Human reading from the visual mechanism and its extension process
Yeowoon Kim’s work is about human beings. However, it deals with neither their physical forms nor the expression of their emotions. Only by reading the content of Kim’s work can we know that it is related to the search of the situations concerning human existence. When looking at Kim’s work, we realize that a canvas frame and fragmented images appear as the main elements. The frame is hanging in the air, not on the wall. Underneath the frame are the hanging images that seem to have been poured out of the canvas, all fragmented into small pieces. Kim called the theme of this exhibition,‘1.2.4.’. She claims that she has cited the mathematical concept in the sequence of numbers just how a single cell grows exponentially by continually dividing itself into two, four, eight, etc.
Kim thinks that human beings contain both finite and infinite characteristics within them, like the existence of order and the principles in numbers. Thus, it seems that she thought of numbers as the best method to express human beings. However, she does not directly express numbers in her work; rather she replaces them with fragmented images. The fragmented images in Kim’s work symbolize the possibility of an infinite increase in numbers, which also represent the diffusion of images. The fragmented images used in her work are views from different perspectives of one object; in other words, those that have been collected as different and separated images. However, if these images were composed and combined together on a two-dimensional surface, they could have been referred to as a single image, even if they were from different perspectives and different images. In this case the image would be a single work limited by the frame of a canvas, and, at the same time, this type of two-dimensional work on a flat surface would be conventionally regarded as a work that has to be displayed on the wall at eye level.
However, the images that are found in Kim’s work tend to divide themselves into two, four and more images. This result confirms that it functions to destroy the unity of an image or the perspective space, which is the visual structure in general paintings and photographs. In addition, although these images appear to have been fragmented into several pieces after being placed on a distorted canvas hanging in the air, in reality the images contain multiple views and scenes. Therefore, if you look at the details more carefully, you can see that these images were not originally unified even though they seem to be associated with one particular canvas. According to Kim, these fragmented images are the number of situations where a number of images may be contained within a single image; in other words, they are the parts of the infinite samples overlapping in finitude. Kim has referred to this as ‘human schematics’ and ‘human portrait’. Such a comment makes it clear that her work is ultimately related to the human being or the existence of a human being.
However, when Kim expresses her view of human beings in her work by replacing it with the relationship between the canvas frame and the images, we know that her work began with a reflection of the previous two-dimensional work. Perhaps for Kim, two-dimensional works such as painting are like trapping the world within the frame; in other words, defining her position in existence within the frame of a flat surface. Considering that two-dimensional works - such as painting in the traditional context since the Renaissance period - presupposes a single point of view and a perspective space, Kim would have perceived two-dimensional works, which focus on one particular order, as a closure structure that makes people look within the category, and as a mental mechanism to experience the limitations of being human. Nonetheless, the world reflected into the retina of the eye is a structure that converges onto a two-dimensional surface. On the basis of this, it can be said that the flat-surface-based media such as painting and photography can be regarded as the resemblance of the human visual mechanism and human thought mechanism. At the same time, it acts as an extension of human vision and the structure of human thought.
However, the idea that human vision and thought can only stay within the frame and the flat surface seems to have reached the limit in Kim’s notion about human beings. Thus, she has developed her work by exploring the mechanism of human vision - and reason itself - at the threshold, as well as its possibility of expansion. In the same context, the purpose of Kim’s current work is to fragment the flat medium at its limit. She challenges herself in the process of its sequential diffusion while examining the whole process of fragmentation. Furthermore, another purpose of Kim’s work can also be interpreted as an attempt to create a key driver that expands and transforms infinitely beyond finite human beings within the limits of the frame.
We can tell that Kim’s work deals with a frame, a flat surface in two-dimensional work and a critical mind about the formative limit arising from an image. She reverting to the question of human vision and thought, making an attempt to find an alternative. If we stay within the two-dimensional limits of a frame and a surface, even the horizons of human vision and thoughts gets trapped within. This is why Kim intends to find a way to go beyond the boundaries to infinite possibilities of human beings in the temporal and spatial expansion of the geometrically increasing images. Moreover, she tries to show such a process in her work. Kim has made it possible to identify the structure of this chain of creativity in terms of the extensive changes from a frame and a surface: the fragmentation or differentiation of an image, thereby revealing the human visual structure and the related structure of human beings.
