Artist Hun Kyu Kim creates silk paintings that mix contemporary and historic paintings with his creative eye. His work is visually complex and so full of detail that one could get lost in it.
Kim is a full-time artist based in East London. The 36-year-old artist spends a full day of work (about 8-10 hours) imagining, designing, and creating his art for the entire world to see.
From what he recalled, when Kim was in kindergarten, his first artwork would be a tiger. His mother would always be a strong supporter of her son. She would constantly come home from work as a high school literature teacher and bring papers that were empty on the other side. Instead of throwing them out, she would give them to Kim to practice water coloring and drawing.
When growing up in South Korea, there were times that his family would take him to a museum so he could be mesmerized by all sorts of creations and art surrounding him. One specific memory he recalled is when he was left speechless when he saw different scroll paintings from the Goryeo dynasty that showcased 14th-century Buddhist scroll paintings. With this amazement at his findings, he could see all the different layers of structures, colors, and delicate processes that the artist took.
In an interview with The New York Times, Kim was asked who his big influencer/ inspiration was. Kim’s response is that his big inspiration for his art design comes from Japanese artist, designer, producer, and director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is best known for his work at Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animated studio for movies such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Oscar-winning Spirited Away, and more specifically Princess Mononoke, plus many more.
This was pretty significant to his life as well as South Korea in general. Even though Japan and South Korea were enemies due to past conflicts that later resolved, South Korea was closed off from Japanese influence. When the former president of South Korea, Kim Dae-Jung, visited Japan, he was so impressed that he would later open its borders for South Korea and Japan to share each other's pop culture. Hence why Japanese films like Studio Ghibli films were able to share their culture with South Korea.
Kim attended three art schools in Korea. His mother enrolled him in an arts secondary school that would teach silk drawings, which he would use to this day, and traditional drawings from Korea. Once graduated from secondary school, he would go to the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University. From there, he would study and receive his BA in Oriental Paintings and Art theory. Recalling his time at University, he would emphasize that, “The Training was really strict. But I really found a kind of beauty in Oriental Painting, and I enjoyed applying it to contemporary art.” One thing that he remembered from his masters is that he didn’t want to experiment, but followed orders because of a strict system structure so they can teach new generations to inherit their skills.
During his time at school, he would save money to leave South Korea and move to London to attend Royal College, where Kim would later on get his Masters's Degree in painting. The reason for his move was that it was during a time he wasn’t able to freely showcase his art in South Korea, as it might cause a stir of controversy.
When graduating, Kim and his classmates had an exhibit that showcased their art. The director of a gallery in London called “Approach Gallery” approached Kim to have many series of solo exhibitions for the public to see.
At the Approach Gallery, he dubbed this collection's title “Eight Universe and the Machine”. This show ran for two days in November 2018. Porco Rosso was one of the art he showcased. This portrays different animals like wolves, ducks, pigs, and many more ravaging a town with a few animals dressed up as policemen. This symbolizes different social statuses in South Korea from the 1970s to today.
While providing much different colorful silk art which may be complex but aesthetically pleasing, there's a deeper meaning to his painting. They tell a story of contemporary history and current events in a style where Kim doesn’t do much talking but just shows his work and lets the story unfold from there.
Since being picked up by High Art to have his art distributed as well as many other artists, Kim has been through two art shows where his art was featured and showcased for many to see in France as well as finally being able to be showcased in Asia.
My personal favorite of his art pieces is called Fake Dragon. I like this piece for its layers and complexity, as there is a lot going on. A story can be told with this from every corner of this painting. Each animal has their own story, we just have to figure out what it means and how it speaks to a larger context.
Kim’s most recent painting called Too Cool for Shopping is filled with lots of things to look at. It’s exhausting to look at every detail, but that’s the beauty in it. In the end, Kim’s artwork as a whole tells a message to look at the finer details, see if you can find the story.
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