Eva Armisen creates a ‘Home’ with her artwork: The Spanish artist has long been popular in Korea for her heartwarming paintings
Nearly a year after her last exhibition “Beginnings,” which was held in Lotte Avenuel Gallery, and just a few months after her most recent visit to the country to attend the Korea International Art Fair, the 49-year-old artist has returned to meet local fans through “Home,” her largest exhibition ever.
Her art, recognized for simple and heart-warming images, is adored internationally for capturing the emotions of family, love and togetherness.
“There are struggling moments in life. It can’t be joyous all the time,” said Armisen ahead of the opening of her exhibit in Hangaram Art Museum in the Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul, on Dec. 6. “But I feel the need to put another perspective to the difficult moments in life. There are different point of views in seeing the world, and I try to focus my eyes on hope.”
Through “Home,” the artist hopes to offer shelter and comfort to visitors through the exhibition.
“I’d like to show people what painting means to me. For me, painting is really like a home and a shelter. I can go back to it every time I need it,” Armisen said.
“I’d like to deliver the message that when you find your passion, you’re able to live from that. In a way, you have a responsibility to share that with others. I’d like to share that passion that I feel for painting with the visitors of the exhibition.”
Consisting of eight rooms decorated around the theme of home, the exhibition displays around 150 pieces of Armisen’s works, which range from oil paintings to murals, ceramics and sculptures. A number of her earlier works are also on display.
The sections that will be of particular interests to Korean visitors showcase the artist’s works inspired by Seoul and haenyeo, the indigenous female divers of Jeju who have been added to Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
“I love to work in Seoul and see how it changes so fast, especially the architecture,” Armisen said. “You [Seoul] are the best host to me and I also like the fact that you are proud of your own culture and are eager to show that culture to people coming from outside.”
Some of her paintings centering on Seoul and haenyeo include Armisen and her sister happily eating hansik, Korean food, and a pair of haenyeo coming out of the sea with a net filled with the day’s yields.
Haenyeo have long been an important part of Armisen’s work. Since learning about them by chance while reading a magazine, she became fascinated by their courage, independence, and most importantly, honesty. She helped promote director Ko Hee-young’s “Breathing Underwater” (2016), a documentary showing the life of haenyeo, and illustrated the 2017 children’s storybook, “My Mom is a Haenyeo,” also written by Ko.
“[After spending time with a group of haenyeo], I realized the values they have are the most important values for me. They have strong independence, are really proud of what they do and have a connection with nature.” Armisen added, “They fight against greed and ambition, and are aware of how deep they can dive. These women also communicate generation to generation, [teach younger women how to dive], survive and live life. I found that so beautiful.”
Ahead of the opening of her exhibition, the Korea JoongAng Daily met with the artist to discuss her artworks and the reasons they are particularly adored by Koreans. The following are edited excerpts.
A. For me, home has two meanings. The first is painting. I can go back to it every time I need shelter. Painting helps me express my feelings and feel complete. The second means invitation. I want people to feel [welcome] to the exhibition like it’s a home. The exhibition features many years of my work from as early as 1995, and I hope visitors discover new layers [of my art] as well as see the evolution of my work.
Many of your paintings revolve around the theme of family, love and nature. What is your biggest inspiration?
I get inspired from anything that provokes an emotion in me. Many of my paintings depict family because I feel comfortable, relaxed and protected around them. I represent what I feel in my paintings so they are like the diary of my life.
The majority of your works feature smiling subjects. Does your art reflect your actual life or do you intentionally paint bright images to be happy?
Just like everybody else, my life is not joyful all the time. But I feel the need to [add] another perspective to [it]. Even in the worst situation, there’s a different point of view in seeing the world. I try to focus my eyes on [finding] the way out instead of [focusing on] the struggle. I believe we all have good inside us. I’m trying to [bring] that out. With my paintings, I try to let you know you have that.
What do you think is the reason your paintings are particularly loved in Korea?
I really don’t know. A lot of people give me feedback that my paintings make them feel connected with emotions and sometimes with childhood. So that’s probably the reason.
Like I said, my main inspiration is emotion. When I feel something, I draw it or write a sentence to remember that feeling, [and later represent it in my painting]. So when someone who saw my painting comes back to me and tells me that they were moved - whether it be by the same feeling I had felt or with a different feeling and emotion - it makes me very happy because it’s like closing a circle.
BY JIN MIN-JI [email@example.com]