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Home Latest News Hun Kyu Kim's paintings give Korean tradition a mind-bending contemporary spin

Hun Kyu Kim’s paintings give Korean tradition a mind-bending contemporary spin

Written by Oscar Holland, CNNSeoul, South Korea

The nearer you have a look at Hun Kyu Kim’s work, the extra disquieting they change into.

At first look, the South Korean artist’s creations mix the cutesiness of Japanese anime with the allegorical storytelling of centuries-old Buddhist scrolls. Anthropomorphic animals act out countless narratives in colourful, cartoonish worlds.

However the satan is, nearly actually, within the particulars.

Beleaguered catfish, sword-wielding canines and armored rodents commit acts of violence, malice and mischief, their expressions contorted, their eyes bloodshot and yellow, their faces generally partly decomposed. Directly amusing and grotesque, the works put a contemporary spin on the historic portray types that Kim spent nearly a decade mastering.

“I need to be a bridge between the previous and the up to date,” he instructed CNN in Seoul, South Korea, the place he just lately confirmed nearly a dozen new works on the metropolis’s inaugural Frieze art fair.
One of Kim's new paintings, "Too Cool for Shopping," depicts a chaotic mall.

One in every of Kim’s new work, “Too Cool for Procuring,” depicts a chaotic mall. Credit score: Hun Kyu Kim/Excessive Artwork

The 36-year-old is normally based mostly in East London, the place he spends as much as 10 hours a day, seven days per week, engaged on his intricate artwork. However earlier than leaving his house nation to check on the UK’s Royal School of Artwork seven years in the past, he underwent a standard and extremely technical schooling in Seoul Nationwide College’s Oriental Portray program. The course required him to painstakingly reproduce Asian masterpieces and brushwork strategies from centuries previous.

“My grasp was very strict — he did not need me to experiment,” Kim recalled. “They actually wished me to comply with their orders, as a result of it is nearly a perception (system) or a strict construction that they need the subsequent era to inherit.”

Throughout his research, Kim discovered himself significantly drawn to silk work from the Goryeo dynasty, a time when Buddhism flourished on the Korean peninsula. Just like the Buddhist scrolls he was impressed by, his personal detailed works are painted in skinny, delicate strains utilizing wealthy natural pigments. He too makes use of silk as his canvas, tracing pictures from paper sketches earlier than bringing them to life with a tiny paintbrush.

Within the course of, Kim takes the historic artwork kind into current day, naming inspirations that vary from Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch to Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. (“I used to be a part of the era that was influenced by anime,” Kim mentioned, referring to South Korea’s determination to carry a long-standing ban on Japanese animation within the late Nineteen Nineties.)

Centering his work round a primary theme, be it a location or sort of animal, he imagines — after which paints — small tales that exist independently whereas additionally relating to 1 one other. However as an alternative of depicting spiritual narratives like his historic forebears, his microcosmic worlds are steeped in satire.

"Drowning," one of almost a dozen of Kim's paintings displayed at the recent Frieze Seoul art fair.

“Drowning,” considered one of nearly a dozen of Kim’s work displayed on the current Frieze Seoul artwork honest. Credit score: Hun Kyu Kim/Excessive Artwork

The painter’s newest works, proven at Frieze Seoul by way of the Paris-based gallery High Art, ooze with iconoclastic swipes at commercialism, social hierarchy and state authority.

In “Becoming Room N.7,” animal police stalk a altering room occupied by hairless rabbits, considered one of which seems to have been skinned, its pelt hanging from a close-by hook. “Too Cool for Procuring” depicts a lawless mall full with escalator sword fights and a swarm of bugs fought off with heavy artillery. “Empty Work of the Damaged Hearted,” in the meantime, takes the type of a labyrinthine artwork honest (not in contrast to the one wherein the portray hung), with partition partitions and film frames serving as portals to totally different — however equally chaotic — worlds.

Evolving views

These new work (the costliest of which offered for round $60,000) are maybe Kim’s most complicated thus far. Just like the unimaginable Penrose stairs — the paradoxical phantasm of an ever-climbing staircase — his artwork more and more performs with viewers’ sense of perspective. Current on a number of planes without delay, Kim’s worlds fold into each other to unsettling impact. Three of the work he created for Frieze Seoul characteristic the phrase “uncomfortable” of their titles.

But, having beforehand supplied commentaries on present affairs, the painter says his new works are free from the politics in items from his early profession.

“I used to assume that artwork and politics have been the identical factor, and that by displaying my work I may speak about political points,” he mentioned. “These days, I strive to not speak a lot. As an alternative, I unfold pictures in my work very randomly, and destroy (any sense) of the place the beginning is and the place the top is.

“I do not assume I am providing some form of lesson by means of my work,” he added. “Slightly, I need to present pictures which might be towards logical thought.”

"Uncomfortable Artist Residency" plays with viewers' sense of perspective.

“Uncomfortable Artist Residency” performs with viewers’ sense of perspective. Credit score: Hun Kyu Kim/Excessive Artwork

The depoliticization of Kim’s work stems, partly, from his dismay at current occasions in South Korea and around the globe, he mentioned, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for example. “I used to assume our world was progressing in the appropriate manner, however observing the form of historic tragedies, I believe that generally it’s not. I really feel like I used to be unsuitable. I really feel like I used to be constructing an enormous fortress however it completely collapsed, and I am attempting to rebuild it once more.”

His strategies have modified, too. What was as soon as a meticulously deliberate portray course of is more and more improvised, with the painter generally starting in the midst of an image and dealing outward.

The outcomes, nonetheless, are not any much less intricate. And Kim’s work might now be extra amenable to audiences in South Korea, the place speaking about political points continues to be “thought of a form of taboo,” he mentioned.

Talking on the eve of his Frieze Seoul presentation — his first time displaying a physique of labor in his house nation — the painter expressed uncertainty about how his artwork can be acquired by his compatriots.

“There is a slight distinction between the UK viewers and the South Korean viewers, however I believe they will meet on the similar level ultimately.”

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