Art, in an abstract sense

 Artist Shin-hee Chin with her mixed-media work, ?The Bridge,? now on display at Pioneer Bluffs near Matfield Green. 'I want my art to be a bridge between my Christian faith and the secular world, using art as a medium,' she says.An exhibit of mixed-media paintings by Shin-hee Chin is on display through Sept. 29 at the Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs, near Matfield Green on Kansas Highway 177.

?This is a time when I can share my faith and art, so I called this exhibit ?Emer?gence,?? said Chin, associate professor of art and design at Tabor College and internationally exhibited artist from McPherson.

As her first abstract-only exhibit, ?Emergence? is a departure from others that have featured fabric and fiber, such as ?War and Peace? showcased in 2012 at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum in Abilene.

While some appreciate abstract art, Chin said, others do not.

?Fabric and fiber are pretty much accepted in (this area),? she said. ?It is very familiar, and the quality of the fabric is inviting, pretty much like a blanket and a quilt. So it is much more welcomed by the majority of the audiences.?

Among the works  displayed by Shin-hee Chin are four panels of mixed-media paintings based on Ecclesiastes in the BibleFor Chin, creating abstract works has required rigorous training in the realistic representation. Before emigrating from South Korea to the United States with husband Ku-sup in 1988, she trained at Hongik University, a well-known school for art and design, where she earned her master?s degree in fine arts.

?Abstract art is all about ideas based on the artistic expression that is taught in the art school, art principles such as balance and symmetry,? she said. ?Once you have that, you use the pure form of art?color, shape and line?to communicate your ideas to the viewers.?

As a Christian artist, Chin views abstract painting as a way to express her faith.

?Jesus, even though he was born a Jew, he is for everybody, every ethnic group,? she said. ?So I don?t want to depict him as one race. Maybe I could depict him as an Asian, but I don?t want to or deal with the theological issues about what is his race. His genealogy goes back to God?s genealogy, not specifically for one race or ethnic group.?

When it comes to communicating about abstract Christian concepts such as love and charity, Chin said, ?Those kind of things you cannot make representational. It is a very abstract form. It is about ideas. To communicate about those ideas, I have to use the abstract form.?

Yet, Chin said, she risks distancing herself from the general audience who think that Christian art is supposed to look like something.

?So it was my ongoing struggle,? Chin said. ?How can I show those ideas from the Bible as a faith into an art form? For me, (abstraction) is the language that I can communicate.?

?The Bridge,? now on display at Pioneer Bluff, illustrates Chin?s approach.

?The bridge is a connection from one place to another,? she said. ?It is myself and I also think about my Christian faith. I want my art to be a bridge between my Christian faith and the secular world, using art as a medium.?

Also among the works displayed are 4-inch by 5-inch mixed-media paintings that are part of her ?Emergence? series inspired by the Psalms, part of work she did over a 40-day period.

?Forty days is for me is a magical word, but it is also a very biblical kind of time,? Chin said.

She compares those small paintings to haiku, the Japanese style of verse. Traditional haiku consists of 17 sound units and uses sensory language to convey its message.

?Like haiku, that is small or very intimate,? she said. ?Then like haiku, it describes something, but the appreciation is for the viewers or the audience. They appreciate it a little differently. I painted something, but the interpretation is all for the viewers. It?s kind of open-ended.?

The Chins and their two children, Grace and Caleb, moved to Kansas from Baltimore, Md., in 2003, when husband Ku-sup started teaching at McPherson College. Shortly afterward, she started teaching painting and drawing at Tabor College.

Two abstract paintings convey Chin?s Asian perspective of the Kansas landscape, one in rich hues of red and the other in blues.

?I don?t make a beautiful landscape painting because others do that already,? Chin said. ?I kind of feel that living in Kansas is another extension of living in Korea.?

So Chin has incorporated fabric from Korea in those mixed-media paintings.

?The fabric are all Asian, and then I become a Kan?san,? she said, ?I have to recycle my resources. This is about how I?m adapting myself to the Kansas landscape. The rich soils, the vast skies, the hills are a little different flavor for my landscape.?

A reception for artists Chin and Benjamin Love is planned for 2-5 p.m. July 26 at the Gallery of Pioneer Bluffs.

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