“To create something new is always a challenge,” says artist Dabin Ahn ‘04, “especially when the world is already filled with talented artists.” A contemporary painter based in Chicago, Illinois, Dabin hopes to accomplish his goal of having his first solo exhibition in the United States at a Chicago-based gallery this summer. Having already participated in several solo exhibitions in his home in Seoul, South Korea, Dabin knows that despite all he has achieved thus far, he is still “at the start of a long journey.”
After Fay, Dabin attended Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and then went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he studied painting. Two years of required military service in South Korea necessitated a “frustrating” forced hiatus from painting, after which he returned to his education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he graduated last year.
Recently, Dabin came back to Fay to visit with art teacher Jane McGinty, who Dabin credits with first helping him discover his talent for art. He describes her class as a miniature version of art school.
“She gave us experience with a variety of media— painting, drawing and making ceramics—which is actually the same process that you go through in the first year of art school,“ he says. His current creative process also mimics a painting process that he learned at Fay, where students are sometimes asked to choose an image that they like and replicate it with paint. “I find this to be an efficient way of working, since I rarely end up with a painting that I don’t like.”
During his ninth grade year at Fay, Dabin came up with the idea to create a piece of art that would include every member of the Class of 2004. Working with then-ninth grade class dean Chips Norcross, Dabin projected a silhouette of each student onto a wall, outlined the silhouette by hand, and filled in each one with paint on an individual plaque. The piece, which is still on display above the library stairs in the Root Building, was Dabin’s first painting to be hung on a wall for exhibition. “The reaction that I got from that piece fascinated me,” recalls Dabin, “and that’s when I decided that I wanted to be a serious painter.”
Dabin’s most recent paintings reflect a departure from his earlier style, which focused on realistic portraits and still lifes rendered in a limited palette. “My new paintings are much more vibrant, incorporating vivid colors such as yellows and reds,” he explains. He has also been experimenting with multiple dimensions, adding wood to his canvases to change their shape, noting, “It makes my work more interesting, both visually and conceptually.”