Jaehyun Kim, 2021
If the image of nature that is inextricably linked to us suddenly feels banal, it is usually because of the gap between how we perceive it and the ability to portray it. As the definition of living things and the role of human beings in nature is constantly changing and recognized once more even in the same image, we perceive our position differently between observers and participants within a time difference.
My writing and work is about “the conviction that I'm somewhere.” We project our consciousness onto nature, and I also can detect changes in my own consciousness by recording my perspectives on nature. This kind of observation can be risky because the haste to connect the random to the meaningful and the complacency to stay in a story without content are revealed without filter. But there is no other way either. This internal search for the source of my creative desire has taken the form of finding something that becomes an intersection between various attempts rather than constructing a single order through a solid conceptual setting.
Writing here also has no specific starting point, so no clear link will be given. I wrote while contemplating the conditions that enable the face-to- face, focusing on the fact that a work is to face the people who see it. It begins with a scene where you face yourself through your work.
I observe the relationship between time and body, looking for something I can be sure of. I have to adjust the space with different speeds so that I can live in between, revisiting the causes of the things I am repeating and speculating on the things that attract me. I believe that is the way to find my speed among things that pass so fast or too slow and to see where I am standing on a changeable ground.
I have a habit of starting with the subheadings that interest me in the table of contents. In the end, it is up to the viewer to give order, so regardless of the order in which the text is placed, I sincerely recommend starting with the page that interests you. Because the story will not go anywhere.
The shape, size, texture and weight of the work are grounded in a belief: the structure and form of a lie are fundamentally true. I have no desire to explain how faith works. However, I assume it is a similar phenomenon to the fact that all the scenes and narratives in it are already possible, and can begin to be understood by knowing that it is a dream. Images, unfortunately, account for only one digit out of 24 frames per second in film. Stuck between cost problem and boredom, the image both implies and deviates from them. At the same time, it is a small particle, so it continues to survive in different forms. This situation makes it natural for the image to stumble through its story and its location.
Making an image is to start dreaming of a place. You have to stretch around it based on the moment you can return to that place. As heavy as the weight of a thermos that can be carried in a bag, the illusion that we can remember is the weight of the image that we can carry in a day.
The scenes you want to express and the scenes that can be expressed have no choice but to change. In order to execute, I have to stick to a specific gravity, light, temperature, and humidity. This is where unlimited thinking first feels resistance. Unrecognizable comfort, such as when a breeze corresponds to the temperature of one’s body, becomes a faint milestone. It stems from the conviction that you will feel again tomorrow what you sensed today. The memory of the senses survives among the perverse moments that continue. It's like building a house in your mind, so that it can point you in the direction of returning.
The house ironically has no shape. At a certain alley, the house suddenly appears. Even if you pass that alley dozens of times again, the moment is not the same. It is necessary to retrace the conditions of the moment. One must doubt that the sum of the conditions will soon be able to reproduce the memory entirely. The only way to capture the evaporable house is by constantly weighing the point between the most agile sensations and the language that can express it with the most subtlety. We must find a place to stand under bizarre conditions where repetition is observed but cannot be repeated.
Back to the story of images, I ask myself why I mainly do painting under these conditions. Perhaps it's simply because for a long time, it has been the language I've honed with the most confidence. Images reduce their status as smaller basic units as other media proliferates in more complex ways, but since they are basic units, the ability to process images can have infinite possibilities. What is certain is that the more I try to give a certain meaning to the “painting” by myself, and the more I try to contextualize my works with logical reasoning, the farther away I feel when dealing with paintings. The concept of a place is very abstract and personal to me. No one is actually looking at the exact same thing, so we are constantly trying to feel the same thing, or believe that we are feeling the same thing to feel connected. Simply, a good picture traps many people in a small room. The better the picture, the longer it locks us up. Although it cannot be proved by numbers, a picture clearly keeps the viewer in it for a long time and increases the probability of feeling the same thing between one another. There is no cost issue or boredom. I feel the paradoxical potential within a single image and that's what keeps me building a virtual house.
