While many artists might favor landscapes or people as their theme, South Korean artist Me Kyeoung Lee has chosen an unlikely subject for her life’s work: the humble convenience store. The talented artist has been depicting these mom-and-pop establishments for over 20 years, aiming to capture their authentic charm before they close down and disappear forever.
“The first spring after I had my second child, I was spending my days sitting in front of the canvas again with a pen, drawing random things that came to mind, searching for a new beginning,” Lee recalls. “One beautiful day when cherry blossom petals were falling like snow, I made a trip to the corner store. I hadn’t been there in a long while, and the place seemed unfamiliar and at the same time quaintly charming. The reddish-brown slate roof displayed subtle changes in color depending on the time of day, and even the word ‘beverages’ in red letters written on the window in a slapdash manner seemed stylish.”
Despite their integral part of neighborhood culture, many of the corner stores in Lee’s artwork are sadly closing in order to make room for new developments. For one particular piece, Lee reveals, “I had been to the store a couple of times and knew the owner, an old lady over 80. I thought she had finally decided to close the business after running it for over 50 years. It was so sad to think yet another old store in Seoul would fade into history. I felt a part of me crumble inside.”
Lee renders each piece with multiple layers of ultra-thin pen lines, combining 28 different acrylic ink hues. She explains, “The colors become solid without appearing too thick, much like the unaffected charm of the corner stores weathered and worn by the times. So, in a way, the subject matter and form are in perfect harmony.” Lee manages to capture every charming detail of these often overlooked businesses. Mismatched chairs, stacked drinks crates, fruit and vegetables boxes, parasols, brooms, potted plants, and parked bicycles can be seen outside, while the change in seasons is beautifully illustrated with the surrounding trees. From pink cherry blossoms and autumnal leaves to bare, snow-covered branches, Lee captures the passage of time, while the age-old stores stand still, living on forever in her drawings.
If you’re in South Korea, you can see Lee’s most recent work at her current solo show at Imazoo Gallery until November 3, 2018.
South Korean artist Me Kyeoung Lee has chosen an unlikely subject for her life’s work: the humble convenience store.
The talented artist has been depicting these mom-and-pop shops for over 20 years.
Each delicate drawing beautifully captures the authentic charm of these often overlooked businesses.
Me Kyeoung Lee: Website