Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition]. Spike Island, Bristol. 30 September - 17 December 2017.
Visit: 26th November 2017
This exhibition was recommended to me by fellow students on the MA as they began to get to know my work. I went with my daughter, the perspective of a 6-year-old is extremely interesting, and it quickly overtook Jasper Johns as my favourite exhibition experience this year.
From the exhibition catalogue
Kim Yong-Ik is a Korean artist born in 1947 in Seoul. This is his first solo show in Europe and was preceded by an exhibition in Korea. He is known for his questioning nature and playful execution of works. Kim has remained firmly detached from any set art movement, a distance that allows him to subvert and challenge the practices of art institutions. This description fits the underlying nature of the works in this show.
A major turning point for Kim was the repression in his country in the 1980’s. At a time when he was writing a thesis about Duchamp, he was invited to take part in a show, the ‘Young Artists Biennial’. His works, which were paintings, were boxed, shipped and shown in the exhibition, still in their boxes. The boxes were stacked as a sculpture in the exhibition. This work serves as a response to the political upheaval and Modernist painting.
Kim is known for his uncertainty in his place in the art world, and the ‘role art should play in society’. His continuing practice pushed painting into sculpture, often working with the space of display within the work.
A key piece in the exhibition, for me, was made in this time. Near an access door to the gallery at Spike Island, a fantastic placement for this work, is a pile of unwanted works, and packaging materials. The pile is left haphazardly and the viewer is left unsure whether the works are simply waiting to be cleared away. Due to the nature of the gallery, without titles on the walls, the only clue that this an artwork is found in the accompanying catalogue and exhibition guide.
This ambiguous work is utterly brilliant, it immediately forces the viewer to ask a question.
Kim said about the work that “it is also a metaphor for many of my parent’s generation who crossed the line of life and death based on their decision to be left wing or right wing.” A deeply personal and political message that the artist has found expression with through the work.
Kim's works interact with the space around them without becoming totally site-specific. They fit the space, without being reliant on it. Something I am attempting to achieve in my works.
The title of the exhibition comes from writing on one of the works in the show. Writing is a key element of Kim’s practice. The stack of boxed paintings has a new addition for this exhibition. He has written ‘Spike Island’ and the date one each crate.
The single most exciting feature of this exhibition, seen here as a whole, is the writing on the walls Kim has made to explain things about the work. These small additions are a site specific interaction with the presentation of an existing artwork. They are small, and light, and could easily be missed. Many require the viewer to sit on the floor to see them.
I took photos of a few, and they are brilliant additions to the work, and show the performative aspect of practice.
Kim returns to many artworks, seeing the process as ongoing, and enjoys allowing time and chance to affect the works.
The final section of the exhibition, depending on how you move around the space, features recent works. These sit between painting and sculpture, paintings within sculptures. Kim has encased paintings inside coffin-like cases. Known as the ‘Coffin’ series these works are inscribed with various writings. An accompanying paper translates these for the viewer.
Many of the texts describe or somehow comment on the work, sometimes directly but often romantically or poetically. Some are simply documentary. The inclusion of these elements of text contextualises the work, within the work.
This exhibition has been extremely influential, and I imagine it will only become more influential as I continue to review it, and hopefully visit once more before it closes.
This exhibition has quickly become one of the most influential I have seen this year. The works are a combination of Kim's personal subject matter (including circles) and a questioning of art that is conceptually engaging.
The works are carefully arranged, and full of surprises. His works and the context behind them have made me question, in the best possible way, my own practice and influences.
It is really through this exhibition, and a subsequent reading of the accompanying material, that I have realised the links of my work to capitalism. A link later reiterated with the text The Experiential Turn.
I havent written as much as I normally might about this exhibition, the experience shows more in the shift in practice that has come from the combination of this exhibition, studio research and contextual research in the past few weeks.
I need to go back to the exhibition before it closes. I need another look and more time to think about these intricate implications.