brilliant 30: Yongchul Kim
Illustrating Source of Ideals and Existentialism of Human Beings.
Yongchul Kim, Walking into the Forest
Are forests necessary and valuable to our existence? People are entitled to their own opinions, but I doubt anyone would question the idea that trees play a crucial role in our lives. According to a set of statistics from the Korean Forestry Service in 2010, the forests' contribution to public benefit has been estimated at around 109.007 trillion Korean Won in value. Value is assessed based on the forests' cultivation and management, clean air, and their importance as a refuge for wildlife and nature reserve. This astounding figure is almost beyond comprehension. But this estimate alone cannot prove the full value of the forest.
Existentialist philosophers call Western metaphysics the history of existential oblivion. How do we define existential oblivion? In reality, we tend to make empirical interpretations of objects and our environment. Take streams in the forest, for example; a small body of water makes pleasant gurgling sounds. At the same time, a refreshing temperature around it also cools the body in the heat. We enjoy the changing colors of foliage from beneath the shade of a tree. Likewise, when we drink from a cup of water or when we hammer a nail into a wall, we rarely analyze the temperature of the water or the weight of the equipment.
We act upon empirical understanding of the object’s existence. However, present-day mankind tends to objectify the results of human activity and converts any and all things into monetary value. As a result, mankind is deprived of all existential experience; what is left is the shell of existence as defined by capital.
In his paintings, artist Yongchul Kim portrays his subjective experience of Jeombongsan Mountain in Gangwon-do Province, Korea. He discovers the law of survival among living organisms and posits these laws as the source of the ideals and existential experience of human beings. But here, we find that present-day natural science breaks apart the subject-object relationship between mankind and the cosmos. Mankind is no longer a subject of the world, and is no longer entirely in power over nature. What is illustrated in Kim’s works - the relationships among trees as part of the ecosystem, green grass growing in the woodlands and the movement of living things - articulates nature’s laws of survival; laws we have long forgotten. Through Kim’s contemporary art, unfamiliar scenes from nature are reproduced on canvas. The work aletheia reveals the hidden truths of existence in modern-day natural science.
Q. Could you briefly describe your work?
A. I employ heart-shapes, peonies and forests as my main motifs. I used heart-shapes widely as a symbol of reconciliation in commemoration of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. The shapes of peonies appeared in 1990 in an attempt to rediscover our culture and traditional legacy. Recently, I have been using nature as my main subject matter, to point out what mankind yearns for.
Q. The heart-shapes and peonies seem to represent the social issues and endeavors of humankind. Could you tell us how Walking into the Forest came to be?
A. I visited Gombaeryong last spring, and was pleasantly surprised by the magnificent forest ecology there. I documented my experience with photography and wove shapes and forms from the images together into a delightful composition.
The message I wish to convey to my audience is embedded in my work in two different languages.
First, the viewer should be able to perceive my work and understand its meaning through written text.
Second, I wish my audience to connect with my artwork using the language of their senses. -Yongchul Kim-
Q. What is the source of your inspiration?
A. I was most influenced by my Father. I remember benefiting from his support for my college tuition, and his words of advice about being proactive rather than reactive to this world. My work is not always inspired by light-hearted, happy things. In my younger days, the military regime acted as a stimulus for my work by providing insight into what our society should strive for. And I am continually inspired by nature.
Q. Is there a particular message you wish to convey to your audience?
A. As I mentioned above, I am influenced by traditional culture and by nature. I try to find specific elements within these themes and integrate them in one complete artwork. The message I wish to convey to my audience is embedded in my work in two different languages. First, the viewer should be able to perceive my work and understand its meaning through written text. Second, I wish my audience to connect with my artwork using the language of their senses.
Q. What do you have planned for your next project?
A. As an extension of my Walking into the Forest series, I wish to continue exploring the human character by juxtaposing the laws of survival of plants and animals, and the delight of its discovery; I wish to include pure elements derived from wildlife, woodland, the creek, fresh air and the sound of birds. Much like how the younger generation utilizes SNS as a platform for communication, I too wish to use my subject matter and paintings to communicate with my friends.
Did You Say Something_03. 1984. Acrylic and metallic pigment on canvas. 130 x 200cm
Blue Heart. 1984. Oil and Metallic Pigment on canvas. 116 x 200cm
On a Day Filled with Peonies_Hello. 2007. Acrylic and metallic pigment on canvas. 100 x 100cm
Chong-Chong Trees in Spring. 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 100 x 80.3cm
Peony Blossoms with Heart. 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 72.7 x 60.6cm
Yongchul Kim was born in Seoul and grew up at Ganghwa province before returning to Seoul for middle school; Yongchul spent his youth in the city. He acquired his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Hongik University, and is currently teaching in the painting department. He is active in his practice and has had numerous solo exhibitions - at Saem Hwarang, Gallery Boda, Cress Gallery, Hyundai Art Center Gallery and Yido Galery. He has also been involved in various group exhibitions including <12th Festival International de la Peinture> (Chateau Musee, 1980, France), <Korean Drawing> (Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA, 1981) and at Ewing Gallery of Art, Sungkok Art Museum and Total Museum.