Mino’s Ohnim paints headless giraffes as symbols of limitless ambition
Mino from boy band Winner paints as Ohnim. His first solo show, “Thanking You,” opened Friday at stART PLUS gallery in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul.
The exhibition includes more than 20 oil and acrylic pieces, with the second floor of the gallery displaying his newest pieces and the third floor showing older works. English captions are available for all the paintings.
His newest pieces are inspired by giraffes, an animal with which Ohnim connects.
“Giraffes are unique in that they can look up higher than anything else with their long necks, and as for me, growing up with a lot of ambition, I have always wanted to climb to the highest places and live a fierce life,” Ohnim told the press at the gallery on Thursday. “These animals remind me of the life that I have and continue to strive for.”
Ohnim’s pieces also reflect his life as a popular singer and entertainer.
“Being a celebrity is sometimes about putting on a show, much like animals in a circus,” he said, as he described his intentions behind “Giraffe In My Eyes (Circus)”. “The painting also portrays the precariousness of the giraffe with its four hooves teetering atop a ball.”
He also pointed out the heart patterns drawn into the bodies of his giraffes. “They reflect all the love that I receive and all the love that I feel I must return,” he said.
Ohnim initially debuted as a rapper in the boy band Winner under YG Entertainment in 2014 with the full-length album “2014 S/S.” The group currently has three more members: Jinwoo, Seunghoon and Seungyoon. The band is known for songs like “Empty” (2014), “Baby Baby” (2016), “Really Really” (2017) and “Ah Yeah” (2019). In 2018, Mino released 12-track “XX,” a solo album with 12 tracks. He is also an entertainer, best known for appearing “New Journey to the West” (2017-2021), a reality game show. He appeared in his first film in August as a supporting character in “Seoul Vibe,” a Netflix production.
He debuted as an artist in December 2019, with three of his works included in the Special Exhibition for Emerging Artists at the Seongnam Arts Center’s 808 Gallery. He uses the alias Ohnim as an artist. It is the backward spelling of his first name Min-ho.
Ohnim exhibited his pieces at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2021 and 2022, becoming the first Korean singer to achieve the feat. In January, Ohnim participated in an exhibition in Austria to celebrate the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Austria.
“I was one of those kids who would doodle all over places,” said Ohnim. “Though I became a singer, I continued drawing as a hobby. But more and more, I wanted to make this more than a hobby and decided to seriously paint and began studying art by myself.
“Art is a form of release for me. If I am not able to release this creativity inside of me, I feel like bursting. I also love art because it lets me completely focus on just creating, and blocks any unnecessary thoughts.”
What is unique about the giraffes in Ohnim’s paintings is that most of them are cut off at the top.
Ohnim said that he didn’t complete the giraffes because he wanted the paintings to reflect a man’s limitless ambition. “This way, it is impossible to see how high its neck stretches.”
The “Thanking You” exhibition also includes a separate, small space, in remembrance of Ohnim’s dad, who passed away earlier this year. The room includes a large painting with a letter written to his father in the middle.
“My father struggled with a disease for about five years before passing away,” said Ohnim. “In the past, when I did a concert, he always came, but after getting sick, he couldn’t come because he was in the hospital. And I got used to that. Later, I realized that I have forgotten to share my joys with my father. I thought that must have made my father very lonely, so I created an independent space dedicated to him.”
“Thanking You- Ohnim Solo Exhibition” will run through Jan. 15, 2023.