Drawing from surrealism and using her imagination as her tool of choice, the Korean illustrator has mastered the technique of illusion in her busy scenes.
Boring or simple are two words that would least describe the work of Minet Kim. In her world, the illustrator crafts incredibly complex scenes that fall and lean into one another, confusing our depiction of reality and our understanding of linear narratives. A recent favourite of ours, Sunrise to Sunset, is an apt example as it pairs a dark, windy night-time scene with another where the characters come to life. With so much information to absorb on a single page, it’s mind-boggling yet addictive; the work is a refreshing take on the comic panel format.
Born and raised in Yeosu in Korea, Minet’s artistic journey began as she moved to New York to study for a BFA in illustration from SVA. After returning to Korea, she received an MFA in visual design from Seoul National University. Nowadays, you’ll find Minet teaching illustration to students at the university, running Orbit Studio with her colleague Jang Jin-hwa, practising her experimental craft and working on commercial projects in sync. To date, she’s worked with a plethora of clients, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bloomberg Business Wee, Medium, Sight and Sound Magazine, among others.
When asked about her inspiration, Minet reveals a few pillars. The first is her deep connection to human interaction and the exchange of ideas; she often engages in conversations with her colleague Jin-hwa at Orbit Studios, as well as with other people from different fields. This collaborative approach infuses her work with various ideas and influences, resulting in art that transcends the boundaries of conventional thinking. Additionally, she’s a surrealism enthusiast and applies traditional surrealist techniques to her work at any given chance, as seen in her master’s thesis, which saw her create a series themed around unconsciousness. “Also, my favourite figure is spherical,” she says. “It’s very interesting to see that different objects are placed next to each figure, which is interpreted differently.”
More than anything, Minet finds that her imagination is where the best ideas are formed – and where magic really happens. “I think that’s why I’ve come to enjoy imagining scenes that don’t make sense at all,” she explains, “or placing elements that don’t make sense in one space.” Once these ideas are generated, the process begins with the deconstruction of concepts into a web of related words, which are then transformed into rough sketches. Through this meticulous approach, she crafts her visuals, modifying them as and when until she lands on a composition she likes.
One of her most cherished projects, Square in Square, shows her ability to blend art with societal commentary. This series was born out of the tumultuous times of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and examines how individuals coped with self-quarantine and the increasing reliance on online media. The fixed square format, inspired by the structure of Instagram posts, showcases the significant role of digital media during quarantine.
Within these squares, Minet explores the intriguing world of surrealism while juxtaposing seemingly unrelated objects with her protagonist – the spherical figure – which ultimately paves the way for a multitude of interpretations. “Currently, media is expanding and changing into virtual spaces,” she says, “and I think it’s most memorable because it’s a work that makes us think about how this development affects people’s lives and what it will do in the future.”