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Gallery Skape
58-4 Samcheongro
Jongnogu, Seoul, Korea   map * 
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by Gallery Skape
Location: Gallery Skape
Artist(s): Sungsoo KIM
Date: 5 Nov - 19 Dec 2014

‘Ambivalence’ is the characteristic that consistently appears in the artist, Sungsoo Kim’s work. The word that also means conflicting or contradicting emotions, means ‘simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward a person, object or situation’ according to the dictionary terms. Although experiencing completely opposing emotions like love and hatred, independence and dependence, respect and contempt are divisive symptoms, but in fact it is also a ubiquitous phenomenon that we go through on a daily basis. Perhaps, this is rather a natural manifestation of dialectical reason of using the left and right hand model to understand the world.

He abhors the cold and inhuman nature of the city, yet at the same time its glamorous forefront and mechanical law of orders charms him. While he laments the memories of the disappearance of now untraceable places in the midst of a rapidly changing world he appreciates the solitude and melancholy that have resulted from it. In his recent artist note, he wrote “Two sentiments overlap when looking at today’s modern society, affluence and deprivation, fancy and plain, beauty and sadness, this duality of feelings serve as the main factors to construct my paintings”

Hence, if it is to define his work is about criticism of the gluttonous capitalism-driven ruthless development, or fondling sentimental expression of objects destroyed and disappeared, then it is ought to say other aspects of importance are being ignored. There should also be a recognition of co-existence of the discrete primitive pleasure enjoyed by the people amongst the ruins. Is such pleasure deemed to be decadent? Taking delight in ruins is denunciation-deserving depravity? If so, then how are we going to explain the crowd of tourists converging en masse into the Ancient Greek Roman architectures? What is the reason that mass media enthusiastically reports on catastrophe? Are they sensational, provocative and unethical attributes?

Dutch biologist Midas Dekkers once exemplified in his book “The Way of All Flesh”, how children become fanatic about the ghost castle or cannibalistic witch. He was to pointed out the fact that “We have inherent romantic longing for the things that want to escape and avoid” is the root of our internal repulsiveness. We experience sorrow and security, curiosity and excitement while we are in the ruins. As Kim refers to the phrase from Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul”, ‘The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy’ in his artist note, he confesses his ambivalence towards this fading landscape. Just as Dekkers said, ‘More beautiful than beauty is the ruins of beauty’. His instigation for his work can be seen as the outcome of tension and strife that has been caused by the tendency of its contradictoriness.

Life is full of farewells, just like a flipped page can no longer be turned back, such things as people, objects and sceneries vanish into a deep black hole of the past. It is an agony, how could an existence becomes non-existence? This is the first philosophical question that mankind ever asked. We, mankind, strive to work on the task of recollection and conservation amid destruction that the merciless time has brought to us. Culture is foremost about enduring the sorrow of separation and loss, and the rise to face the emptiness of life. For the sake of the vanished, memorial monuments are built, names are engraved on the stone, and stories are written in books. Even if all these are eventually scattered and shattered into pieces, we cannot stop our pursuance of recollection and conservation. Only through memories, we can reminisce about the evanescence, through condolences we can say who we are, and ultimately we would be able to believe in what meanings are lying there in our lives. If all things stay the same, if time still leaves us as it is, we may not need to record anything. Perhaps, art may not even exist today, if elements of mankind’s fate on the law of extinction and oblivion did not exist in the first place.

The main theme that appears in his work is the phenomenon of disappearance. The long tradition of painting focuses on seizing the subject eternally into the painting; ironically, Kim draws on something that has already faded away, subjects that supposed to have existed but now exited, and only the landscape of background is left behind. An empty cafe that drunkards have left, a deserted street with its hollow flickering neon signs, a crumbly looking flower that has lost its vitality, faces with hopelessness and aimless gaze, metal grids with cold glass walls that resolutely push out as a reflection of the heartless city surface. Paintings that Kim has been working on over the last ten years allude absence of something that ought to be there. This means equally as the evanescence of the representative subject from the landscape, and a stage without a performer. What does he wants to conserve and recollect from this empty stage?

Artist begins his work with a photograph; about the buildings built last century that once had its glory and dignity, but now is decaying. He further processes through photoshop on images that he has personally taken or found in his albums. Details are being removed and only the outline of the landscape is taken then, far dramatic and fictional scene than an original photo is created by the reconstruction of the building components. As a faded black and white photograph, outline images that can barely holds itself is being projected by OHP film, and transferred onto the canvas with meticulous handwork. Using the projected image as the sketch, colouring in the segmented fields, with the multiple layers of paints, the photographic image slowly transforms into something painterly.

When the canvas turns closer to monochrome colour tone, a delicate and fluid boundary arise in between the constructed outlines and colour fields. Some parts become erased and some are retained. The boundary is being emphasised by the spilled and over layered paints which remains or wiped. This is a fine line between the photographic information and painterly act, a boundary between the identifiable shape and abstract colours. It can be regarded as a line between the memory and the oblivion. The artist endeavours to carry on his act of painting till the point of this boundary is clearly revealed.

Thus, Kim’s work process is rather about erasing than merely drawing. What he does is removing the visual information from its origination, and fades it away into the elusive canvas, losing its original landscape appearance. As if he is faithfully reproducing the disappearing objects around us through the image erasing process as he does over his works. Paradoxically, it is also true that such procedure of erasing leads him to a formation of new paintings. Instead of a landscape that is overclouded by a hazy fog, fine colours are leveled by multiple layers to give a rise to an abstractive landscape canvas.

Sungsoo Kim’s latest work deals with the loss of identity as a place in this modern society, “non – place”, this further engages on what is deemed to disappear through non-existence and it can also be regarded as a landscape that evokes our gaze onto the emptiness of life. Moreover, this is a production of a romanticised view of what is happening behind the object, evolving over time for the disappearance while maintaining the dignity of itself.

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