Stories about Family Responding to Cold Reality
Family has always been Yim Man-hyeok¡¯s favorite subject. He tells us stories about family through his paintings. He has recently begun to use more varied, brighter colors, by which he creates a congenial and comfortable feeling that is entirely appropriate for representation of the ideal family. He has in the last few years included friendly animals in his paintings about family, thereby extending the concept of family and making it more inclusive. In his works, an animal or animal element is a very strong symbol of play, healing, and bonding, not merely a decorative accessory. An animal with human eyes is a friend and a member of the family.
Working and living are one and the same thing for Yim Man-hyeok. His studio is his home, his living space. He believes that working at home sustains his art. His home is an isolated, private sanctum. A home is a not-so-simple space for either those who support family or even for full grown sons and daughters who are still supported in what could be seen as an infinitely extended childhood, and it is never a naturally endowed utopia. Home is considered a sanctuary for individuals against overly competitive modern society. This is a very common dream for the middle class. Alas, it is merely a romantic vision of family which can be realized by fewer and fewer people.
The coexistence of peace and anxiety implicit in stories of a family in paintings by Yim Man-hyeok shows paradoxically that home can be a place that is colder and that brings about unhappiness, because home is a place that should certainly be warm and happy. Home is, to be sure, a place that epitomizes humane intimacy. However, family as subject is Yim Man-hyeok¡¯s specialty, and the bright side of a family is not the only aspect shown in his paintings. The people depicted in his works look as if they unusually feel the cold. Men and women, different generations, and different species not to mention life patterns which become different from each other as result of extreme specialization, coexist and communicate. His works retain a persisting image of utopia from pre-modern times when such inconsistency began to unfold. Inherent in the big round eyes evoking sympathy and angulated silhouettes of bodies is an ideal drama of a family that is hard to attain and hard to protect. Not only the silhouettes but the brush strokes that are used to fill the contours flatly reveal the vulnerable, existential state of human beings. At the same time, reminiscent of the hard age-old surfaces like those of murals or strong rhythms, his works emphasize the family as a community which has endured persistently, even in crisis.
-Lee, Sun Young / Art Critic