Oct 3, 2015

Cat’s Autumn Picnic

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

The Neighborhood Artists - 5.Raehwan Kim

Meet artist Raehwan Kim, the most humane realist
Artist Raehwan Kim has been busy with planning and directing various art events or festivals such as Dongtan Art Market and A Memory of Two Cities in recent years. Some people may say an artist should stay and work at the studio, especially being absorbed in making something in handwork. But I would like to make it clear that all of his activities are the realm of creation that is not irrelevant to his art world. It is not too much to say that the process of planning time and space which artists and audience get together to make and carrying out the plan is a kind of creative process.

And here is another work by him. He picked out a site in Yongin and built his studio with care for years. The studio is his other creation. He planned the space to live with his family in and the space to not only concentrate on his work but also interact with people. His studio, of which he touched every part, has artist Kim’s specific energy that could be felt in the festivals he directed. It is a better way, however, to introduce who the artist is before opening his studio.

To tell the truth, he could have lived a stable life in his early 20’s as a businessman. But he suddenly declared he would be an artist and went study in China where there were still few Korean students in mid-/late 90’s. But the life as an international student was as not easy as he expected, and the only things left when he came back to Korea after long years of studying were increased wrinkles on his forehead and empty pockets.

He did not have time and money to stay at the studio and wait for someone to recognize his works. He had to go out and let people know who he is. But the more impatient he was, the gloomier everything was; how he could make his debut as an artist and which exhibitions he could participate in. An idea of ‘setting up an exhibition by himself’ occurred to him when he felt as if he we on the edge of a precipice. He had an ambitious plan to hold an exhibition for artists who do not know what to do like him and create his own artistic circles. And his enthusiasm with his ambition enabled him to continue his career as an exhibition planner and an artist for ten years.

How can he fulfill two roles as a planner and an artist although it is said that even one of the two roles is too much for others? He does not take time off even for a moment. I thought I knew how he lives when I heard that he has never taken a nap since he came back to Korea. He said he feels uncomfortable when he sits still doing nothing. His diligence pervades even every aspect of his studio in the quiet rural area. He himself takes care of the well-kept flower and vegetable garden. The garden is full of in-season flowers and vegetables grown with great care. When I asked ‘how do you take care of all of these?’ he answered bashfully.

“In fact, my mother likes flowers so much. It is not easy to take care of flower garden every season. But her smile at flowers encourages me to do it.”

I knew what the root of his energy to continue his careers as both an artist and a planner was when I heard his answer. It was his humane emotion fully armed with his care and love for human beings.

One day I have asked the artist why he went to China to study. It was not long after China declared its open-door-policy when he went off to China. Why he chose China, not Europe or the U.S. that is popular for art students is because he was fascinated by ‘realism’. The realism is the technical one for ‘faithful description of nature’. In China to just open up the door, remained a trace of realistic techniques propaganda arts pursued, and artist Raehwan Kim wanted to feel the trace entirely. As a result, the trace became the foundation to create his own ‘realism’.

His work while studying in China tends to faithfully follow technical realism. His human figure sculptures were created in a very realistic way based on wood as a material. And the experimental works in his early days still occupy the corner of his studio. But the faithful imitation to nature is not enough to fully explain his experiments based on the realism. Rather it is better to say that his realism-based experiments were a series of efforts to seize the world spiritually. An artwork is a kind of unconscious history description. Understanding the language of an artwork is not different from reading the history described. Artist Raehwan Kim tried to tell this world he lives in while he created a head, a bust, and a full-length sculpture which are realistic. And he wanted to raise voice a little. He started to find the way to communicate with the public in a comfortable and simple language.

In the cats series he began with settling down in Korea after long years of studying abroad, he started to reveal his own specific realism. Of course, he continues to figure person in a realistic way but the interface between the reality and the arts he pursues has been crystalized into Cats series, his recent works. He chose a cat friendly to men and women of all ages as a subject matter in the satirical series. Cat statues look similar with hearty laugh of artist Kim. Lovely cat statues resonate with the audience with beautifying lots of social flaws in the delightful language of sculpture.