In traditional East Asian paintings, it is not possible to sketch or set down brushstrokes multiple times on the same side due to the permeability and fragility of the paper. When composing a screen, the most important things are adjusting the shade in one stroke, operating the brush through repeated skilled movements, and measuring the interval between strokes at every moment. The work before and after the painting, which controls its surface and thickness, is structured, and unlike other painting materials, its arbitrary application is very limited. In fact, many try to make variations between the materials, but most do not create new enough visual effects to doubt the frame of the limitations. This is due to the strong complementarity of the three materials of paper, brush, and ink in traditional East Asian paintings.  The viscosity of ink and the characteristic permeability of thin paper require a specific speed of motion according to the shape to be drawn. The time constraints created by this physical relationship between materials require more precise correction of the artist's movements. The artist predicts in advance the shape his brush will produce and determines the path and speed of the brush. The low saturation of the ink and the nature of not creating texture highlights the painter's ability to deal with his body and time. This is to practice movement and visualize the practice through the promise of materials.
Unlike traditional painting, the combined use of unstructured complementary materials has a completely different starting point. There can be a number of different cases depending on the properties between materials such as the degree of drying, color and texture, and transparency. This degree of freedom requires the artist to understand the characteristics and speed of the material and to establish an order between the materials. It feels as vague as it is to fall to an unmarked place and give the cardinal directions of East, West, North, South as well as right, left, up and down. I feel a kind of honesty in the way the artist's movements are projected on the screen in East Asian painting, and I believe there is still a point where it can be interpreted as a certain standard. Handling materials within comprehensible domains is important for communication, but sometimes the domain of understanding widens when materials are handled in new ways. In paintings without specific visual rules, I see the invisible rules still in the condition of the human body. It’s fun to imagine how the painting has been handled by the artist as a rectangular wooden frame covered with canvas. The texture and traces of the material on the screen constantly suggest a trail of movement. The details of the finish, the change in the angle that the effect implies, and the setting of the distance make us imagine how the artist reacted to the material and through what process he was transformed from a producer to an observer.
My concern is not a thirst for new knowledge which seeks to find new complementarity or dig into hidden relationships between materials. When we hold something precious in our hands, we can see how much our five senses actually grasp the world at different speeds. With the development of technology, the range of how each of us perceives our own body has changed in unprecedented ways, and the sensitivity of each of our senses is also rapidly changing. Just as when we are careful not to spill water, the speed of each material still requires us to act with corresponding care. My concern is whether the instinctive sense of unity such as that present in breath, gaze, and sense of balance can still be visually expressed and understood. The images of traditional painting, which have been building visual rules for a long time are losing their effect as the fixed concept of a body that formed the axis with materials changes. Maybe we no longer have a common concept of body that allows us to fully follow or appreciate such paintings. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the boundaries between material and non-material, reality and virtuality have become the most blurred since the technological revolution. At this point I still see the constraints of materiality as a condition for our senses and emotions to be in the right place. Traditional media such as paintings and sculptures feel more inefficient and painstaking than ever at this point. A work suggests the body of the artist who produced the work and their actions. Maybe we're in a long fight with someone we don't know about the status of our body.
 Yongjin Cho. How to read Oriental paintings, On the current problems of Korean painting and future directions, 180p
When I was in kindergarten, crayons had a color called “skin color” (CMYK 0 24 24 0). Someone suggested to the Korean Industrial Standards to change the name to “light-orange” when I was 10 years old as a matter of racial discrimination. A few years later, It became ‘light apricot”again due to an Primary School student's complaint that the name was too difficult to remember.
I pondered, “what was the first moment I remember?” We can’t be sure if any memory is really the first. There are a few chunks of memory that could be the first, but every chunk has a moment of suspicion. I remember the moment when I reflected on the mysterious color between my fingers while covering the sun with my hands. I remember a friend I met when I was young whose name I don’t even remember. He said, "this is real skin color.” I answered, “what is skin color anyway?”
Yes, as other people said, I must have come out of my mother's body. But it still bothers me that I don't remember the very first moment. What happened in the past is like processed food. When you open the lid, it’s just as it was when it was stored, but atimes, whether we become different people every certain time or whether someone else is constantly being born within us. An unanswerable doubt by a creature oblivious to the passage of time.
