Hwashin Choi’s illustrations reject the flat and digital styles of working that are so popular today. Instead, she repurposes traditional modes of realist drawing for a contemporary audience, paying close attention to how light falls on objects and the characterisation of objects and facial expression.
The Seoul-based illustrator is drawn to replicating things from the past. Korean history and mythologies infiltrate her exquisitely detailed work and most recently, Hwashin has been exploring her “riddled” childhood through a wonderfully expressive series of drawings. She tells It’s Nice That, “I was born and raised in a patriarchal country. I grew up with boys and I was the only girl in my neighbourhood which created some difficulties in my life.”
In Hwashin’s illustration series The Recent Past, she portrays traditional representations of femininity. Dolls in powdery hues of pinks and purples, a mirror decorated with an intricate array of flowers on the frame, a young girl begrudgingly having her hair tied back. The distinctly “feminine” images are patiently remembered by Hwashin’s steady hand. The detail in the repeat patterned wallpaper and the careful inscriptions on each book’s spine are meticulously exact. Through this series of drawings, Hwashin meditates on gender associations by revisiting her childhood memories and investigating objects from her girlhood that were deemed inferior by society.
The young girl’s face is visibly uncomfortable as her hair is tied back and she wears a sportswear T-shirt, more commonly associated with boys. The scene stirs feelings of a girl that resents the gender role that is cast upon her, surrounded by a flurry of “girly” items. The surrounding bedroom is created through a compilation of initial sketches that originate from Hwashin’s “old memories as well as imagination”. She combines these individual components digitally which are then drawn out on paper for the final piece and later scanned in and cleaned up digitally.
Hwashin’s process of collaging together images from her memory with imagined scenarios stays true to her psychological state as a child. She goes on to say, “in my childhood, I felt a lot of unfairness and often felt isolated by that, so I spent most of my time in my imagination even though it made me feel lonely, but I found some shiny pieces of hope by expressing myself through drawing”. Additionally working on illustration commissions for exhibitions around Korea, Hwashin’s most beautiful work is her personal inspection of her childhood experiences. Although a difficult time for the artist, her creativity has palpably evolved through the creation of The Recent Past, an undeniably powerful series of drawings that transport us into Hwashin’s girlhood in Korea.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.