Kim Yusob: SPIRIT-PURE, Gallery GAHOEDONG60, Apr. 4 - Apr. 30, 2012 Apr 10 2012
○ Exhibition Information
Artist | Kim Yusob
Period| April 4 ~ April 30, 2012
Opening Reception| April 7, Sat. 2012 04:00pm
Place | Gallery GAHOEDONG60
Hours | 12:00pm - 7:00pm Monday - Saturday
Tel | 02-3673-0585
Website | www.gahoedong60.com

Paintings Sprouting from the Depths of Nature by Gim Jonggil, Art Critic

“What I want is the supremacy of pure feeling.”
Kazimir Malevich

At the end of a long telephone interview, Kim Yusob mentioned ‘Suprematism', the concept of painting by Kazimir Malevich, who argued for the concreteness of abstract painting. It is historically accepted that pictorial reproduction
gradually lost its aesthetic force after the emergence of photography in the late 19th century. Painting arrived at an oasis of abstraction after resisting romanticism and realism. This resistance may have been to representation, reality, or photography. The discovery of abstract painting was perhaps a most exceptional, extraordinary occasion in art history, greater perhaps than when humankind first rendered cave paintings. As a result, artists are now able to approach an object’s true nature, not its superficial physical property or anatomical understanding. For Malevich, ‘concreteness’ in abstraction was not a representation of the object existing in objective reality but its true nature, and the original form – the fundamental form – that this nature shapes. We can reach an artist’s inner sensibility through this original form.

It is not important any longer that Malevich advocated Suprematist painting using circles and squares. We now need to figure out his thoughts on Suprematism to redefine him, and create new aesthetic discourse. Malevich, in his early days, intended to paint “a spiritual world without objects, transcending the real world”. After the 0,10 exhibition that took place in St. Petersburg in 1918, he reached the conclusion that “Color is not an attribute of painting but an independently existing unit.” White Square on a White Ground made public at the time became typical of Suprematism.

A clue to the understanding of Kim Yusob’s painting, which is ‘independence of color,’ is discovered in aesthetic thoughts linked to Malevich and Suprematism, even though Kim’s painting is almost diametrically opposed to Malevich’s Suprematism. Any cubist form and geometric composition Malevich attained is not anywhere to be found in Kim’s painting. So disparate are these artist’s lifestyles, aesthetic forms, and times … but Kim and Malevich’s work have a commonality: both persistently pursued thoughts about how to reveal color. In Kim’s work, color exists as an independent unit. Kim’s painting derives from the physical property of color itself. In his painting, each brilliant color accords with one another, emitting a type of transcendence, for Kim a kind of ‘paradise’. But where does this transcendence stem from? And what does it mean?

“I examined established ideas and forms as an experiment to revive painting, and removed unnecessary formalities and customs. I eventually had to inspect colors, and for this, I used a spiritual eraser. Results appear in the form of ‘black painting’ (Schwarz Malerei). Here, black is not a result of the mixture of physical colors, but the state in which all is dark, right before light is created. I am waiting for what it becomes, and which form it is born into.” (Kim Yusob)

This quote is from a critical point in Kim’s published essay Beginning from the End of Painting (Anfang der Ende der Malerei) produced while studying at the Berlin University of the Arts (The Universität der Künste Berlin). It regards the fact Kim returns to the situation before colors are generated through his fundamental thoughts on painting. As mentioned, only vast darkness is there at extreme points. This idea recalls what Maurice Blanchot, the French writer and literary theorist remarked. Blanchot believed literature begins from desolated space, where we have to prepare for affirming the truth and our future from the absolute bottom where all hopes disappear. He thus showed a flame burning the enormous mass of ideologies accumulated by modernity and the subsequent lump of ash. Blanchot is called a priest who officiated the mass of death, ringing the knell of modernity, recalling modernity amid this ash(Kim Jong-gil, Holding the First Act of Art , Artists Opening Tomorrow , 2009 Spring Issue, p.97). Writers he noted were Friedrich Hölderlin, Stéphane Mallarmé, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka, and Marcel Proust, who all attempted to approach inaccessible and extreme points. Through their work Blanchot explored the depths of human nature.

