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Seeing is to forgetting the Name of the Thing one sees. – Paul Valery
To exist is to communicate with the things before our eyes. At the moment we see something, our awareness, preconception, and knowledge turns into the memory of a concrete experience. ‘To forget the name,’ as the French symbolist-poet Paul Valery remarked, refers to an act of moving ideas from the sphere of reason to the domain of internalized-sensibility, including wounds and reminiscence, through a process of communication, like ‘seeing’. Extinction, generation, and emotional intervention, derived from ‘seeing’, are critical clues to engage Kim Seung-young’s work. 
Kim’s work is mostly characterized by a meditative atmosphere and the beauty of refined form. This atmosphere derives from a few elements he has consistently maintained. The main formative features of his work are the following: Kim’s work brings about an environment with a life force through a mixture of the site it is placed in, and empty space, to which viewers bring spatial energy. His orientation of such form and space leads viewers towards a certain idea. Some of his works invite viewers to their own internal-space. These works are completed when viewers exist together, whether through positive participation or hesitation. A formal characteristic of Kim’s work is an aesthetics of repetition. Individual objects such as fallen leaves, an empty bookcase, his own face, names of the remembered, are tediously repeated, and appear in accumulation. These features imply human life is a continuation of tedious repetition, so his artistic thinking, contemplating, and interpreting of objects appears in multiple dimensions.
Kim’s work makes use of natural objects like wood, fallen leaves, and water to generate the beauty of form. Of these, water is a most significant material, used in many of his works. He first began employing water as a primary material in the late 1980s. For young artist Kim Seung-young, who realized the more he works, the more solid he becomes as an artist, it was very pleasant to discover water, a material that can embody a delicate sensibility even in a limited environment. Kim sees water as an organism with a spontaneous structure and its own content, which he exploits in his work.

What Kim mainly says about his work is, ‘communication’ and, ‘reminiscence’. Kim confesses he is self-critical, due to moral mysophobia, derived from his religious beliefs. He is often passive, wishing himself to be understood by others, because of a sense of inferiority and the wounds he has from childhood, rather than making a positive attempt to communicate with others. This was traumatic for Kim in his adolescence. His sensibility was also profoundly influenced by despair, caused by a lack of communication.
For some time Kim’s work was as a means for struggling through gloomy mental images and inner trauma. When he was mounting a Wonseo Gallery solo exhibition in 1999, his heart was wounded by two close acquaintances. He depicted a face and covered it in white. As a result, the face remained as a vague trace through a repetitiously applied white paint. Through this process Kim realized he could not completely delete his memories, and they at last remained as traces. 
During a one year residency at PS1 in New York, in 2000, Kim experienced isolation and limited communication due to cultural differences and a language barrier. He experienced a severance from the outer world, and the collapse of his inner identity. Irrespective of his aggressive want for communication, he underwent mental contraction, later represented in the work featuring his own fully contracted and rolled-up face. The memories of that time became a motif for Flowers of the World, made public in the winter of 2007. He recently stayed in Mongolia as part of an artist exchange program too. Despite the language barrier there Kim said he enjoyed a truly comfortable communion, and returned with unforgettable memories. This is perhaps a result of the methodology of communication he has accumulated over a dozen of years of work activities.
This solo show involves Kim’s installation The Trace (2008), composed of a paper object, water, and countless names on a brick wall, and a single channel video The Memory (2008). The Trace is a site-specific installation filling the Gonggan Gallery. Inspired by a mime-artist who used paper excluding language, Kim installed a paper object suspended from the ceiling. Kim executed a performance conveying messages to each other, through the medium of a broad piece of paper. The result is an act recalling communication among ants that exchange their memories by contacting and rubbing their tentacles, (there in Bernard Werber’s The Ants), including Kim’s pieces of paper manifesting traces of communication.
He put these together, created a huge paper-object, and hung it from the ceiling. By doing so, Kim visually represents traces of communication based on contingency. Water set under this object, like an abyss, gently reflects the objects and its background. As the angle the sunlight entering through the window changes, water generates different atmospheres every hour, and expands the dimension of space, provoking a meditative atmosphere. By allowing viewers to communicate with this work at a certain distance, he enables them to gain momentum for serious thought. Generating loud familiar sounds, water drops create ripples on projected images on the water’s surface.
Countless names of people the artist has associated with in his life are expressed on each wall of the Gonggan Gallery in semi-transparent letters. Among the names, some appear vivid, while others look worn-out or deleted by time. These appear as the overlap of traces left by multi-dimensional time. If these names, representing fragmentary memories floating over many dimensions, are read as a microcosm Kim created through his memories, the viewers who exist in this microcosmos may draw their own microcosmoses. The entanglement, correlation, and overlap of such microcosms remind us of Ilnyeom-samcheon, the teaching that the existence of ‘I’ is associated with all creation in the universe.

The video-work The Memory is projected in the small theater Gonggan-sarang. The images are projected onto the surface of rough bricks, not a sleek white screen. The names in his memories pass through without any ornamental element. In a serene atmosphere, the names flow like an ending credit of a film. A lyrical music piece Oh Yoon-seok composed brings about an entirely placid, hypnotic mood.
Donald Kuspit is an American art critic who analyzed the spiritual genesis of avant-garde art, linking a 19th century philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s process of becoming the overman through self-reformation to a healing process of art. He insisted that avant-garde artists to be liberated from the pain of life pursued spontaneity, comprehensiveness, will to change, and an aesthetic balance between reality and artistic sensibility, affirming an artwork’s healing attribute. 
It is perhaps hard to find any stimulating, fetishistic element in Kim’s artistic identity consistently seeking the form of beauty associated with lyricism, and contemplative atmosphere, and spiritual aspects such as reminiscence and communication. What’s discovered in his art is the will of avant-garde artists and their solid art theory that they transform themselves through the artistic practice of healing and offer consolation, instead of pursuing social reputation and wealth through art.   Deep empathy for pathological aspects of our time, and practical attitude are also found in his art.

By Koh Won-seok, Curator of gallery SPACE

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