The Narcissist and other tales by Egene Koo

© Egene Koo

Inspired by mythical tales and the symbolism that surrounds them, South Korean artist Egene Koo creates surreal paintings where fact and fiction mix. Finding points where those tales cross over with her own story, her compositions are complex and rich, filled with people, animals and plants. Underneath these layers, her work explores the basic human condition, tackling subjects such as narcissism and transformation. The use of animals plays a vital role; “I found so many animal-form expressions in old and current stories. I’m especially interested in hybrids of animal and human. Maybe they might be the most relevant imagery to express some indescribable parts in human condition”. Her paintings feel like multi-faceted portraits, expressing our human nature through graceful birds and solemn donkeys.

Her approach has been inspired by C.G. Jung’s analytical psychology, which considers myths, folklores and fairy tales as gates to explore human nature and different states of mind. Indeed many explore the complexities of life through a child’s journey or the wise man’s tales. Animals have come to represent the tales that she is inspired by. Her subjects have been overtaken by animals, an outward expression of the inner thoughts.

Artistically she has drawn from the Flemish Masters, such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, particularly the tranquil mood that comes through in their work. More recently she has been exploring Asian art from the same time period, and the resonance work still has today. “Their down-toned colours seem to embrace the sense of time-passing. I always want to learn how to recreate their refined mysteries.” Whilst her inspirations from the past resonate, she has connected them to the present in her anthropomorphic figures.

Bone Tree © Egene Koo

“A good old story could play its role both as a very old wise man and as an innocent child. It retells a part of the journey called life towards inner growth.”

Red study after Audubon © Egene Koo
Red study after Audubon, 2© Egene Koo

ABOUT Egene koo

Egene Koo is a painter based in South Korea. She has established her style by creating hybrid images from different sources. Against a backdrop of her interest in psychology and spirituality, she develops her style by exploring diverse symbolic images from mythic stories and nature. She had solo exhibitions including ‘Trivial Myth (2014)’, ‘Neverending Childhood (2012)’ and ‘Garden of Lost Things (2008)’ and participated in many group exhibitions, art fairs and collaborative projects. She studied in Korean National University of Arts(BFA) in Seoul and Camberwell College of Art(MA) in London. She currently lives and works in Ilsan, South Korea.