On the first Saturday of October when autumn approaches, a large crowd made a surprise attack on a base of cats and experienced the resonance. From the moment when visitors entered the garden of his studio, they faced cat statues. All of his cat statues are hiding his eyes with their sunglasses without exception. We cannot know where cats put their eyes and what they gaze at, but we can always feel their delightfulness by the gestures.

So when we see the sculptures, we smile quietly but the anxiety holds a place at the back of our mind before we know it. And on that day, the artist had time to listen to the anxiety which resonates with each one and to heal it together. As healing programs for anxious people today, the artist prepared for making scarecrows and performance.

The artist felt sorry that even in the studio surrounded by farmland he was not acquainted with the farmers for years. The sad reality is that there is no communication with neighbors who are the closest. For the purpose of solving problems in the human world like unraveling the skein of thread, he proposed to make a scarecrow. All the visitors centered on kids completed a number of scarecrows in the blink of an eye. The scarecrow which stays in one place and prays for a rich year looks like the modern people who live today for better tomorrow. In addition, the scarecrow became a vehicle to communicate each other on the day. Participants set up scarecrows in the middle of farmland nearby, and that became the first greeting between the owners of farmland and other visitors who do not know one another.

Plus, a special guest gave a performance for congratulations. The guest was artist Yonggoo Sin who introduces the Korean performance internationally. His performance ‘collect pieces of dreams’ is site-specific work in which performance is combined with the installation to console the modern people who lose dreams and hopes. He uses life-related images which occur when as a motif. Through wings of Icarus in the Greek myth he expressed dreams and hopes of the modern people whose desire took away in this work. While the open studio participants watched his performance showing the frustrating moment when wings of Icarus heading for the sun plunged into the sea, they could dream a world for human beings and nature to coexist.

Artist Raehwan Kim presented a bundle of chrysanthemum for visitors who were leaving with stunned after healing the anxiety which resonates with them. The artist, who feels happy when he is kind and gives something to others, presented visitors with the whole garden of purple chrysanthemum he has taken care of for one year with heart and soul. When asked if they are too lovely to give them all away, he answered no by waving his arms vehemently and that he would give all of them if a bundle of flower could make a person happy for only one second. This is why I expect the future move of the artist who looks a human being with lovely gaze and is busy with embracing neighbors. I believe that he, intensely thinking of the way to lean on one another in the frustrating reality, will be a role model of the most realistic realist.

Written by Nari Kim
(Creative Director/Art Critic)

Raehwan Kim

M.A. of Department of Sculpture at China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China

Solo Exhibitions
2006 Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition in Cheonggye Square, Seoul
2002 Goyang International Exhibition Hall, Goyang
Seoul Art Center, Seoul
1998 Tongdo Gallery, Beijing, China
1997 Osaka Human Rights Gallery, Osaka, Japan
And other exhibitions

Planned Exhibition & Group Exhibitions
2013 Pohang Steel Art Festival, Pohang
2012 The Bull, Ascend to the Sky, Garden Five, Seoul
Draw the Sky, Garden Five, Seoul
2011 Art Festival Project to Visit our Village, Sunkyung Library, Suwon
Sky-High, Lotte Department Store Busan, Rooftop Park of Gwangbok Store Rooftop Park, Busan
The 1st Romantic Cats Festival, Santorini Seoul Gallery, Seoul
2010 The 2nd China-Korea Modern Sculpture Exchange Exhibition, Museum of Tsinghua Univ., Beijing, China
ShowShowShow, DMC High-Tech Industry Center Gallery, Seoul
Oh! This is an Art, too, Colorful Arts Factory, Pohang Museum of Fine Art, Pohang
2009 The Handicrafts Exhibition, Suwon Youth Center, Suwon
Welcome to Family: Finding Hidden Heart, Gail Art Museum, Seoul
And other exhibitions

Awards
2007 A 2nd place prize of the Contest of Sculpture Using Donation for Cultural Bridge in Cheonggaechun
1999 A special prize of the 18th Korea Art Festival
2000 A best prize of the 36th Gyeonggi Art Festival
And other awards

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Credits: All media
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