brilliant 30: Suyeon Kim
Recreating the perished
through visual imagery
Suyeon Kim, “Reconstructing the Dematerialized"
Suyeon Kim’s work deliberately breaks down and then reconstructs visual objects. This act is the articulation of her society, environment and consciousness. Meta-reflections on the practice of representation make Kim an artist worthy of recognition in the contemporary art scene. Kim is neither tied down, nor opposed to the conventional painting genre. Far from being a “creative genius” or a “tech-savvy artist,” Kim approaches her subjects as a disengaged observer, and exhibits a unique aesthetic in her work.
Kim’s paintings often have a tarnished look; this is because she chooses various photographic images as her main material. Rather than depicting actual objects, Kim chooses to deconstruct her medium before reconstructing her materials as a 3D collage, then translates the final product onto canvas.
Washed-out shades in Kim’s work indicate the passage of time and fading memory, and manifest fragments of mortality. Suyeon Kim’s intentional exclusion of pen and paper for the initial stages of her work corresponds to her unconventional decision to create frameless ‘photo-sculpture’ series.
The artist’s way of relating to the world is to engage others in the fabrication process. The process of collecting and manipulating visual responses to keywords directed at varied groups within the audience is partly an artistic performance. It is also a decisive factor in determining the individuality of Kim’s work. Weather-beaten images correspond to traces of life, growing dim in our memories. Making collage mimics the process of making a movie set; it results from collaboration among different groups of people and through various stages of editing, structuring and producing. This gathering and progression is the main drive Kim’s work. She speaks of loss and sorrow in her visual languages.
Q. What inspired you to explore a whole new genre of art with this “paper drawing” in spite of your background as a painter?
I have always had to select images for myself to sketch or paint and I gradually grew bored with this process.So I started asking people around me to bring me pictures of their choices. I remember having been shy about exhibiting my own drawings because the entire process was very personal, but “paper drawing” gave me substantial reason to display these works.
Q. In that case, your most recent work, the <Shadow Box> Series, must have been a big leap for you. Was there a certain aspect you wished to emphasize when you shifted your practice from canvas to sculpture?
To emulate the subject of reproduction would result in just another hyper-realistic work of art. So I experimented with my medium. I feel as though taking a scrap of a photograph and placing it onto a sculpture is much like watching snippets of scenes in a movie trailer. Because of this emphasis on fragments of my work, I believe it is all the more important to be familiar with the exhibition space to understand context.
Taxidermy manifests our consciousness of the ‘living dead’ or ‘death in life.’ My work shares these ideas - which are drawn from personal inspiration - within wider social context. In this regard, to “share” can also be considered a critical keyword in my practice. - Suyeon Kim -
Q. Have you ever felt time pressure in order to make enough work to fill the space?
The fabrication time of my work is shorter than it looks. Of course, it would be great to have more time to prepare in advance, but more importantly, my work depends on randomness. This is why collecting visual responses from various people is very significant.
Q. The various stages of the process must require careful planning and development on your part. How do you get inspired?
I depend a lot more on visual images than on words when I express myself. Once, I wrote down some keywords prior to writing a short essay. That was my first and last essay. After every exhibition, I discard all my works. I do this because I believe installation itself is not the final product but, rather a process, part of the cycle of dematerialization and reconstruction.
Q. Would you agree that “memory” is an important keyword for your work?
Photographs are the taxidermy of our memories. I think photo shoots are types of “portraits” of the subjects. When I was growing up, I helped taking funeral portraits at my gradmother’s studio, seeing so many visitors who wished to take their funeral.. Thinking of them and their deaths just got me so depressed at that time. A similar feeling of sorrow occurred to me when I saw a bird lying dead on the highway and it almost felt like a stuffed bird. I searched for bird illustrations in books and decided to use this medium to recreate these images as a sculpture. After I continued to work with paper and did not put any limit on my image resources.
Q. What makes your art brilliant?
I don’t know if my work can be called brilliant, but there are some important keywords: “absence” and “spirit.” Absence is when subjects exist as ‘living in photographs’ and are no longer ‘living in the world,’ whereas spirits exist in our world as ‘dead beings’ or ‘dead lives.’ Thus, taxidermy manifests our consciousness of the ‘living dead’ or ‘death in life.’ My work shares these ideas - which are drawn from personal inspiration - within wider social context. In this regard, to “share” can also be considered a critical keyword in my practice.
Oil on canvas_50x50cm_2014
oil on canvas, 193.9 x 130.3 cm, 2012
Our sweet honeymoon 3
oil on canvas, 91 x 65.1 cm, 2009
installation view 1, 2014
installation view 2, 2014
Suyeon Kim was born in Seoul and gained her B.F.A. and M.F.A. in painting from Kukmin University. Kim held two solo exhibitions at Gallery Hyundaientitled <Shadow Box> in 2013 and <Greenhouse> in 2014 respectively. In 2010, she participated in group exhibitions at the Doosan Art Center, Seoul Art Center, Gallery White Block and the Common Center. In 2013, her work was featured in the <Abu Dhabi Korea Art Month Exhibition>. In 2014, Kim was awarded the Bexco Young Artist Award in Busan. Currently, Suyeon Kim is an artist in residence at Kumho Art Center.