In the end, Kim examines the ontological position of human beings by visualizing the context of the work process of visual arts itself by linking it to the mechanism of human thought. Moreover, Kim enables audiences to share their feelings empirically with her way of thinking, which she has acquired during the process of exploration of human beings: constructing a work as a recognition of the visual domain of the innate infinite possibilities of finite human beings.
2017, Seunghoon Lee, Director of Cyart Space
About thought experiments that continue to deepen.
“Not to be confined by the greatest, yet to be contained by the smallest, is divine,”
That is the inscription on the headstone of St. Ignatius Loyola. This inscription was adopted in Fridrich Hölderlin’s masterpiece Hyperion as a major promise some 200 years later. The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy used this phase in the work The Birth to Presence again, another 200 years later.
No matter how great something is, there are things it cannot surpass. Yet, it gladly embraces those things no matter how trivial they are. Is there such a thing as this. If there is, we are not able to hear it or know of its name; we cannot do so, we still try to hear and call out its name.
We are utterly finite beings, but at the same time we know that we are infinite beings as well, our minds are able demonstrate this. We, as finite beings’ have thoughts that are infinite.
I see it as the will of human beings to contemplate that infinity. Why? Why do we feel that need to think about infinity and then have the need to express it?
I would like to address this in the context of the work of the artist Yeowoon Kim.
Let’s first think about what a drawing is.
Initially, it may have been an act of drawing something in the dirt simply for communication. Then, at that time, it may have worked well.
Then along came the people’s common interests – perhaps ultimately their concern for their own future. To escape from an uncertain tomorrow, they may have begun to think about something bigger, something infinite. By drawing infinitely extended images of food, they soothed themselves, even motivated themselves, gave themselves, the will to live.
This act of drawing became something else. It evolved into having a memorial ceremony which later became institutionalized. This memorial ceremony, of course, an illusion. Letters were invented to criticize this illusion. A drawing is the beads and letters are the string to thread these beads. Letters and drawings are combined with numbers to make the world seem logical.
This coding of the world made it possible to rationally comprehend the world as a string of neatly threaded beads. The coding of the world embodies logical equations which gave birth to modern science. Later, this science made it possible to invent the camera lens and the computer.
In reality, the computer’s image is the ultimate result of this logic – the binary system. Letters that were invented to criticize that initial illusion of an image produce even finer illusions. Therefore, even though we are comfortable in believing that we are living in the era of advanced technology, enabling us to stay away from all the illusions, it is not the case – we create our own illusions.
Science, indeed, is magic too. The law of reality relies on Newtonian science. The atomic world relies on quantum mechanics. The universe beyond the earth follows the theory of relativity. In between the microscopic world and reality exists the Grey Zone.
This Grey Zone is impossible to define.
Yeowoon Kim’s critical mind understands this space. The artist questions the idea that what we see through the lens of science, a computer created to deliver a standard answer is simply a truism. The framed canvas, often used in painting, resembles the social norm. It demands of the artist that they make content and techniques that only within the confinement of a frame. Such a method embodies fixed moment, a fixed event, a screen set on permanent pause.
And yet, the artist wants something else. To express the free-flowing passage of time.
Framing a canvas in an asymmetrical way and having the content suspended in midair gives the viewer this flow – almost a delightful sense of liberation. This is not the simply the artist attempting to do something avant-garde – it derives from her awareness of our perceptions, how they are created and where they sit in our world to be explored.
We think what we see is real. However, the world we see, touch, and feel is a phenomenon created by our consciousness. This Schopenhauer called a representation, Buddhism panca-Skandha (五蘊). Our perception, which we believe to be perfect, is in fact imperfect. The world extended before us is not stable, like the picture on canvas. It follows us as we move to see what we desire to see.
It is impossible to comprehend the world. The world we think of is, at best, a mosaic of the fragments created by time, by physical difference and by our point of interest. We let all things outside our interest’s flow into the drain of subconscious.
Therefore, Kim’s new series is suspended in midair like a mobile.
Our minds create the world with a mix of phenomena that we see through our eyes, while building up the visual fragments we mentioned before, around the axis called time and movement.
