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A window revealed by covering, Meeyoung Kim’s painting

A window revealed by covering, Meeyoung Kim’s painting

Ara Jo (Former Curator at the Seoul Museum of Art)

Once on a sunny day, you may have seen a beam of light coming down through the stained glass. In particular, the glittering stained glass of the Gothic cathedral is very colorful and diverse in shape. Standing inside the cathedral, feeling the space full of light that has passed through the glass membrane, you can even feel the sublime beyond beauty that cannot be described in words. The shining down sunlight, the beam of light coming down as it penetrates through the colored glass, and the shape and color that change as it touches the wall, object, or me, the experience of feeling this process with eyes, air, and touch may remain as a quite impressive moment even for a non-religious person.

Meeyoung Kim, Transparent, 90.9 x 72.7 cm, oil on canvas, 2022

There are things that are not recognized the existence when there is no window and finally become visible when a window is created. It is the same for light that is perceived rather more by being covered with stained glass. Paradoxical yet sublime moments of everyday life. Artist Meeyoung Kim wants the viewers to experience these moments through her paintings in the exhibition “Transparent.” As the artist says, “I hope my paintings will work like a glass that shows the world beyond the window as if communicating with a person who reveals their true feelings transparently,” her new works, which mainly used high-transparency paints, look like transparent color glass membranes.

After graduating from the Department of Korean Painting in South Korea, Meeyoung Kim moved to London and majored in Painting at the Royal College of Art. Therefore, she has built her own unique painting world, combining oriental painting techniques and Western painting materials. Her work, which is inevitable to use the word ‘multi-sensory’ because of its rich and diverse sensuous features, has attracted many with not only the visual pleasure of following beautiful colors and movements of free brushstrokes but also screens leading us to imagine the sound from nature, feel of touching skin, and even tastes.

Meeyoung Kim, Dawn Walk, 53 x 45.5 cm, Oil on canvas, 2022

While her previous paintings look like dazzling woods or colorful flower bouquets, the new works shown at this solo exhibition remind us of naturally hanging down rich willow branches. In particular, in “Dawn Walk” and “Transparent”, we can find the traces of thin paint rolling down naturally spread as they swept down the previously painted parts. It is the result of the artist’s experiment applying the spreading technique and brush of Oriental painting on Western paint and canvas. In addition, in “Vanilla Flowers” and “Anna’s Dance”, she deliberately leaves the large empty spots and mainly uses highly transparent paints such as ‘transparent yellow’ or ‘cerulean blue,’ which gives the effect like of penetrating light through colored glass like stained glass.

“Blow” and “Midday” are the works made using linen cloth with a high absorption rate without applying gesso, and it can be seen by the eyes that all the previously permeated brush strokes remain overlapped. They make us imagine the delicate working process of the artist facing the screen that does not allow a single mistake, stroke by stroke, like paintings painted on Hwaseonji (Korean paper) or silk. The texture of the fabric itself is fully revealed, and yet the feeling of the paint being absorbed on the screen is emphasized, so the artist’s intention to show the previous traces is well expressed.

Meeyoung Kim, Midday, 80.3 x 65.1 cm, oil on linen, 2022

What we should particularly pay attention to in this exhibition are her grid sketches. The pencil-drawn grid pattern that exists in the undermost part of Meeyoung Kim’s work but was not visible on the outermost surface. For a long time, whenever the artist faced an empty canvas, it felt like a hole in a deeply drilled abyss, so she had been working with a grid pattern as part of a psychological device to prevent it. While, because of the wet-on-wet method, which works by continuously adding another layer of paint on still wet oil paint, it has been difficult to see it from the eyes of the viewers. However, the new works are created mainly showing the absorbed paint, feeling the texture of the fabric sensitively. It reveals one unique ritual that the artist has been unintentionally hiding.

This grid pattern, especially seen well in “Sundance” and “Summer Snow”, is like a psychological warm-up for the artist. The artist, who feels the canvas as an actual “empty” state, first fills the blank canvas with a diagonal grid, recognizes it as a two-dimensional plane, and then slowly begins to work in earnest. Another reason why this grid is considered unique is that it is an independent entity that does not have any supplementary function for other processes in terms of the entire production process. It is not for the composition of the painting or the coloring but only exists for the act of drawing the grid itself. Even the fact that this will be visible or hidden in the finished work is not important for the artist. In other words, this grid pattern ritual is like a disprove that the artist actually recognizes canvas as a deep passage, which is more interesting because it has a straight and homogeneous characteristic opposite to Meeyoung Kim’s unique dancelike free stroke.

15th-century architect and art theorist Leon Battista Alberti said in his book “On Painting” (1435), “Painting is a window open to the world,” which meant a perfect representation of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional screen. In other words, providing an experience of facing another world through one window of painting was one of the aims of Renaissance painting. Meeyoung Kim’s paintings, which pursue abstract and all-over composition, do not contain an illusory representation or mathematical perspective that Renaissance art valued, but the attitude of sensing canvas as a window leading to another dimension seems not much different from artists of the time. Renaissance artists achieved another world beyond the window on a plane with meticulously calculated composition and detailed representation, but Meeyoung Kim recognizes the physical canvas frame itself as a square passage and replaces it with a medium to see beyond it.

Meeyoung Kim, Dawn Walk, 100 x 80.3 cm, oil on canvas, 2022

Among the new works, “Dawn Walk” and “Blowing in the Wind”, which look particularly noticeable of the silver edges, remind us of real windows made of industrial materials. Considering Meeyoung Kim’s previous works, which were created with the paint protruding to the outside of the frame, this is a conceptually new attempt. Realistically representing the frame of the square, it is intended to make the viewers recognize together the empty passage that the artist imagines and look more closely at the world inside it. The scenery created by mixing dark green and white paints shown in the frame is a windy field for some and a blizzardy mind for others. The thin, clear window that is somewhat more visible by covering with the grid, wrapping around the frame, and filling with paint. Through this exhibition, it is hoped to look into Meeyoung Kim’s new windows one by one, which are revealed by covering, and to face the scenery each viewer has in their mind. That would be the clearest way to communicate with the works in this exhibition.