Sungmin Choi invites us into her imagination through otherworldly black and white comics. The Korean cartoonist depicts surreal scenes filled with futuristic characters, duplicates of animated animals and intricate weavings of lush foliage, all stripped of any colour. Then, pairing these scenes together to narrate immersive stories that are jutted together through a variety of non-traditional panels, Sungmin presents us with an illustrative style that feels uniquely her own.
The illustrator visualises emotions that are “difficult to explain in words” and creates fictional characters that feel attractive subjectively to her. In her most recent work, a short cartoon titled Monorail Dream, Sungmin introduces a 30-something-year-old protagonist attending the wedding of his college classmate known simply as H. At the wedding, he is criticised by his former peers for not having a partner, and when he is offered a cup of tea later on in the day, he resolutely refuses and goes home to have a beer.
Falling asleep after his beer, that night, he dreams about H. Together, they wander through an otherworldly landscape, encountering a number of dreamlike characters on the way. Rather unexpectedly, the protagonist realises his affection for H which he was previously unaware of. But unfortunately for him, the reality of the situation is a far cry from these realisations reached in the dream.
The overarching themes of Monorail Dream – nostalgia, the realisation of certain feelings from the past, and awakening – are often explored by Sungmin in her comics. As a Christian, she also draws inspiration from the Bible, which she reads every day without fail. “There are parts of the Bible that I understand, and others that I don’t,” the comics artist tells It’s Nice That. “When I’m in some kind of conflict in my life, I ask a question and think about it for a long time,” she goes on to say. Often consulting her religion in these times of need, importantly, Sungmin translates her complex thoughts and feelings “derived from agony” into her work; using her anguish as a stimulus for creativity.
When crafting her characters, Sungmin turns to people watching, keeping a close observation of those around her in an attempt to understand why people act in a certain way. “Why is he like that?” she habitually asks herself, “Why am I like this?” Thinking deeply about the various kinds of people that exist in the world, it is Sungmin’s persistent curiosity of the human character that affords her the ability to create detailed narratives that are both existentially probing and fantastical at the same time. All in all, she says on her comics, “I hope I can make a cartoon that stimulates someone’s imagination. I believe that imagination is important to everyone, you can understand others through it and come up with something pleasant, even if the reality is different.”
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