Gazing at the sky, turning one's eyes to the heavens, is often a gesture of escape, even if only for that moment. In that elevated place, there are no burdensome worries nor are there issues that demand attention. Although humanity cannot grasp the sky or the heavens, it has been gazed upon through all our history as a subject of great curiosity and mystery. Perhaps it was this sense of the transcendent unknown attributed to the general direction of up that has bestowed upon humanity the belief of posthumous ascension.
The year 2020 was tumultuous for many artists, and for Suyeon Kim, it came as a catalyst for change. For years, she had been busy on the residency circuit, moving and creating, so engrossed that she had no margin to engage with what was happening around her life. Then last year she entered a residency in Seoul, and was able to commute regularly to the studio. When the commute became regular and the view outside the window also became routine, only the weather offered any variation to the scenery. When the pentecostal monsoon of 2020 washed over the streets of Seoul, Kim found herself gazing into the heavy curtains of rainfall.
In her latest solo exhibition, Suyeon Kim transposed her impression of the daily meteorological conditions during the monsoon season of 2020 on canvas. From one minute to the next, nature is whimsical; effervescent. Painters can be given inspiration or instructions on what to draw, but they are rarely given details, directions, or how to complete their work. Kim paid careful attention to the ambiance of the precipitous rainfall and transposed her impression unto canvas, on the day of painting. She purchased the necessary materials from the art supply store, created the objet and the impression of the weather within the grid space. The grid essentially plots the coordinates of rainfall or snowfall.
Raindrops 5 is an impression of rainfall one day when the droplets appeared particularly black. The numbers within represent the order of their downward arrival and the size of the splash created upon touching the surface of the ground. Raindrops 4 is based on Kim's impression of the earliest droplets that herald rain, while The Black Light After the Rainbow is inspired by the prismatic effect of water droplets in the sky. Sleet captures the moment sleet turns into rain, and the traces left behind by rain. The artist conveys an impression of light expressed by colorful strings wrapped around the disc, the sense of wind presented as flower petals falling off.
Weather is never constant. It is constantly changing in arbitrary ways. Kim paints the ambiance of such transience: perhaps ambiance, perhaps arbitrary interpretation or imagination. The rain, snow, rainbow, and wind painted by her are not how they appeared originally, but what she found in unexpected forms. The paintings are impressions of weather conditions projected upon objects, and her thoughts and handiwork between nature and art, impression and imagination, accuracy and in accuracy, filling and emptying, and thoughts upon nature.
Kim encountered a foreign video of religious activities, where the faithful congregation shouted 'hold me' with ardent zeal, the capitalised captions repeatedly flashing HOLD ME on screen. Struggling with her own burdens, during the year, the mantra-like 'hold me' sounded like it was directed at her. The 'Hold Me' series was sparked by that video motif, and she layered it as typography over a photo scenery that 'held' her gaze. Instead of alphabetical text, she used International Sign Language to denote 'hold me', as the visceral gesture of sign language also caught her attention.
Hold Me includes all works created from a visualisation of painted expressions of meteorological events with international Sign Language. Kim uses all creative means necessary to present things that at one time or other 'held' her gaze. From the rain and snow precipitated from the sky, to rainbows, wind, lightnings, to encounters in the mundane, objects draw the gaze, but cannot hold it for long. Scenes are born in the tangent between the observing self and the occurring world. They are possible only through the existence of the self, perception of the outside world, and the observation of it. As such, painting scenes is not simply a representation of nature, but an outward expression of how it was perceived. Reading the physicality and impressions of a subject is truly exclusive to the artist's realm. Kim may have been burdened that her paintings might be subjectifications, but that is by definition the best one can do.
Press release courtesy GALLERY2.