On October 7th I went to see Kim Yong-Ik's exhibition, I Believe My Works Are Still Valid, at Spike Island in Bristol. I was introduced to his work by Spike curator Georgia Hall, who invited me to conduct a workshop there after seeing my mixed media stitched paper series during an Associates crit. As part of their monthly I Am Making Art public outreach programming, they invite artists to teach whose work is loosely associated with or inspired by the current artist on exhibit in their main gallery. Naturally, I was eager to learn more about Kim Yong-Ik's work.
Kim Yong-Ik is a South Korean artist, activist and teacher who trained as a Dansaekhwa (Korean monochrome painting) modernist. Early in his career, influenced by Duchamp and Minjung ("people's") art, he started "refusing" his identity as a modernist painter in response to the repressive political environment of a military dictatorship in the 1970s by leaving his folded canvases in their shipping containers to exhibit. He became known for this tension between embracing and distancing himself from modernist roots. His airbrush paintings on canvas that are removed from the frame and draped on the wall communicate this dichotomy.
In his Spike Island exhibition, Kim Yong-Ik installed site-specific paintings that engage with the exhibition space through pencil lines and handwriting directly on the gallery walls. He also hung pieces that add depth, layering and dimensionality to the flat surface of a canvas, using unconventional materials and techniques.
I appreciate the lighter touch he takes by inviting the viewer in for a closer look at quiet messages and wry comments. Curious observers who crouch down where wall meets floor and lean in to decipher his scribble are rewarded with layers of information and meaning. These actions rendered the work more accessible and intimate, only one degree of separation from the artist through his handwriting.
Seeing an artist of Kim's accomplishment work this way was informative, inspiring and validating for my own practice. What was surprising is that I didn't expect to experience his work as "installations" and yet this is exactly what I was drawn to.
This exhibition informs my thinking about my aim to move from two- to three-dimensional work, how to add layers of meaning and imply memory through text and materials, tactics for creating intimacy and transparency, and site-specific responses for an installation.
Spike Island (2016). Exhibition: Kim Yong-Ik. I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. Available at: http://www.spikeisland.org.uk/events/exhibitions/kim-yong-ik/ (Accessed: 21 October 2017).
artnet (2016). artnet Asks: Kim Yong-Ik and the Legacy of Modernism. Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/artnet-asks-kim-yong-ik-legacy-modernism-791375 (Accessed: 21 October 2017).
Kim Yong-Ik Exhibition guide