I always cook processed food again with heat for my health. It feels like I'm fixing broken things. I stack the ingredients with such strong senses in order and take them to the “good to eat” area. Add vinegar when it's too sweet, sugar when it's too sour, vinegar or sugar when it's too salty. What does it taste like to have an unprocessed memory?
It sounds natural but always surprising that my act of carving out a plate in relief print has a dichotomous result such as: printed or not printed, black or white. It feels more like an implicit law than a phenomenon. It's a simple technique, but sometimes it's hard to predict and there's something that compels one to follow.
In the process of carving and printing a plate, questions about direction always arise. It is so natural that all of the prints we know were originally inverted from left to right that hardly anyone even considers it. My sense of direction is not very good. When I entered Elementary School, my classmates could distinguish between their left and right hand from any point in any direction, as if they were all in consensus. I didn't really understand the concept, but I could see it was my right hand by reiterating that my nail scar was on the right. It is an even worse nightmare to distinguish between the right and the left of others. Whose standards should I follow when facing another? Since the engraved side faces down to reach the surface of the paper, the shape of the edition is turned left and right. They are facing each other, so the left and right between them cannot be the same. The one who carves it for the promised order, such as a type printing plate placed in reverse order, must twist the image internally.
As I said before, I don't have a good sense of direction, so I can't draw a line considering the reversal of left and right. Therein lies a contradiction that cannot allow me to be honest even if I keep my promises. In my first printmaking class, I learned to draw on tracing paper and flip it over so I could transfer the “original” sketch to the plate. However, because this is not engraving an image on the plate, many of the lines and dots I want to make voluntarily are filtered out in the process of using tracing paper. Still, as stubborn as I am, I carve the way I see. This is not to twist the image, and to accept the risk that the viewer will not see my gaze in the same direction. Weirdly, I never felt it was a problem. Because my image has to be the criterion for what I see or what I'm trying to find, I have to stay in the unprocessed spot to avoid confusing its direction. Like a nail scar, I have to have a mark that sets one standard. If so, can I really conclude that my right hand is only on the left side of those who face me?
Somehow, my prints often find their way as a gift for someone. The process of pairing somebody who will be its owner between certain figures is interesting. It's also my pleasure to see them looking at prints. It is not all of my devotion because it is a clone, and it is not all of my gaze because it is an inverted image. So they may be fit to be a gift. This level of distancing is quite balanced. Even if I show the plate, I just hear the question of why I show it, and the response won't bring much. This may be because the distance created by the edition is familiar rather than the plate. In the end, but still, the place where the carving knife passed is white, and the place where it didn't is black. Why do I feel comfortable when my most honest original work is not shown intact within the riddle of dichotomy?
I'm afraid of hardening, so I keep swimming. Give yourself a reprimand for not loving yourself. To be properly hardened, go deeper into the abyss where no one can find me.
The summer of swimming in the middle of a lake without holding lanes.
Lying down with your eyes closed for a while, the sense of direction disappears.
Draw your limbs in the grey space of your mind as if you are in womb.
Imagining where the lake, downtown,
or even farther away where we were.
Which side of your limbs is pointing out to them?
Maybe we're not pointing to anything after all,
because where we are is at different altitudes.
Maybe my voice won't reach the plateau where you're on
A distance as thin as a membrane but impenetrable.
But I know you're feeling it there just as I do.
The feeling makes me not sink back to where I was.
The story that my mother watches stir-fried anchovies in the kitchen
longer than my face on the last day before leaving a long way.
Mom's stir-fried anchovies are of two types. One kind are white anchovies coated with sugar and walnuts, and the other are red anchovies fried in red pepper paste. When I went to China and lived apart from my family in Seoul, and when I came to the Netherlands, the anchovies always followed me. Stir-fried anchovies with a lot of calcium that make the bones strong. They don’t go bad for a long time, and my mom always makes them the last night before I go.
