Brief Reflections on Daily Life: the Recorded Layers of Sensibility
Science of Art
Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture
‘What to draw?’ This should be an inevitable question for artists who want to convey their intentions and messages through painting. In response to this question, Hyena Kim, instead of dealing with a huge discourse or narrative, presents works that have recorded the beauty of everyday life captured through interaction with the scenes she encounters in everyday life as well as the trifling objects around her such as her studio, flowers and plants. The works showcased in the solo exhibition “Days” faithfully record the artist’s daily like a diary, such as her communion with the scenery encountered on a walk on the hill at the back of her place, the brush holder with high and low brushes placed in the studio, the fruit basket and the flowerpot next to it. Her new works faithfully represent the layers of emotions like paints applied one after another on the canvas.
Records of interaction with the little things
Through Hyena Kim’s works for the exhibition, which are mainly composed of records of daily life arranged orderly in pastel tones, we feel that during the moments depicted in the works she had deep communication with the small things in daily life.
First of all, the works based on the artist’s walks stand out. It seems the scenery of the ground covered with colorful fallen leaves that she comes across on her daily walk to the hill behind her place has become a perfect subject-matter for her. She recorded the scenes by capturing the sunlight pouring over the scene in warm pastel-toned works Untitled and Lemonish. Small circles and leaf shapes are repeatedly superimposed to create a smooth rhythm on the canvas. The composition gives the sense that the viewer is standing at the center of a carpet of colorful fallen leaves, filling the entire canvas homogeneously with fallen leaves, conveying a special sense of sympathy as if we are in the middle of a forest.
Through this exhibition, the artist unfolds the record of various experiences she has had in her daily life. Finding KoKo captures the moment of having fun with the dog Koko that accompanied her on a walk, and Days vividly depicts a fruit basket and potted plant placed in the corner of the studio with lively brushstrokes. The two paintings straightforwardly show the special layers of sensibility derived from communication with the trivial objects surrounding the artist, and fully emit the charm of daily life recorded purely and happily.
Moreover, those who watch Journey into the Night, a piece that effectively depicts the dim evening walk, and Love Eggs, an interesting expression of eggs, can clearly understand how the artist perceives, enjoys, and interacts with the little things of everyday life. Even in repeated daily routine in which there is nothing new or beautiful, everything touched by the artist’s gaze is transformed into a special beauty and recorded on the canvas like falling under a spell. Looking at such a picture diary, we feel the familiarity and have a strange pleasure. The novel charm coming from the record of sympathy for the trivial, without having to be heavily armed with some grand narratives or cutting-edge concepts, is the result of the artist’s maturity in playing out a scenario that could be boring otherwise.
Evolution of drawing-like attributes
After seeing the works for this exhibition that recorded the artist’s daily life and specific emotions, I had a dreamy impression, and at the same time, I could identify the characteristics of drawing. This is the result of the works being finished so that they can be guessed from the flickering colors and the suggestive outlines of the forms without detailed depiction of the objects. In particular, the colors drawn as if hurled on the canvas instantaneously or the outlines of objects drawn quickly have a strong drawing-like attribute that fully captures the artist’s movements.
The use of lines that are directly exposed without hesitation, as if trying to capture the idea derived from the interaction with the object, rather than the realistic representation of the object, creates a vivid tension on the canvas.
Fruit Punch and Greenish Island are rhythmically harmonized with lines that express the characteristics of the outer shapes and atmosphere of the objects on the colored canvas. Although there are changes in medium and form, the strong drawing-like traits, which has characterized her work so far, continues to evolve and persist.
A closer look at the colored fields of Paradise Garden confirms these characteristics in detail. The paints are repeatedly drawn with a brush like some lines, and vertically drawn lines and lines of various thicknesses in different directions are arranged closely spaced to give a firmly woven feel. It gives a feeling similar to that expressed by varying the thickness and direction with various pastels. However, the drawing-like style shown in Hyena Kim’s work is different in that it is softer and more fluid than the drawing done by hard media (pastel, conté, charcoal, pencil, etc.). This is an effect created by the oil paints being pushed and reapplied before drying. In particular, in the part where the background colors are revealed among the drawn lines, the background colors and the re-applied colors are gently blended, creating a mysterious atmosphere. In this way, the lines filling the areas of the canvas are repetitively drawn and filled through various variations in thickness, revealing the underlying colors and the colors painted over that harmonize with each other. This plays an important role in completing mystical and dreamy effects.
