Your aesthetics and philosophical approach recall Dansaekhwa, in particular the work of leading Dansaekhwa painters Park Seo Bo, Chung Chang Sup and Chung Sang Hwa. You were studying painting while Dansekhwa was emerging in the 1970s and 1980s. How did it impact your artistic development?
My university professors were now-established Dansaekhwa masters, so naturally they influenced me. Dansaekhwa itself looks very flat and minimalist but it is fundamentally about repeating acts of labour and the process of painting. It has a profound depth, and is completely different from Western Minimalism. Similarly, through repetition, I empty my mind and I meditate throughout my actions. Dansaekhwa may look like a very calm and peaceful aesthetic but it indirectly conveys the very powerful and provocative statement that simplicity or clarity can be derives from repeated action. In the context of Korea’s chaotic socio-political situation during the time, Dansaekhwa represented a form of escapism and speaking out.
Do you thus see your practice as somewhat continuing the Dansaekhwa mentality?
Yes and no. Obsessively repeating certain motions, such as painting layers, collaging papers, burning papers, is very like Dansaekhwa. I often hear my work called post-Dansaekhwa though, and I have never intended that. The subject of my practice has always been my own personal history and its changing narrative. It is more about my longing for home since I migrated to Italy; my practice is almost like my life’s series of encounters and farewells. The Korean traditional papers and inks are the best materials I can use to express my story and identity. Ultimately, I cannot really say that Dansaekhwa is a direct influence on my work but as I grew up with it and was taught by Dansaekhwa masters, it is difficult for me to ascertain.
Have these contemporary issues affected how you think about your practice? If so, how?
To be honest, I do not take the term “contemporary" seriously. We should not have to deliberately think about contemporaneity; contemporary means the time and space we are all living in now! I am conscious of all the issues currently surrounding me, naturally. I read the news everyday and am constantly checking it all the time. My friends and I sometimes discuss and critique these issues but I do not want them to be directly reflected in my work. The issues I choose to reflect in my practice are always first filtered by my personal perspective and artistic language.
‘Oneness’ by Kim Minjung, will be held at Aloft at Hermès, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers from 27 April to 30 July, 10.30am to 8pm daily.
This article first appeared in Art Republik 14.