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b. 1987, South Korea

Keem Jiyoung Biography

Tragedy pulses within the paintings of Keem Jiyoung, who seeks to compel viewers to action through her formal and intuitive investigations into the history of structural mismanagement and social disaster.

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Early Years

Keem Jiyoung was born in 1987. She received her BFA from Kookmin University, Seoul, in 2011 and her MFA from Korea National University of Arts, Seoul, in 2016. Formative to her current work was the sinking of the MV Sewol on 16 April 2014, in which 304 individuals lost their lives.

Most of the victims were high school students. Fifteen crew members of the overcrowded ferry, which had been loaded with twice the legal limit of cargo on the day of its sinking, were convicted. Since then, the artist has made many works about the location of the sinking, as well as other infrastructural disasters.

Keem Jiyoung Artworks

The paintings of Keem Jiyoung reflect on the relationship between personal and collective tragedy and ask, in the face of such tragedy, how to utter the un-utterable.

'Glowing Hour'

Keem Jiyoung is best known for her series of oil paintings, 'Drawing for Glowing Hour' (2020–2022). Each of the small canvases represent candlelight at different stages. The larger works, titled 'Glowing Hour' are palimpsests of these various stages—pulsating, dark red canvases.

Candlelight, as well as being associated with practical, spiritual and mourning purposes, evokes the fleeting nature of human life. In depicting the flames, the artist aims to reflect her emotional state when watching the candle burn.

Candles have become a Korean symbol of peaceful protest in light of the Sewol ferry disaster, the vigils protesting President Park Geun-hye and the Itaewon disaster of 29 October 2022. In these paintings, the artist reflects on the emotional weight of these events.


Many of Keem Jiyoung's works seek to deepen a tragic collective experience into something that each viewer is compelled to feel on a personal, emotional level. After participating in a vigil at Paengmok Port—near the sinking of the Sewol ferry—the artist returned to her studio and made Wave (2015) by rubbing a charcoal stick on paper so hard that the paper tore.

Wave (2015) was later presented in the artist's first solo show, Tilted Land Even Wind at Gallery O'newWall E'JUHEON, Seoul. The exhibition gave physical form to the upheaval she felt after the disaster with works such as Wind (2015/2019), which converted the BPM of Paengmok Port's wind every day for a year after the incident into the beating of a drum.

Awards and Accolades

In 2021, Keem Jiyoung was announced as one of 20 finalists chosen for the 21st SONGEUN Art Award.

In 2023, Keem Jiyoung was selected as one of 13 artists for the Korean Artists Abroad programme supported by Korea Arts Management Service.


Keem Jiyoung has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.

Solo exhibitions include Scattering Breath, P21, Seoul (2022); Glow Breath Warmth, WESS, Seoul (2020); Wind Beyond the Closed Windows, Sansumunhwa, Seoul (2018), and Tilted Land Even Wind, O'newWall E'Juheon, Seoul (2015).

Group exhibitions include The Pearl Diver, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan (2021); Ring: a Circle and a Square, Korean Cultural Center in Hong Kong (2020); Young Korean Artists 2019: Liquid Glass Sea, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2019).

Website and Instagram

Keem Jiyoung's website can be found here, and her Instagram can be found here.


Articles on Keem Jiyoung have been published in various journals, magazines, and newspapers, including The Korea Times.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2023

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P21 contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea
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