This method is a characteristic that enriches the artist’s work and fully conveys the feeling that constitutes emotional layers. Drawing experiments using the properties of media continue in an evolved way.
Ambivalent approach, abstract and concrete. . .
The first impression of Hyena Kim‘s works is that they look like abstract paintings in which the harmony of colors and arrangement of shapes are well balanced. However, if you take a close look based on the titles of works, you can see the similarity in form and recognize the object reproduced on the canvas. The piece that shows these characteristics well is Days.
In this work, the main colors of yellow and green are harmonized first, and various colors such as red and light purple are scattered throughout the canvas. It is an abstract painting that seems to express the feeling full of energy that rises like the spring haze by orchestrating the lines briskly drawn as outlines. However, if you look at the work a little closely, you will notice the outline that gives a certain shape and order while crossing the color surfaces somewhat conspicuously. If we make an inference from the morphological similarity created by the lines depicting the outer shape drawn at the bottom left of the canvas, we can identify a fruit basket and fruits. If the same method is applied to the right side of the painting, we can find a foliage plant with long, large leaves. It is fun to discover these images that are almost hidden, and this allows the viewer to focus more on the work.
The depiction of objects which look concrete and abstract simultaneously through emotional interaction with specific objects is a notable aspect that constitutes the key formal beauty of Hyena Kim’s work. However, if the title of a work is abstract, the interpretation becomes complicated. In the case of White Atmosphere, the color is identified through the title, but there is no discernible, concrete form. So, we have to use our imagination to interpret and guess. In other words, it is an opportunity for free imagination, and at the same time, it allows us to experience the difficulty that comes from the absence of a specific object to refer to.
In this way, Hyena Kim offers us opportunities to recognize and feel objects from a variety of perspectives, crossing the boundaries of representation and abstraction. Works that express certain objects based on the artist’s own memories and feelings emit a free and unique feeling like the poetic title attached to each piece. It is not important to ascertain whether the outcome of the subjective re-creation of the object by the artist is a realistic or abstract representation of the object. What the artist is interested in is how an object is expressed through what feeling, and how it is communicated and understood by the viewers. Her experiments go beyond the debate over the boundaries of abstraction and representation, and present a perspective that prioritizes feeling.
Concentration on emotions and sensations
Hyena Kim’s representational work, which had attracted the attention of art critics since 2005, had a strong drawing-like quality. Since 2011, she has gone through the process of experimenting with abstract expressions by crossing out the medium of oil painting and figurative objects in the medium and the expression of objects. There has been a sea change in her art, making her own distinct style. After about 10 years of various approaches and experiments, her recent works seem to have reached maturity both in terms of form and content, making a clear difference from previous works.
What triggered the change for this painter? Regarding the motive behind it, she said, “Perhaps I have become too familiar with the materials and the repetitive subject-matters I drew on so often; one day I suddenly felt numb.” She said: “There was no special reason or moment, but I was pretty tired of the materials that I repeated every time, and at the same time, I was tired of the compulsion focused on the scale, as well as of the objects that were repeated in terms of content. There was a question about my own work that I had delved into from 2005 to the time before the abstract change. This question led to the desire to experiment with new materials and objects, which also naturally led to the change to abstraction. So, this has become a driving force for me to enjoy working.”