I tend to fix the paintings very often at the end. Expression has happened a long time ago already, like words which can’t be taken back. It is a deceptive act to add present determination on an already finely faded surface. Therefore, it requires greater certainty. I was ashamed of my habit of doing this. Like most questions about self-confidence, there is anxiety. The habit of fixing paintings also made me wonder whether it was because of my sluggish personality or an arrogant act of ignoring my previous decisions. “I should have done it well from the beginning.” But I know I will come back to this no matter how finely I finished the paining.
Repeating one thing is not only creating one habit, but also a journey to find the reason for another habit. Habits are like problems, when one disappears, one appears. Why do I habitually want to fix the picture? The painting doesn't change as fast as I change. The people I want to show the painting change, but the painting does not change. I adapt, but refuse to adapt to a picture that has already been hardened. Would it be appropriate to put new flesh on top of such a painting again?
The materials of the painting meet in one place and stay with me for a while, but they have a different fate with me because they are originally from outside. The moments when I decide to revise a painting usually start with the premonition that I won't be able to see it very often anymore. Refine the rough surface, give it a more luminous color, or straighten the boundaries between distracted textures. Maintenance maybe someone else won't do or no one else can do but myself. Cover the fine gaps and dust them off until the end so that they last only a day. I leave my traces of different times within a small area that perhaps no one will even see. It's the most desirable thing to keep looking at a face for the rest of time, but the desire to be remembered in the future is even greater.
There are times when I don't know what I want from a painting, but I am still attached to it. It is sad because there was an irresponsible beginning. Prayer is necessary because it will be left unattended.
Like those inaccessible spaces that are quickly omitted when you get on the train, things that I encounter on the first road pass by forming a band without focus. Objects keep their shape for a while only when I turn my head to match the speed of the train and look at one place. The clarity with which we can read a letter is only around 20 degrees out of a viewing angle of about 200 degrees. Those things outside the window seem touchable, but I will not actually touch them, and even if I want to remember them, they will be quickly forgotten. Like the area outside the 20 degrees, it disappears in order of shape, color, and movement.
When I pass a strikingly beautiful or unusual place through the window, I quickly turn on google maps and insert a pin into a gray, unmarked space. Always the most “present” map leads us to where we want to be most accurately, so we collect a pins where we want to visit someday. The spaces on the map give me the illusion of being able to reach them clearly with a pin inserted anywhere, but the list of“places I want to go" is mostly forgotten in the same way.
When I was a child, I always sat in the back seat and watched my dad drive, and my mother opened a paper map next to him and gave directions. When we followed the signs and passed a new road that was not yet marked, we were running on the sea or rice field on the map. Now the paper map has disappeared from the glovebox and the navigation in my phone continues to update and seamlessly estimate the world. Latest maps quickly become inaccurate maps like a mirage, and the place for traces of past paths on updated maps lost their spot. As time goes by, the moving lines are divided densely or loosely, and such a familiar path becomes one that has never been again.
Maps that are getting sharper and clearer don't give me any space for doubts. The image gives me the illusion that I'll be able to look back on all the paths I've been on as long as the battery doesn't run out. But my sense of space moves along the band of memories and creates a sense of alienation in real space. Whenever the band meets a point where it has passed, or reconnects to a memory that has been forgotten, the memories in between have to find their own place again. Lost memories can disappear without being seated anywhere or survive as a familiar background of dreams.
The shapeless starting line, which has the risk of not being found, and which doesn't want to be seen by anyone but is disappointed if no one finds it, has always been on the road not featured on a map. Many precious things that are not marked, such as freckles and wrinkles that only close people can see, symbols that no one can read because no one is looking for them are hidden somewhere on the map.
The chili pepper dries like a fire
The journey from fresh green to dark red is about a month
An empty flesh that can easily give back what it contains
You have to have smooth skin that can't be contaminated
by your friends
The meaning of the ring varies from finger to finger
When precious beings try to find their own place,
I think of the shape of my finger to be showvn to precious beings.
