraordinary talent was detected early, according to his mother.

“He played with crayons on any pices of paper he could get his hands on. When he was attending kindergarten, he learned drawing in a private painting class.

When Shin captured the top prize at the 28th National High School Students Fine Arts Exhibition in 1986, everyone including the skeptics in his own family were convinced of the “wunderkind.”

“A transcendental quality is characteristic of Shin’s paintings,” comments art critic Kim Nam-su, who also is chief editor of the Fine Art World, an arts monthly in Seoul.

The boy wonder translates the free play of his imagination into his paintings in such a way as to cut through the heart of the arts, the art critic continued.

“Roaring,” one of his popular pieces, depicts a roaring wolf, leading the viewer to identify the wild animal with the young artist screaming against the evils in society.

“His method of composing objects is never artificial or intentional, but symbolic and also seems, at times, to be abstract even in the pieces which depict concrete objects, “concluded Kim.

“I am going to return to Korea, after mastering Western-style painting abroad,“ swears Shin, who is bulky enough to play on the varsity football team at his high school. At 182-cm, he towers over many of his American school chums.

His debut solo exhibition closes tomorrow.



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