HaYoung Kim is a South Korean artist who graduated from the Royal Academy in 2011. HaYoung has won numerous awards in London including the Dunoyer de Segonzac award and the major prize with Jerwood. Recently she won a residency to New York through the Vytlacil AIR program where she went to study and work in the city. In September this year HaYoung will have her first solo show at Hoxton Art Gallery.
A lot of your work deals with issues of consumption and evacuation, when did this idea first come about and how is this continuing in your present work?
The characters in my paintings are looking nowhere with vacant eyes. They seem so disarmed towards violence and easily could be consumed. They look as if they are cyborgs, robots or avatars, those artificial human-like objects that we create. The image of those figures evacuating or eating stuff endlessly with an empty gaze is my symbolic way of looking at the (post)modern human condition; the modern humans who are surrounded by numerous information and ads and excess of everything. For me we are like a 'passive eater' without filtering incomes, taking the fast stimulus and shocks and as a result of that coming to feel numb. I went to Korea recently and my idea became solid by seeing the fast-developed city's plastic flatness. Screens are everywhere showing things soundlessly with extremely bringt lights signs. The experience happening inside of flat screen looks unapproachable. As Slavoj Zizek said, the modern situation under science and virtual reality turns the whole of reality into something which 'exists only on a screen', a depthless surface. In Seoul, there were so many advertisements for plastic surgery and restaurants juxtaposed in the same space. This 'unmatchable scenery' for me feels like a contrived outside and inside. The cosmetic surgery ads maniacally but unabashedly showed natural before and artificial after photos of girls. It was so uncanny. The girls' faces looked as if they were made of plastic. And the photos of well represented food conveyed a similar feeling. I felt light and heavy at the same time. As a person living in a country that underwent rapid post-war development, I felt disoriented with the mixture of every unmatchable things that are all fully ready to be consumed. Pretty shiny high-resolution figures drive me to futility.
A lot of your work shifts between the monumental and the small. Do you have a different work process with each scale that you work to?
When I work with small scale I focus on stillness of the subject like a still life. Things painted on the smaller scale canvas are vulnerable creatures. They are abandoned useless things as a result of human greed. For example the work 'Only Can Watch' is inspired by CCTV. This multiple-eyed creature can not do anything but watch. It is vulnerable to outside violence. It is deadly passive. Vice versa when I work on the bigger scale I try to express a narrative of an active event.
For example the work 'Threat of Farming Feelings' is inspried by an article of scientific conjecture in which it is imagined that in future we will be able to farm organs to replace our own when they get weak. This painting is depicting the event.
I like that in your work there are areas of the picture plane that you can see through to something else. There is often something behing it whether it be colour or light, and in other areas the colour is dense and is packed with activity. Can you tell me more about your use of transparencies and layers?
I wanted to find a material that could show the depth in two dimension painting with flat images and I found drafting film and polyester the have perfect textual effect. Drafting film is a translucent material. When I layer it more than once the back images appear dimly, like a ghost. It gives the feeling of inside and outside. I have always been interested in what is in the inside and what is 'in' the outside. The series 'Internal Sequence' came from the idea of a reaction between inside and outside so that the layering in the works fit in with the concept.
It seems like you have a great productive output, have you ever gone through periods where you rest and are more contemplative?
I think I am now in that interval moment. With my expression I call it going into the cave, literally a hiding period. Because like you said,I have moments of pouring out works. I am working with my intuition and when it comes I can make lots of work but when it goes I need to do nothing. It sounds like I don't have my own principle but I think art is conveying and resonating energy to people so that I need to have some time for hiding for accumulating things to later explode.
How was it going from the environment at the Royal Academy to working during the Arts League residency in New York? Did you notice any changes in your work or in your process?
I am very affected by envoriment. Of course the results were very different. When I was at the RA, there was something in the air. Being at the such a historical academic place made me formed differently and when I was in NY I focused on expression method more.
Do you feel more freedom to explore now that you have completed the Royal Academy program?
I feel it was an anticlimax. From leaving the great support network to being by myself in the studio feels blunt but calm, which has two sides. I might be accustomed to such an intensive enviroment so in a way I am glad to move away from it.
Where do you see your work going?
My work is getting to be very like the subject matter that I want to criticise. I am not sure where it is going now. I hope that it will reach a good place.
Do you think of yourself primarily as a painter? Or could you see yourself working in other areas like sculpture, video, installation, etc?
I am an artist who deals with two dimensions. I have always wanted to make animations but don't know when it will happen.
It is always in my mind.
Interview with Giovanna Coppola, Feb 2012.
Ha Young Kim's 2012 Solo Exhibition, 24th Aug - 27th Sep 2012