Critic's Note: I like the irony of Kim Jonak (Kim, Jong-Hak)'s works, but also their sense of emotional conviction and urgency: Kim problematizes painting in the very act of making seriously expressionist paintings. He calls painting into question even as he makes paintings that distill traditional and modernist ideas of painting.
Thus, his subject matter is traditional-the proverbial fruit of life. from grapes to the biblical apple of desire - but he renders it in a fragmented. conceptual way. involving the use of language, calligraphic gesture, and the grid. His materials epitomize this dialectic: he will paint on traditional paper(as in From Life, 1996), but in a very modern way. bolt the paper to a wooden ground (the wood is also traditional material). This interplay is not purely intellectual, that is, not simply a postmodern game of painting the hunting result is a stunning. seductive image, at once dramatic and melancholy.
The fruit is full of overripe, forbidden passion - decadent and tantalizing(fatal black and delicious red), indeed, all the more tantalizing because it is decadent. that is because it has been consumed again and again, with no lasting satisfaction. there is a complusive vehemence to kim's paintings: a desperate sense of unrequited desire in the midst of satiation. It is the perversity of this that I admire, for it is emotionally precise.
Kim, then, is a symbolist, even as he is postmodernist. He reconciles Eastern and Western ideas of art making, without losing the sense of their difference. In fact, I think his Eastern sense that art exists to mediate and stimulate a certain experience. at once contemplative and vita - esthetic and rejuvenating - breathes new purpose into Western methods that have become standardized, not to say clich'ed. kim's "religious" respect for certain facts of emotional life gives the modern Western ideology of from for from' s sake a new lease on life.
Artist's Education: Seoul National University. B.F.A., Painting