Its Inside Is Bigger Than Its Outside: Paintings by Seongmin Ahn
With mysterious drawers bursting with cascading peonies, blossoming plum trees, and splashing waterfalls, Seongmin Ahn invites us to enter a surreal space of two separate yet connected dimensions.
In her first solo exhibition at the Hudson River Museum, Ahn, who was born in South Korea and resides in New York, deftly combines traditional Korean painting techniques with contemporary subject matter to express her personal journey to discover a sense of home as an artist bridging Eastern and Western cultures. She combines her artistic training in Korean black ink wash and color painting with an affinity for Western abstract and conceptual art. With its bold compositions and flat areas of saturated color, her painting style also reflects the influence of Minhwa, a Korean folk art that reached its height of popularity during the last century of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910).
This exhibition features eight paintings from Ahn’s series Its Inside Is Bigger Than Its Outside, as well as one from her earlier Flat File series, in which she first began to experiment with hyperdimensional, connected spaces. For the former, Ahn drew upon literary inspiration, specifically The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–56) by English author C. S. Lewis, in which the main characters enter a different universe through magic portals, including a wardrobe. “Its inside is bigger than its outside” is a direct quote from The Last Battle, the final book of the Narnia series, and refers to a stable whose doors open into yet another world.
In contrast to Western art’s use of a one-point perspective that focuses on a distant horizon, Asian art often features multiple perspectives. By employing a reverse perspective, Ahn creates the illusion that the open drawers become secret portals. Her depiction of two different dimensions in one painting reflects her interest in the principles of dualism, coexistence, and interconnection in Eastern philosophies, such as Daoism. She explains, “In my paintings, by symbolic action and opening a drawer, two seemingly separate dimensions become integrated. It is a matter of how to find connection and openness.”
Ahn holds an MFA in Asian traditional painting from Seoul National University and an MFA in multidisciplinary art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. As an active participant in the contemporary art scene in New York and East Asia, she has exhibited work at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, and the Charles Wang Center at Stony Brook University. She has received a number of funding awards, including two Pollock Krasner Foundation grants, the AHL foundation artist grant, and the Café Royal Cultural Foundation grant. Her work is in the collections of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Hudson River Museum. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition at an American art museum.
This exhibition is organized by the Hudson River Museum.
Exhibitions are made possible by assistance provided by the County of Westchester.