Artist of the Week: Soo Shin

Soo Shin was born in 1981 in Seoul, Korea and currently lives and works in Chicago. She received her MFA in Fiber and Material studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011, MFA (2007) and BFA (2004) in Painting at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul. Her work deals with the uncertainty in having faith in the unknown. Her work has been shown in various locations in the states, as well as abroad.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. In 2008 I moved to Chicago to pursue my studies. I am very interested in the grey area between struggle and faith, their inseparable nature, and the uncertainty and vulnerability in having beliefs. I have been making sculptures, drawings, and paintings to talk about this subject.

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Top 3 favorite websites and why? Netflix – Any true crime shows, Damages, The Bletchley Circle, Wallander, so on, and so on.

Allrecipes.com –The mundane ingredients in my fridge always have potential to be a special meal thanks to this website.

Mariethegrey.blogspot.com – It’s embarrassing but I am a little obsessed with my cat.

How long have you lived in Chicago and what brought you there? I came to Chicago in 2008 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after finishing my MFA in painting in Seoul. Since very young I have always fancied the idea of being a painter and pursued it without trying other mediums. I felt a little lost after finishing school and I wanted to start over without the dedication to that specific medium. The School of the Art institute of Chicago’s interdisciplinary curriculum seemed attractive to me, so I applied there. The school encouraged me to explore alternative effective ways to convey my ideas. Being in the open/supportive environment they provided I was able to expand my practice making sculptures, paintings, drawings, etc. After school I decided to stay in Chicago. It wasn’t difficult making the decision to stay, having great friends living in the same city, loving the absurdly long winter, and considering Chicago’s very open and supportive art scene.

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What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Recently I have been focusing on building paradoxical structures that guide certain body gestures. These body gestures are about the psychological moments when we are facing the void and the uncertainty in believing in something we cannot prove. The majority of my recent work involves the specific sense of seeing, not seeing, and being seen and uses them as physical metaphors for blind faith and not knowing.

Tell us about your work process and how it develops. My process usually starts with writing. I write short phrases that depict the mechanism of faith through physical motions. Usually they don’t quite make sense since they are fragments of words but I would like to consider them as my secret poems. Then I make sketches to freeze the motion into the form. The sketches decide the overall structure of the sculptures. However, these steps don’t happen in this exact order. Sometimes I get an idea of a form first and it inspires the writing, which helps me to refine the form. Usually the decisions for details and other elements that visually activate the structure are added during the physical construction. These added elements often make the finished piece look unfamiliar to me and the piece has its own language. The finished work is related but never has a direct relation to the original writing. I try to read the finished work to figure out its title. Titling is always so difficult for me. It often feels like I cannot read my own handwriting.

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Describe your current studio or workspace. It is located in West Town/United Center area. It is well lit and spacious. There are many found materials, lumbers and wood scraps, power tools, plants, disassembled works, a 4-harness floor loom, and several new works in progress.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city? Home Depot. I know that Home Depot is not a special place specific to just Chicago but I absolutely love it. Most of the time when I go there, even to pick up one thing, I have to check out almost every aisle even though the same things are always in the same places as last time.

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Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? When I was at MacDowell residency last winter I had the chance to open my studio to other residents. After the event one of the writers came to me and shared personal stories of growing up in a very religious family dealing with the same issues of binary perspective in believing as I did. I am still very grateful for that shared conversation with her that was result of sharing my work.

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