Wonhee Delgado embodies the delights of making art dynamic | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Wonhee Delgado
Wonhee Delgado covers the January 2024 issue of Lifestyle.INQ.

Marking her first solo exhibition in Manila, Korean artist Wonhee “Whee” Delgado braves new directions in her art practice



Natural light streams into the white walls of Wonhee’s studio as she careens back and forth. After a quick pause in front of a set of paintings, she decides on a new configuration. Together with the Lifestyle.INQ team, we rearrange furniture, hauling multicolored bottles of paint and gel mediums to the other side of the room. 

If there is something clear about Wonhee’s personality, it’s that she knows what she wants, and how she wants it. Her demeanor matches her artist name, “Whee”—an expression brimming with excitement, capturing a sense of delight and pleasure, as well as dynamic movement. 


Multicultural Roots in Art

Wonhee first moved to the Philippines after marrying her husband, Rashid Delgado in October 2019. This chapter coincided with the global pandemic, during which she experienced the joys and challenges of becoming a new mother. At present, the artist spends half of the year in Seoul, where she also has a studio, and the other half in Manila, moving back and forth every three months. 

Wonhee Delgado
Whee at work. Photos: JT Fernandez.

While at present, she moves through countries with ease, her cross-cultural way of life began early on. 

For high school, she studied in the United States. Wonhee recalls a fond memory of meeting legendary artist Chuck Close in New York, “It was such an awesome encounter. I went up to him and said, ‘I’m so honored to meet you. I want to be an artist like you.’”

Wonhee has always known what she wanted to be. Her mother, Haesook Kim, was an educator at the prestigious Ehwa Woman’s University in South Korea. Also an artist, she is known for her work, which Wonhee describes as “drawings layered by wax mediums, charcoals, and even leather.” She says,


“I remember going to her studio since I was young, like, three [years old].

Professional artists paint on the wall so I would paint on the wall along with my mother. That’s one of my earliest memories… It became very natural for me to be in the art field.”


With solid foundations in art, she continued her studies in the US, completing her undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Sculpture Degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. Afterward, she continued to study sculpture and obtained her Master of Fine Arts at Seoul Natural University. She says on her choice to study sculpture as a medium,


“I took sculpture because I’ve been painting all my life… Painting is the easiest for me. It’s intuitive since I’ve been painting since I was very young.”


Wonhee Delgado
After an early start in art, and a break in-between, Wonhee is returning to her art practice, full throttle.

Back in Korea, she won awards for a slew of national exhibitions, while also participating in several nonprofit shows. And then, she began working in a corporate magazine for many years. While achieving great success in her corporate career, she began to move back into art slowly, eventually realizing that she wanted to dive back into her art practice, full throttle.


“Supreme Garden”

After joining a fundraising show “showcACe” at Assumption College, and iterations of the group exhibitions ”Art Detour” at Leon Gallery in 2021 and 2022, “Supreme Garden,” which debuted from November 16 to 30, 2023, was Wonhee Delgado’s first solo exhibition in the Philippines. 

She describes the style as divided into two series: the “Fantasy Collage Series” and the “Fantasy Nature Series.” 

With a history of collage work that connects to her sculptural studies, she transfers this process into her painting. The compositions in the “Fantasy Collage Series” feature more figurative work, with sensual renditions of the nude juxtaposed against foliage and vibrant fruit in a kind of collage. Focused on texture, the layers build a surreal, mysterious world within the canvas. She says, 


“I collect images that seem to have meaning to me personally, than what is actually on the surface… I want you to dive into the paintings, try to figure out how they’re related to each other and what kind of narrative they have.”


Wonhee Delgado
Yummy, acrylic on canvas 63 x 47 in. 2021

“This is my inner story when I was making it,” she says. After giving birth, Wonhee shares that she was in a state of the “Lowest kind of female confidence… I wanted to pick something a little bit sexy, but then also juxtaposed with something of classical beauty.” 

In her “Fantasy Nature Series,” the paintings present nature through drips, veering on abstraction. Wonhee is often quoted for praising the lush nature in the Philippines. She gushes over the abundant growth of flowers and trees in a nearby park,

“I can really feel the energy and how they live. They just keep growing, but they also entangle each other. I feel like they’re affecting each other.”

Wonhee Delgado
Starry Night, oil and watercolor on canvas, 48 x 48 in. 2023

On both series in her solo exhibit, she says, “The title ‘Supreme Yard’ is derived from the collage series, how you’re looking outwards… But then, on the other hand, the nature series is looking into nature, the inner side. They have the nature, outer and inner, combined together. I thought as a whole, it could be called, ‘Supreme.’ ”


An Artist Who Braves New Styles

Fortune favors the brave, and while many artists tend to adhere to a specific style throughout their careers, Wonhee is gearing up to try different stylistic directions. While Whee’s earlier work was more figurative, and her current practice is heavily influenced by her sculptural background and research in conceptual art, she is planning to try her hand at new techniques. 

At the time, she is planning to travel back to Korea to learn Asian painting, finding spaces where she can learn about Asian painting and its complexities of pigment, derived from stones, shells, and nature. 

Wonhee Delgado
What sets the artist apart is not just a thirst to learn more about the essentials of painting, but a bravery to venture into uncharted territories, as Whee ventures into the delicate styles of Asian painting.

What sets the artist apart is not just a thirst to learn more about the essentials of painting, but a bravery to venture into uncharted territories. She says,


“I feel like after this solo exhibition, this is just one finished chapter of my art practice.

I think some of the future art pieces are going to be similar… But then I am reasonably interested in Asian art like Chinese, Korean, and even Southeast Asian art.”


Traditionally, schools of art are divided into Western and Asian Art Studies. This sudden shift we expect from Wonhee’s work is a far cry from her gushing abstract expressionist nature scenes. With her new venture into Asian art, she plans to study the materials that have more transparent, delicate paper or silks, with techniques focused on gentle movements and meticulous attention. 

This kind of flexibility can be rare in the path of other artists, showing security in herself as a painter, with a sense of daring. She expresses a desire to incorporate her past styles. She says, “I think that quality, the layering, and that kind of visceral texture goes with what I’m doing.“

Wonhee Delgado
Photo: JT Fernandez.

Wonhee Delgado shares, 


“I think people are afraid of changing their style… But then I think, artists need to always confront, and be confident about putting their ideas out. And that’s what I tried to do, and what I’m going to do.”


Despite moving through international borders constantly, and keeping a disciplined art practice, Wonhee always puts her family first. She says, “I think there are two things that are very important to me in life now: One is family and the second one is my career.”

As Wonhee prepares to return to Korea with her family and deepen her Asian art studies, we look forward to delighting in the movement of her future work, as dynamic as the artist holding the brush. 


Photography by JT Fernandez

Creative Direction by Julia Elaine Lim

Production assistance by Colleen Cosme and Martin Agustin

Produced by Ria Prieto

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