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Chris Shim - Painting Bridges People

Words:

Edd Norval
July 15, 2019

Chris Shim aka Royyal Dog, draws on various cultural touchstones to transmit an Internationalist and peaceful message of unity and the power of people coming together. Through his vast figurative murals, he conveys a sense of belonging, despite many of his works featuring unorthodox portraits that don't comfortably fit anywhere.

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The Korean artist is leading the way in a burgeoning new vanguard of Asian graffiti artists. Particularly notable for his emotive portraits, he's also transporting his culture to new audiences as his popularity coincides with the rise of interest in travel to South Korea. With the country quickly becoming a go-to destination over neighbouring countries like Japan and China, their time is now.


South Korea's rich cultural heritage, not too dissimilar in many respects to Japans or Chinas, boasts a wealth of nuances that firmly separate it. Shim emphasises their idiosyncrasies by challenging the context of his pieces - through both the medium and the message.


Using faces that are both Asian and Black, Shim dresses them up in traditional Korean hanboks, before capturing their essence in a largely traditional manner, befitted in the ancient garb, holding demure poses, filled with warmth.

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Talking about the reason for depicting a black woman in Korean clothing, Shim said, “It was to show that black beauty and hanbok can come together to create something even more beautiful,” before adding that "My dream before I [start] to paint, was a missionary for Africa. That motivated a bit to paint this too.”


Coalescing cultures inspires Shim, who through his art seems to invite us to his home, to show us that we too can experience life in Korea, that despite retaining it's intrigue and mystery, is very much a land of open arms.


If we are to ascertain one thing from his portraits, it's that an overwhelming sense of harmony presides over them. From the expression, to their pose and backdrop, it seems like peace has been found. Walking by one is to become awash with a subtle serenity. It is to understand what he means, without him having said a word.

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Building bridges between people through art is nothing new, in fact, it's the very foundation of symbolic expression - communication. Shim moves beyond that though, creating work that is highly indebted to its time and place, likewise its social and political context.


The love for people emanates from his work, even in a depiction of Rihanna, Shim writes a bible verse (Samuel 25:6) wishing her and the hip-hop community peace and blessings for all that it has given him, in influence both aesthetically and conceptually.


Art from South Korea, particularly through television and film, has made headways in Europe and the US over the last three or four years, with several directors finding themselves on 'to watch' lists for future releases. Shim can now add himself to such lists. An established name half the world away, he's about to become one a lot closer to home.

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