Yeonhwa Kim’s Invitation

Yeonhwa Kim is a South Korean artist and writer best known for her depiction of birch trees. Her exhibition, entitled “The Birch Story: The Woman’s Forest”, boasts several Impressionist style paintings of straight white birches hovering in flecks of blue, yellow, orange, green. These trees are occasionally accompanied by a single yellow moon, or a sprinkle of stars. But otherwise, they stand alone, evoking a sort of peaceful solitude.

This piece of hers is atypical in that it does not feature a frontal view of her favorite birch groves. Instead, the viewer is left with a muddle of faded forest textures. Though given only something to look at, it is as if one must feel one’s way through the piece—like walking blindfolded. And when one finds something, be it a single white streak indicating a trunk, or an individual grove of leaves, one really feels it: the quietness, the loneliness, the content. Birches cannot be found just anywhere in Korea—they mostly reside atop highlands in northern Korea, or else in colder regions or golf courses. By heightening the accessibility of an uncommon natural sight, Kim gives her viewers an escape route. For me, the charm of the painting lies in its simplicity. And in doing so, you inadvertently receive a little breather from modern chaos.

Kim calls her exhibition an invitation. To view it is to be invited into the setting of her solitude, to graze her world’s edge just a little. Here, under the birch trees and the stars, far from a modern world that is always on fast forward, one can be alone. One can think, and one can feel.

What do you think of this image?