Based on phenomenological analysis, Yeowoon Kim attempts to show both the essence and the limits of the world and of painting in that world.
Then what is the artist’s intention – is it to reveal the essence of painting. Why does she strive for this?
We ought to think about what it means to say “art is a preview for the future.”
It may not be easy to believe that what happens within art always tends to happen in reality.
However, if we think about a paradigm it becomes understandable. A paradigm is a way to see the world within a set period. It is not a continuous linear model. The model is sometimes helical and itself, of course, can get broken from time to time, all within the context of this fluidity.
A paradigm is not invented by scientists. More often than not, it was and is led by artists through their dreams and their visions. Yeowoon Kim is suggesting that we must understand ourselves before we are able understand the outside world. The true understanding and acceptance of others is derived from an earnest understanding of ourselves. Furthermore, an earnest understanding of human beings shows us the way to the right understanding of the world.
The artist is striving to broaden our perceptions, of nature, the universe and the world, upon the foundation of a rigorous understanding of ourselves.
The artist is endeavoring to embrace a thought experiments about infinity.
The works reflects that of Emmanuel Levinas – a perception that presupposes responsibility. The artist’s ‘thought experiments must continue, will deepen over time and we will be able to discover the true version of ourselves and the world we do not yet understand.
When this ‘whirlwind’ of understanding of oneself and of others can be seen in art, such a paradigm can spread into other realms, that of politics, the economy, and of wider society.
Yeowoon Kim is trying to achieve this now.
2017, JinMyung Lee, Curator at Kansong Art and Culture Foundation
Since the beginning of human history, humans have been distinguished between the strong and the weak. In the beginning, the boundary was merely a matter of who had greater physical strength. Yet, as human society became more evolved, the determining factors also diversified. Generally, money and power have been the key, but nowadays one’s education, job, and even appearance have surged to become the standards that determine the line between the weak and the strong. Although its forms and measures have changed, this act of distinguishing, from the very beginning, has served a purpose of violence.
The artist rather explicitly addresses the presence of violence in human society by means of comparing desolate contemporary men with animals. The manner, in which all these phenomena are so beautifully and elegantly portrayed, even intensifies the shock. What surprises me is that Kim does not criticize the strong, nor does she express a voice of sympathy for the weak. Rather, the artist alludes to modern humanity’s unknowing of themselves stranding on the verge of despair.
2011, Sanghoon Yoon, Senior Curator of Interalia
A Sacrificial Art
The art of Yeowoon Kim springs from her observation of the dynamics, and victims, of modern capitalism. But the means to her ends are subtle and indirect. By turning to examples from the natural world, Yeowoon represents human oppression and isolation, depicting animals as substitutes for those who have been, and continue to be sacrificed. Her meticulously created exhibition spaces suggest domestic interiors, which she then fills with lovingly detailed paintings of living creatures which have been “collected” and are on display. We --modern humanity-- are the innocent, oftentimes harmless animals --captured, imprisoned, and isolated-- that decorate the curio cabinets of an acquisitive consumerist society.
The eye is drawn to small canvases of startlingly realistic birds and animals, with a resulting sense of immediate emotional engagement. But upon closer inspection the viewer realizes the majestic owl or adorable kitten is in fact encased in a Perspex box. The smallness of the box emphasizes the compression, isolation, and objectification of each individual subject. The knowledge that no living creature could survive long in such a plastic enclosure engenders fear, alarm, and empathy with the “sacrificed” animal. Her art is a mirror held to our faces, reflecting back indirectly and quietly the outrages perpetrated upon us by ourselves.
Some of the paintings show apparently living animals, others “trophy” heads, or only plundered remains, such as in the ivory paintings. A rabbit and a wolf cub trapped in the same box appear equally vulnerable, despite one being considered a predator and the other prey. Doors and windows imply the exits and escape which these creatures are forever denied. The freedom that seems reachable only makes their reality crueler.
An entire universe fills the window in a door, and presents a new motif in her works. Modern science has allowed humankind an unprecedented arrogance, a false sense of dominance and mastery, and such images recall viewers to their own essential fragility in the contemplation of her paintings.
2010, Octavia Randolph. writer