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Yun Suknam

Artist Statement


Yun Suknam was born in Manchuria, China in 1939. She moved with her family to Korea in 1946 after Korea was liberated from Japan. Yun attended university in South Korea and studied English Literature.

She did not start to paint until she was in her 40s when she began studying calligraphy, drawing and painting. Her decision to study art was prompted by her strong desire to do something beyond being a traditional wife and mother. Her husband supported her in this desire and she moved to the U.S. to study printmaking at the Pratt Institute and painting at the Art Students League of New York. After Yun completed her studies in the U.S., she returned to South Korea.

Considered one of the most significant feminist artists in South Korea, Yun founded the feminist art collective, the October Group, in 1985. First and foremost, she paints women as her subjects. In her own practice, she reverses traditional Korean portraiture convention by having the women look directly at the viewer. Typically, women’s eyes are averted politely but she paints a direct gaze. Additionally, she introduced the idea that painted work did not have to be flat, or on paper or silk but could be made from salvaged materials. Using these principles in her work, she has created many pieces advocating women’s rights. She also focuses on themes related to identity, life, caregiving, motherhood, and the place of women in history.

Mother III, from her “The Eyes of Mother” series was the focal piece in “Portraits of the World: Korea” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 2019. Her work is included in the collections of the Tate Museum, , the Queensland Art Gallery, the Daegu Art Museum, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, among others.