The change from figurative expression to abstract one in Hyena Kim’s work is evident in her solo exhibition held at Zaha Museum in 2013. Those works are completely different from her previous works in the materials and depiction of objects. They do not show concrete human figures, but instead the abstractness that the lines drawn rapidly that dominate the canvas are entangled with one another or traverse the canvas dividing it into large sections. The characteristics of these changes are greatly highlighted in Winter. When you look at this piece, where lines are drawn without hesitation on a generally white background, it looks like an ambiguous painting composed of abstract and simple lines. We cannot be sure whether it is the lyricism of the branches stretched out against the cold winter sky after the falling of snow, or the lyricism of the scenery where snow has melted only on the road as you see from a high hill the day after the snowfall. This work makes the viewer imagine in many ways based on the title of the work, leading the viewer to various imaginations, giving meaning to the lines drawn on the canvas.
Drawing on the title of the work ‘winter’ as a clue, we make various analogies reminiscent of winter. But the picture, where the representation of a specific object has already disappeared, is only felt as a world full of winter emotions and sensations. It is not possible to clearly identify the object that can be embodied with a certain morphological analogy that is represented by the lines. What the artist expresses is not a figurative representation of the word presented as the title of the work, but the emotions and sensations that are the result of the sufficient communication with the objects. Hence, this abstract way of expression is natural. By expressing the object through the artist’s subjective emotions and sensations in this way, she abolishes the condition of the representation of the object’s own intrinsic form. Through this, she acquires the infinite possibility of interpretation of the object and the basis for untrammeled expression.
The development of Hyena Kim’s work centered on reconstruction, which is continuously experimented and unfolded through this process, brings the possibility of interpretation and freedom of expression. However, in proportion to this advantage, there is also the risk that the result of this process sometimes can hardly be delivered to and understood in a tangible form by the spectators, not to mention that it is difficult to gain sympathy. But she puts an end to these concerns, showing they are only unfounded fears. One may have a suspicion that her work has a tendency to be too emotionally melodramatic. However, the atmosphere and feeling that she has stacked up with a sincere approach and accurate depiction are understood and win the sympathy of the viewer as solid layers of sensibility that confirms the meaning of the words presented to the audience as the titles of her works. By presenting a sensuous canvas that can be intuitively understood, she skillfully wins the sympathy of others even with abstract works. This is a remarkable talent and skill that set Hyena Kim apart from other artists. It proves that an artist‘s work based on her own interpretation alone has sufficient power of communication. Clearly, this is a meaningful strategy that can be an alternative to the phenomenon of decorating the excessive theories and the patchwork of overflowing knowledge as the logic for art communication today.
On pure beauty
In an interview with me, Hyena Kim said, “Rather than producing works mainly based on logic or concepts, I want to express a really beautiful thing without any bias.” As she said, we confirm that the works presented in the exhibition “Days” put greater emphasis on emotions and sensations than logic and concept. Naturally, the works are perceived intuitively.
The debate over the logic of art and the trend of grand narratives that are going on around us in recent years makes us increasingly tired and indifferent. Or, is it only my own case? What is it that our view, which is heavily focused on logical concepts, has lost? The answer to this question might be pure beauty that is intuitively understood and felt at once. The need for an enormous amount of text and prior knowledge that is explained longer and longer in order to feel and understand works of art is certainly something wrong. Logical discourse is important in our approach to art, but on the other hand, the creation of meanings through emotional and sensuous fulfillment and communication with the contemporary age are also an important side.
The artist puts down this logical argument and aims for pure beauty. The new works presented through the record of transparent layers of sensibility do not require a long-winded explanation or extensive prior knowledge that overwhelms the work itself. It just emphasizes the need for feeling. This is because the representations built by her extremely sensuous work are quite enough to communicate and understand the layers of emotions contained in the works. The world of the senses can be accessed by a deep and broad sense of spiritual fulfillment rather than by a logical argument. The pure beauty and sympathy of this work for a sense of fulfillment will be able to deepen and expand in proportion to the individual layer of emotions.
In this exhibition “Days”, Hyena Kim shows her brief reflections on small things in daily life. This is a time when it is necessary to interact with each and every record of the emotional layers felt in the trifle things in daily life. Let’s read the meaning of pure beauty through “Days” which is the record of Hyena Kim’s reflections on small things in daily life.