After facing the end of painting, Kim unfolded his nihilistic thought into painting’s desolated space. Alexander Rodchenko announced the end of painting with his exhibition 5x5=25 in 1921, which was also his courageous defiance of Malevich’s supremacy and purity, and so the end of painting is none other than abstraction as supremacy and purity. Responding to Malevich’s White Square on a White Ground, he produced the Black on Black series. Unlike Malevich, he transferred art to life.

Although Kim’s thought depends on the emergence of new mediums, rapid change, and vigorous operation, rather than on the modern painting theories of Malevich and Rodchenko, it is more fundamentally on ‘painting’ itself. We need our own thought on painting as an independent medium to maintain hope in painting. Where he arrived there was a desolated space, and a lump of ash, which remained after the burning of the ideology of modern abstract painting. And this is somehow nothing to do with either it being expressed as the darkness before light, or objects in darkness before colors are generated.

Rodchenko’s painting of ‘black’ reality against Malevich’s supremacy is just another color for Kim. Kim was captivated by black for quite a while. Black light that deleted all in his painting. Until 2007, Kim’s paintings were a feast of black light, like dusk. Following 2008 however, his work reached a turning point: black was not seen any longer. In works to be displayed in this year’s exhibition, black is almost unseen, and condensed colors are spread, as if ready to explode. They can be regarded as a challenge to Rodchenko, attacking Rodchenko’s proclamation of the end of abstraction through paintings of red, blue, and yellow, exhibited at 5x5=25 in 1921 and called by himself the ‘last paintings.’ To them, Kim’s paintings vividly revive the life-will of red, yellow and blue. In addition, these colors remind viewers of the life energy of seeds. Fantasies of life sprouting from darkness; the inner flesh of Mother Nature revealing her colorful garments in vague light, the flesh’s hues, the feast of colors ----- If Blanchot prepared the affirmation of the future at the absolute bottom, Kim has excavated the dim light of colors up from black light. Kim says, “If something survives in desolated painting, I will nurture and grow it. If all is dead, I will sow seeds and grow it into shoots again. ”

Kim’s colors flow like the stream of light that died after leaving ecstatic traces. Just as the green shades of trees and a lake become one, colors blend vigorously, and the beats of a heated heart spouting blood streams can be sensed. His hues are like those felt in the depths of nature outside civilized areas. Stemming from sensibility, not reason, these colors are like those at the beginning of the world, with energy close to passion. Like the bright sunlight in the first day, all colors appear likely to explode at any moment. Any aesthetic concept involved in the feast of these colors is nothing but an idea.

It might be a leap of logic to compare paintings by Malevich and Rodchenko, and the literary theory of Blanchot, to work by Kim Yusob. We need to remember that both Malevich and Rodchenko encountered Stalin bureaucratism, and Blanchot’s ideas derived from the frustration caused by the world war. Kim’s painting, however, demonstrates his consistent thought on painting itself, penetrating through the point his seniors passed through. I believe this thought is still effective in the 21st century. Although Kim’s constant questioning of painting is perhaps banal, it closely approaches the roots of painting, raising issue for the new century. That is, painting is existent here as color. And, it comprises, or empties all, as the concept of the figure ‘o’ does.

We sometimes talk about the purity of painting and art. We believe this purity is the spirit of art. However, we do not know where this purity comes from, and we do not ask. As if this purity is to be demolished at the moment we ask of it, we fear this question. Malevich secured the supremacy of squares through his exploration of pictorial existence contrasting natural being. Rodchenko was transformed from painter to photographer. The thought we have to contemplate is perhaps not utopian transcendence, but dystopian transcendence. What is the form of transcendence painting has to pursue in the 21st century among the revolution digitization has accomplished? To reply to this question, I think, we need to pay attention to the essence of color Kim has sought. It is of course just one of many answers. Whether a work of art is figurative or abstract, or anything else is less important it seems than trying to divide the boundary between representation and abstraction. In 100 years we ask of painting, “Painting, what are you?” and, “For whom do you exist?”
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