Active in the New York art scene, Ahn Seongmin is an artist whose work takes, as its motif, the attributes of minhwa, which refers to a kind of Korean folk art. This work is about deep scars, memories, and agonies. In other words, it inquires into death, which can be the cause of one’s unbearable wounds or excruciating pain, into one’s need to accept things happening in his or her life, and into one’s strength to transcend them. It is considered quite natural and legitimate for one to seek after wealth and fame in this present-day capitalist society. Here the image of the peony, the flower which is a symbol of riches and repute, is a symbolic portrait of those of us who have been persuaded to conform to the mechanism of today’s capitalist society. Her peony paintings are reflective of our life which can be characterized by our tendency to set up a dream goal and to accomplish it, by our submission to loss and despair, and by our experience of pain and our transcendentalization of it. The artist says Her use of the form of the scroll comes from “sobyeong”. Sobyeong refers to the Korean traditional white folding screen with neither words nor images, whose common usage was for a funeral or a memorial service for ancestors. The symbolic role of sobyeong was to divide the space of life from that of death, and there by the coffin of the dead was
placed behind sobyeong in a funeral. The backs of the scrolls are upholstered with a crimson fabric threaded with gold. In contrast to the monotony, darkness, and heaviness seen in their front sides, the decoration of their backs entails the opulence, brightness, and lightness that greet one beyond the death or after the transcendentalization. The back sides are hidden from viewers’ sight, yet a closer look can detect the traces left on the edges and the reflection of the hint of their red color on their shadows.