When choosing her subject matter, South Korean artist Me Kyeoung Lee foregoes the country’s jaw-dropping landscapes and eye-opening landmarks for lesser known gems: its tiny bodegas. Seemingly spotted on every corner, these local shops have inspired the artist with their simple yet appealing storefronts, characterized by distinctive façades, unique methods of display, and delightful little gardens. In her collection of South Korean convenience store drawings, she captures the quaint charm and understated appeal of these markets.
In her series of acrylic ink sketches, Lee employs a muted, pastel color palette and delicate line work to convey the whimsical nature of the often overlooked establishments. By placing each store against a plain, white background, she draws attention to the details evident in each scene, including small, stacked boxes of fruits and vegetables, propped-up brooms, parked bicycles, and potted plants. She also pays particular attention to each shop owner’s apparent taste in trees, whose foliage includes pale pink blossoms, green and golden leaves, and even ripe oranges.
South Korea’s corner stores may seem like an odd choice of subject matter, but, given their prevalence (a striking 33,000 exist in South Korea today) and diverse aesthetics, it is no wonder that Lee was drawn to them. The artist has been depicting these mini-marts for 20 years now, and, even as an adult, can still remember their important role in her youth.
“There were not many things to see and play like these days,” she reminisces, “but there was a time when I was happy to have a coin in my hands and run to a shop and hang out with friends gathered in front of it.” So much more than simple stores, the tiny establishments clearly have a special place in this South Korean artist’s heart.