A Color to Seek the Truth

Iseul Kims work is mainly based on landscaping painting, one of the major fields of Korean painting. Visually experienced outside world finely fills the canvas with omission and emphasis or, sometimes, with meticulously described unfolded planar figure. The exhibition held with works from Santorini Greece International Residency - in which she was selected as one of the members - was a great opportunity for her. There, she patiently bore and internalized the reconstruction of space and objet, derived from her visual experiences, through intense colors. One of her master pieces, Sunset Colored Oia Village (2011), gives us an important clue - how she ideates actual scenery into her own image and expresses it with unique colors.

This piece on which the fancy orange color dominantly appears helps figure out how to search the subjectification in regards to the light of impressionism, which was innovative even on the history of Western art, through the artist's mastered light and pleasant penmanship of Korean painting. The actual traditional scenery landscape makes a graceful space only by its fine light and shade of the ink and shows sacredness towards which one can feel awe through the scenery. Yet, on Iseul Kim's work, such heaviness as holiness disappears but a pure expectation to gaze clearly at nature and the people who live in it hangs around. The artist's way to paint by replacing the distortion of light that falls on the retina with processed impression through subjective images looks likes it is running through the technique of Fauvism represented by Henri Matisse.


Matisse's art works, Grand Intérieur Rouge (1948) and Nature Morte au Magnolia (1941), contain an extreme contrast of colors sectioned by outlines on the objects flatly emphasized - it is not at all difficult to meet such elements on Iseul Kim's works. In a Mini Port (2012) and Swimming Pool (2012), which are the works related to Santorini, such tendency is frequently seen. Like the impressionists and Fauvists in the 20th century were influenced by China's landscape and the style of painting of Ukiyo-e, Japanese woodprint, and acquired an esthetic sense of 'emptiness' and 'simpleness,' Kim seems to have realized the way to embrace light from them and to reveal the subjective idea resulted from that in colors and have made them her own technique.


And in her recent works, Five-Storied Stone Stupa (2013), Odong-do, Yeosu (2013), and Yuhyeondang, Buyeo (2013), she made the familiar scenery look surrealistic by placing the small cracks by which one can infer the physical temporality in a space of emptiness with moderate filling, thus, making all sensory organs function a mysterious feeling. As I look into Kim's way to briskly paint the style of Western painting using traditional materials of Korean painting such as paper screen, powdered colors, or colors made out of stones, it makes me recognize her as an artist I should keep watching since I have been interested in the current situation of Western and Oriental paintings  becoming complementary having no boundary nor distinction and how the situation develops.


For Iseul Kim, the act of 'traveling' for scenery is not just a 'task' bound to find some matters to fill her canvas but an opportunity of 'introspection' to reflect her own life. While many painters immersed themselves in thoroughly 'reproducing' the beauty of landscape being fascinated by it, Kim is rather accepting the 'act' of painting the scenery as a way to seek the truth. From Santorini to a mountain temple in Korea, to a village in the countryside and then to Hong Kong and to the other landscape, the artist moves forwards, walks, and stops to repeat drawing and sketching with her hand - it reminds me of a pilgrim's penance in Santiago, Spain, widely known as the pilgrim's path. Iseul Kim comes closer as a young, rare artist, who tries to embrace the traditional landscape's holiness of seeking the truth on the scenery lightened by colors and expression like a naive child.  


_Yongjin Kim, curator of Bupyeong Arts Center and art critic