The Korean Edward Hopper who reinvented Mexico through Google Maps
The streets of Durango were never more empty than in the works of An SoHyun, who only knows the country through her computer.
They say that Edward Hopper painted America without leaving his house, just looking out the window, and the same goes for the silent and concentrated muses in his paintings — women who seem to be ruminating through an idea that shakes them up inside.
Like the disturbing silence that precedes a natural disaster.
The streets of northern Durango have never been so calm as they are "trapped" in the works of Korean artist An SoHyun, who portrays a country that does not exist — or at least has not been portrayed in this way for a long time — a Mexico without crime in its streets, but also without the joy and excitement of its people in the markets or elsewhere.
The illustrator has been using Google Maps for a couple of years now to travel virtually to Durango, a city where she has never set foot.
She says she is fascinated by its architecture, the color of its houses and the unhurried people. For her, using the tool has allowed her to immerse herself in the true heart of Mexico as if it were the eyes of a hawk flying over the territory. An optimistic hawk, let's say; a bird that looks with the eyes of the East at a land very foreign from its own.
In an interview with El Universal, SoHyun explained that the first façade she saw was that of a school, and then it seemed too warm and peaceful, and she began to take an interest in the country.
Before that, the only thing the illustrator knew about Mexico was that it was very big, that it had abundant nature and that there were crime sprees with cartels and shootings.
However, not everything is negative. While the tourist scenes of cities like Durango have been portrayed for a long time, the Korean woman paints its daily life; the streets that do not appear in the photographs, the anonymous people who quietly sweep the entrance of their houses.
"I think it's a task for artists to find beauty in something ordinary that is far from people. So I look at the scenes every day and draw. I want to show that even a small place on the road can be a beautiful image," said the artist, who lives in Bucheon, South Korea and is known for her ability to capture everyday life.
"I just draw, then I think," said SoHyun.
There is no doubt that there is something very Zen about her creations, that in some way the Korean woman may not have reinvented Mexico after all, or may have done so in part. Perhaps she has extracted that contemplative, slow, immobile part that we, with our heads full of noise, do not appreciate.
Some of her pieces on display have had a profound effect on the Mexicans, even to the point of saying that they could not believe that a person who had never been to Mexico would have portrayed it so well.
"They were surprised that I created them by looking at Google Maps," she said.
"Seeing those places through your eyes makes me very happy," wrote a person from Tamaulipas, in northern Mexico, amazed that those same streets, plagued for more than a decade by crime, were still so calm and beautiful. As magical as a dream.