KIM Jongsook
(b. Korea)
ARTIFICIAL LANDSCAPE-Negative Drawing Red” is a stunning mixed-media painting by acclaimed Korean Contemporary Neo-Pop artist, Kim Jongsook who is gaining international acclaim for her ARTIFICIAL LANDSCAPE series of paintings that combine paint and crystals, created with the formal support and promotion of Swarovski. Made entirely of thousands of faceted Swarovski® crystal elements, each painstakingly hand-applied to the painted canvas, Kim transforms this traditional Korean landscape into a lush, Pop Art fantasy-scape. Her most recent solo show from this series was held in Seoul, Korea and met with critical acclaim. The artist is influenced not only by her desire to re-interpret traditional Korean ink brush landscape paintings, but also by the work of contemporary Western artists who also use crystals and decorative materials to their works, such as the Diamond Dust prints of Andy Warhol and now Russell Young, diamond encrusted skulls by Damien Hirst, the large crystal embellished paintings of Mickalene Thomas and the famed poured diamond series of photographs by Vik Muniz among others.

KIM Jongsook graduated with her BFA, MFA and PhD in Fine Art from Hongik University, Seoul, South Korea. Her mixed media paintings have already appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout Asia, Europe, and the U.S. including the Zaha Museum of Art (Seoul), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Shanghai), The Huangcheng Art Museum, (Beijing), The Saga Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo), WHITE BOX Gallery (Los Angeles), and Kang Contemporary (New York). Her works are held in the permanent collections at SWAROVSKI KOREA, SWAROVSKI AUSTRIA at SEOUL EASTERN DISTRICT PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE, at the Mogam Museum of Art and The Hoseo National Museum of Contemporary Art.

PAINTING WITHOUT IMAGE

Since 2000, Kim Jongsook has entered into a kind of aesthetic, painterly adventure through a process called “crystal painting.” She abandoned the conventional painting medium after becoming fascinated by crystal and since then has continuously used crystal as her painting material. In other words, for her this medium is not simply an ornamental element but an alternative to paints. One wouldn’t have to refer to her paintings as an ‘adventure’ if it were merely a decorative element. However, she draws with crystals. Paints, as if to be born for painting, readily sacrifices its materiality to become images and visions. This is because a paint color’s natural properties do not clash with the properties of the image. On the other hand, crystal resists sacrificing its unique material qualities to become visual image. Its own existential nature is too overpowering to become image. Furthermore, crystal has a ready-made disposition, strongly expressing its materiality. It refuses to merge into a painting. This is why painting, as a process of creating image, clashes with crystal more than any other medium.

Kim’s answer to this was simply to accept the nature of the object as is. Even though crystal rejects to become an image it does not reject becoming an event or effect. It is also a material while simultaneously a non-materialistic (light) effect.

By embracing this nature of crystal, her paintings don’t become the production of still images in the traditional sense but instead become a perceptual incident and real effect. Kim draws her pictures by affixing as little as tens of thousand to as many as hundreds of thousand gems onto a traditional Korean landscape image that has been faintly transferred onto a silk screen. For her, the completion of a painting is not the moment the painting embodies a unifying image, because for her a picture does not exist as an image. It exists within the perceptual event of the viewer who happens to be amidst the circumstances of the painting. Her paintings cannot be made into image. No one is able to see just a single image in her paintings. This is why the photographic images in her workbook are kinds of visions that one cannot grasp ahold of. In her works, the audience experiences images that have become events of light rather than landscape images. They show different colors and light of differing places at the viewer’s slightest move, and that light merely displays images that have already been endlessly dying and are being born anew. Piecing together all those images will not constitute one of her paintings, nor will there be any meaning in returning all of those images back to the landscape that lies in the background. This is because image primarily cannot be fixed in place. Her work is a type of painting without image. While perceptual events are being newly produced each moment, we eventually reach the point where static landscape image combines with light as being an event. That moment, we fall into an illusion that the light is coming from the inanimate landscape image. Only in this vision can we exist within the event where the gem as matter, objective image, the developing image of light all synthesize as one. Eventually, Kim wants to make lifeless matter and old images come alive right now, right here at this moment in your consciousness.

Light is originally an event of experience, but we’re unable to see the light itself. We only see the phenomenon or image that the light conveys. Because of this, we substitute vibrant events of perception with abstract image. Ultimately, vibrant perception became not events but images. Kim’s paintings try to restore this reversed relationship back to its original state through a seemingly impossible venture.

Kim Jongsook’s crystal paintings stand on a subtle ontological border. They are material and non-materialistic image, image and actuality, actuality and event, event and vision. It is completely up to the perceiver how one will experience her paintings because the only point at which they overcome this existential conflict is in each viewer‘s perceptual event. If one can join in the state of “becoming,” then one will be able to exist as the flickering light itself.

- Kyung Jin Cho, Art Critic

Kyung Jin Cho is art critic living in South Korea. He has published a book titled Art, Illusion but Reality?. He received Ph.D. degree in Philosophy from Yonsei University; received M.A. and B.A. degree in Science of Art from Hongik University in South Korea.

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