The Haunting Portraits of KwangHo Shin

One of the hardest things about portraiture is capturing the essence of the person who is sitting for you. What is it that really makes a person unique? Is it their smile? The way they hold their head? For KwangHo Shin, it's almost always in the eyes.

You probably haven't heard of him yet since he's a relatively new artist on the scene, but his portraits are chaotic and breathtaking. They're like a bizarrely beautiful nightmare, one that's disconcerting and haunting but also one you aren't totally sure you want to wake up from. Fortunately for all of us, he's an extremely prolific artist and has already created a huge body of work to keep the dream alive.

Typically, all of his focus goes into the eyes of his subjects, and the rest of the canvases become a fantastical blend of abstraction and expressionism. Some people think that abstract artists go into that genre because they wouldn't be able to make it in a more "classical" field, but Shin clearly shows that isn't the case. Some of his works are so abstract that they barely classify as portraits at all, but some of them strike a balance that makes his more classical talents obvious.

Even when he abandons the eyes (and sometimes the entire face), there's something powerful about the way that he abstracts them. The human element still shines through, as you can see in the careful detail of the hands in the untitled portrait below. The abstracted area of the face plays up our natural instinct to find faces in disconnected shapes, made even more disconcerting by the fact that our brain knows that's where a face is supposed to be.

As I mentioned earlier, Shin is relatively new to the art world, since he just graduated from Keimyung University in South Korea in 2009 and then burst onto the art scene in 2013. He's now working out of a studio in Seoul and still developing his style, experimenting with various iterations of his idea of abstract portraiture, but he's already selling paintings left right and center. He usually works from subject photographs, but has mentioned repeatedly in interviews that he doesn't usually have a plan for the end product of his work, he just dives in headfirst and sees what happens.

To top it all off, in 2013 he was named to the Saatchi Art 'One to Watch' list. The list is curated by the online version of the Saatchi Gallery and helps individual buyers and collectors identify living artists who might become very big names in the future. As you probably know, supporting living artists is a passion of mine and here's a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a rapidly growing star!