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What is it ‘To See’? A New Challenge to Conceptual Art Through ‘Bricks’

ARTIST INSIDE 2022 | Kangyong Kim

What is it ‘To See’? A New Challenge to Conceptual Art Through ‘Bricks’

Born in 1950, Kim Kang-yong’s trademark is bricks.
He has been painting bricks since the 1970s, using this common material as a subject.
This time, Kiaf Seoul will present new works created since 2020.
The theme of bricks remains the same, but the artist’s inner changes are reflected on the artworks’ surface.


The transformation in your work is noticeable.

Whereas my work in the 1980s was focused on capturing social issues, my recent work is focused on the problem of form, which is essentially the problem of art. The way I work hasn’t changed much, I’m just trying to eliminate unnecessary elements of expression. It may not be noticeable at first glance, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll see it. As with all artists, my current work is an attempt to give shape to everything I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’m trying to take the many formative elements of art that I’ve explored over the years and put them on the canvas. For a long time, I was classified as an ultra-realist painter, but nowadays I consider myself to be more in line with the conceptual art movement, and I guess you could say that I’m focusing on an exploration of the nature of art. In short, I’m constantly thinking and working on the question of ‘what should a painter show the viewer’.

In the 1980s, when abstract painting was all the rage, realism was also new territory, but applying sand directly to the panel was new in itself. What was the significance of this kind of work?

In the 1980s, there were groups that pursued the trend of hyper-realistic painting, such as ‘Fact and Reality’, ‘Visual Message’, and ‘Phenomenon’, and ‘Fact and Reality’, which I participated in, was the first Korean hyper-realistic painting group to receive considerable attention. Critics Lee Il and Yoon Woohak wrote about it, and it also received attention at the Dong-A Art Festival and the Central Art Exhibition, giant Korean art events. As you said, abstract works as Dansaekwha were in vogue at the time, and works that pursued a different realistic depiction were perceived as a challenge. The motif of bricks was one of them, but I wanted to do something that hadn’t been seen before, both in terms of idea and technique. As a result, I started to apply a natural material called ‘sand’ directly to the canvas and tried to depict it in an extremely realistic way. Especially in my works from the 80s, I wanted to portray social issues, issues of human dignity, and various problems of industrial society due to high economic growth.

Kangyong Kim, 김강용, Reality+Image 1912-1763, 2019, Mixed media, 150 × 150 cm

Can applying sand directly to the canvas be called painting?

I think painting is an expression of the artist’s thoughts through materials, pigments, and colours, and I’m using new materials that are not already being used by making them myself. In addition, I am trying to make various changes by applying new techniques such as inlay to the paintings. I think these new elements and features can also be understood within the category of painting.

Kangyong Kim, 김강용, Reality+Image 1912-1933, 2019, Mixed media, 99 × 132 cm

What meaning hyper-realistic paintings have in the age of photography?

All art is bound to have an element of trendiness in its time. It’s inevitable that works that are in vogue will stand out to audiences, but I don’t think it’s possible to know how they will stand up to art historical evaluation over time. What’s important is that artists try to build their own world by constantly exploring their own thoughts rather than following trends, and I think that’s what makes their work have its own meaning in the ever-changing times. I think art is an expression of the future. I want to spend my life searching and exploring new worlds in ways nobody has done before.

Kangyong Kim, 김강용, Reality+Image 2201-2041, 2022, Mixed media, 64 × 132 cm

Interview by Heaseung Kang, published on Kiaf 2022 Catalogue