Critic's Note: In Kim’s recent works, we can grasp the motives of Mendrami’s (cockscombs) super-large warships, and airplane traps on an airport runway. The artist visualized these motives not as constituents of a certain significance or part of a certain landscape, but as the picture-plane as a whole, and as the main characters. A field of Mendrami in red and white paint covering a 259cm-by-194cm canvas, a warship in gray and blue paint spreading out its deck straight towards the viewers’ gaze, as vast as the plane of the canvas itself, and the trap of an aircraft barely suggesting what it actually is, with various overlapping lines that incise the picture-plane with a monochrome background like a geometrical abstraction. Thus, Jiwon Kim’s motives transcend the role of subject matter or visual elements which are mobilized to communicate different messages or form context, and embody visuality and presentness of sense on their own. For example, the light and tactile senses that poke our eyes and scratch our legs when we stagger through an endless field of overgrown weeds and wild flowers under the mid-summer sun are vibrant in the artist’s Mendrami paintings (Mendrami-Cockscombs, 2005~2010). Furthermore, the violent space of infinity we would have to feel if we had to do something without knowing a preset boundary, limit or end-for instance, if we had to find a lost ring in the Sahara Desert, or if we had to run and escape without knowing how far away was the fence guarding the concentration camp, is developed in the artist’s warship painting (Untitled, 2009). And of course we must add the airplane trap painting (Untitled, 2009), dominated by a lethargic and weary mood, and the frustrating sense of being that is felt inside a room full of moisture.
The power of Jiwon Kim’s paintings is that they can take subject matter with little aesthetic value, contents with little direct connection to social awareness, and seemingly not much romantic sensibility, and use them to create visual images which recall certain experiences stored in our perceptive memories sensuously and concretely. No, it is an undefinable strength of painting exercised not just by this artist, but also by other artists who painted great works. To explain this power with more corroborative language, it is the power that is exercised through the performative process of line-drawing and brushwork, when the subjects or motives existing in the artist’s head in an unclear state are expressed in and intertwined with the sensitive body consisting of paint and picture-plane called painting. Jiwon Kim’s paint-covered brush does not only paint the visually similar. For example, it does not stop at the point of making the Mendrami look “as if” they are in full bloom, or making the ship look “as if” it was floating in the sea. On the contrary, his brushwork materializes an image world that simultaneously stimulates the five senses, which conduct the relationship between us and the external world, and the perceptive experience of the present and mnemons of the past in a monotonous two-dimensional space. Sometimes that process involves stacking up lumps of paint, roughly creating diverse textures of figures, or using sharp tools to nervously tear the skin of paint, drawing sharp depictive lines. What use is it to explain such “sensuous performances of the moment,” after the painting is completed, with a language that is not the artist’s? But even if it does not have to be lucid, such interpretation of Jiwon Kim’s work will help to define his paintings.
In short, Jiwon Kim’s painting is something that emerges in the mutual linkage between the simple material condition of the actual painting presented by the artist as paint and the flat surface, and the performative power I presented as the undefinable power of painting, in other words, the complicated “impromptu mechanism,” which is so hard for us to explain. Against this, one may argue that “it is a story relevant to all those who paint.” This seems correct. We must, however, exclude the numerous formalist abstract painters such as Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt, who studied the material properties of paint and the given conditions of painting as a two-dimensional plane as the very subject of their painting. Moreover, Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who introduced mechanical image reproduction processes into their paintings, also do not belong to that category. Of course, decisively, post-modernists such as Josh Smith and Laura Owens, who “if painting is dead, scavenge around its dead corpse so that everyone can see3),” and contemporary young artists who paint paintings that conceptually analyze the patterns of conditions of existing paintings, must also be excluded. That is because to them, the performative process of painting is only the trace of a body more lowly than an idea, a tradition to be de-mythologized, or a reference for deconstruction. But to artists like Jiwon Kim, that is, artists who feel not frustration but pleasure from the spontaneity, uncertainty and obscurity of painting, the force-field of painting in which the paint, flat surface, action and time, wash in like chaos, is “the beginning of painting.” The Mendrami series is an exceptional example of Jiwon Kim’s paintings in which spectators can also experience that kind of pleasure.
Artist's Education: Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste Stadelschul Frankfurt am Main(bai Jörg Immendorff). Inha University. Korea. B.F.A., Painting.