Around this time last year we were lucky enough to get a first hand insight into Leebin Soyeon’s new publication Shape of Shame. An original new comic featuring a hypnotic blend of hues and surreal characters, the comic delved into an integral human emotion that we’ve felt from time to time: shame. It’s a feeling the Korean illustrator is familiar with, visualising shameful sensations through evocative illustrations with a twist of humour. As her first publication it sought to normalise Leebin’s discomfort through cathartic creativity.
Recently releasing the second edition of the Shape of Shame, Leebin’s new publication is titled Spark Joy. Where the first comic looked inwards to the illustrator’s self, its successor takes on a broader outlook: “I wanted to create a story about how materialism and minimalism affect women’s lifestyles,” she tells It’s Nice That. Featuring a brand new cast consisting of a character called “Rich Girl” and “I”, the second story takes on a darker tone in its near-grotesque slimy greens underpinned by shadows of blacks and purples illustrated in Leebin’s signature smooth style.
In the last year she’s become more attuned to this airbrush effect, developing her technique to evoke both narrative and abstraction at the same time. In turn, the aesthetic accentuates the slightly sinister story where the character known as I goes in search for increasing likes and subscribers and finds herself at a concept baby shower hosted by Rich Girl. There, she realises that the uselessness of the luxury presents gifted to Rich Girl and as a consequence, spiralling events occur for both characters. Ultimately, the comic poses questions around the true value of material objects in society today using Leebin’s beautifully crafted illustrations as a vehicle.
Spark Joy is not all she’s been up to recently. In a wholly different project (visually not conceptually) Leebin exhibited a solo show Final Touch exploring similar themes to the aforementioned comic; the notion of commodity. “I can say it’s about deity and millennials,” she says of the show, which debuted earlier this year at Seoul’s All Time Space. Admitting she was “kind of obsessed” with the philosophical phenomenon of becoming a commodity, the exhibition’s artwork delves deeper into the ethics of materialism.
“Words like inner beauty and self-esteem have become steady sellers in modern society,” she explains. “Healing, peace and happiness are replaced and developed by goods and services and there are millennials who rely on God for the anxiety caused by uncertainty and the consumerist products promising spiritual power and stability.” In turn, Final Touch can be seen as a “millennials’s album” of sorts. It documents the repetition of relieving one anxiety with another, and looks into the monetised process of peaceful healing, and what this really entails.
Exemplified in the airbrushed artwork titled New Year’s Resolutions, Leebin depicts a self-portrait of sorts seeking. The help of a fortune teller on the brink of the new year. She captures a scene detailing a kkwaenggwari, a traditional brass percussion instrument used to predict the future often used alongside grains of rice in a ritual. The fortune seeker in the portrait bares the same ring as the artist, a small yin yang on the right pinky finger. “This ring soothes me,” says Leebin on the artwork which examines her own beliefs as much as societies. “The ring forms attitudes in life by its meaning,” she finally goes on to say, and, not to mention the fact it’s a stylish accessory, further linking Leebin’s identity with the subject at hand.
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.