Henn Kim brings her evocative illustrations to life in book form


When South Korean illustrator Henn Kim was a teenager, she stopped talking for almost two years. As her crippling depression and anxiety silenced her, her mind came alive with words and images.

Art ultimately turned out to be Kim’s personal form of therapy, acting as a way for her to translate the fractured thoughts and complex feelings that constantly swirled in her head into the real world.

Speaking to CR about her “beautiful dark twisted fantasies” last year, Kim said, “People often think that beauty and darkness cannot coexist. In addition, fantasy is considered unrealistic.

“However, I like to express the beautiful darkness and distort the fantasies. By putting them all in the artwork, people think they all exist in the real world. I like the contradiction in my work process.

The illustrator’s striking monochrome aesthetic also resonated with people around the world. She has a cult following on Instagram, where she regularly chats with her 870,000 followers about her innermost thoughts, and has been commissioned by everyone from Unicef ​​to novelist Sally Rooney.

Kim’s latest project takes the form of Starry Night, Blurry Dreams, a collection of minimalist, surreal graphic poetry featuring everything from a girl with her head in a pencil sharpener to a couple entwined in a light bulb.

“My life was dark. That doesn’t mean my life has always been in the dark. I just had more shade and darkness than others because of my depression. Ironically, I was inspired by these shadows and darkness and was able to learn to see myself clearly in the dark. It influenced my art and my book, ”Kim explains of the creation of the book.

As with the rest of his work, he offers a poignant commentary on the complex emotions that affect us all at one time or another, from heartbreak to fantasy to heartbreak. When words aren’t enough to describe our emotions, Henn’s book is meant to be a friend in the dark.

Starry Night, Blurry Dreams is published by Bloomsbury on August 19; @henn_kim

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