Precious beings also think of the shape of my finger
How to grab something is what you need to learn until the end
For the vulnerable
In order not to leave regrets
For someone who will go with you to places you can't reach alone
To hold all the precious things as precious as they are
And to bless all that
When I paint, I often want to be myself a few days later and see the progress of the painting I am working on. I wonder how the spaces that are empty for this reason and filling up for that reason will end. It is natural that paintings are always in that state if I do not put it in any action, but sometimes the fact feels rather unnatural. Until it is settled with only one probability of completion among so many possibilities, the different textures and colors around the canvas continue to ask me whether it is okay to leave them as it is or if it is okay to solidify as it is.
The process of painting requires considerable introspection. I value the patience to wait for the door to open and the self-censorship of noticing when the image gradually dissipates and only the form of action remains. Through this, I get a residue rather than a creation in my hands. There are always some commands that linger in my head at that time. They could be made from any sentences of the book I have been digesting or the after images of all kind of visual information I have in my memory. The interests of those days and the nature of their properties secretly affect the materials and colors that I want to use. Depending on the painting, there is a painting that ends with interest in the subject of the time, and some paintings are not persistently completed during the two or three changes in the general subject, and are mixed with layers of different time lines. Surprisingly, the trajectory of time, which is so confusing for me, is casually gathered in one place in the painting. So even though the painting is fixed as an image and ended, the sense of distance from me constantly changes.
I prefer picturing in my mind rather than physical sketching when I start. In the process of painting with a sketch, I lose my backbone more easily and start to fill the space without self-censorship. If the screen is filled with such a will, with a very high probability it becomes a task that I must cover again tomorrow. The next morning, I take a deep breath and imagine the part of painting I am not satisfied with as if it were an empty, colorless, odorless space, and mind other images that deserve it. However, my habit of painting without sketches creates a chronic dilemma. The most realistic problem is that the time for the painting to be completed can be deferred, and after it is completed, it becomes difficult for me to clearly explain, the meaning has been forgotten. I partially add gesso according to the color I want to implement, and this background work in different time lines creates fine marks and thickness differences throughout the screen. Such differences may affect the coloration, and sometimes naturally suggest the boundaries of the shape. The process that cannot but be continuously nested leads to a problem of the time taken after the work is completed. Depending on how much the artist intends to preserve their work, the order between layers composed of different physical properties must be considered. In what ways can the image be proved to exist at this time, and where is the time that the image has led to?
Even though the painting of an unknown artist on the internet sometimes gives me a fresh shock, I haven't always wondered more about the higher resolution or it’s physicality. I know that the work will have a variety of angles in some certain places, but I have already become accustomed to looking from a given distance. There is nothing as boring and sad as generalizing my experience to contemporary errors. Rather, the focus of the question seems to be on not knowing why I have such a tendency while acting like that. Fine stains or color differences that can only be seen 1 meter ahead, random bends, and bumpy surfaces created by hair from brushes are ironed very smoothly and clearly in the picture. If so, does it mean that even I, who paints, like the image transformed into a picture. The ending is too futile for a painting that is woven and covered with flesh and dressed in layers of agony. What's more incomprehensible is that even I, who made it, am used to the futility.
This effort to escape from the endless loop of thought results in a moment of completion. Accepting my lack, believing that what I have gained through the process is positive, I quickly turn a blind eye to the futility of finishing the painting. What has changed is that the space of my studio and the capacity of my computer's drive have been reduced by the volume and weight of my transient worries.
- Nelson Goodman. Ways of World Making. Hackett Publishing Co, Inc. 1978
- 조용진 Yongjin Cho. 동양화 읽는 법 How to read Oriental paintings. 집문당. 1998
- Giorgio Agamben. Man without contents. 자음과 모음. 2017
- Vilém Flusser. Gestures. University Of Minnesota Press. 2014
- John Durham Peters. The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media. The University Of Chicago Press. 2016
- Carl Gustav Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. William Collins. 1995
- Jacques Aumont. The Image. British Film Institute. 1997
- #2 Two orbits, Lino cut, 10 × 7, 2019
- #5 Hand in hand, Lino cut, 20 × 15, 2021
- #8 Ring and finger, Lino cut, 20 × 15, 2021