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(Yonhap Interview) Kim Young-sung's hyperreal paintings that blow viewers' mind

2016/12/06 16:38

By Woo Jae-yeon

BUSAN, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korean artist Kim Young-sung's remarkably hyperreal paintings should be seen to be believed. Kim admitted that he sometimes has a hard time telling his own paintings apart from digital photos. Not surprisingly, he once mistakenly sent the press the file of a photo he took, not the painting he drew, as an image to accompany a story about his work.

In a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency in Busan, where he was showing his works at the Busan International Art Fair, he said almost everyone who's seen his paintings asks if he somehow uses printed pictures on the canvas -- for good reason. In his paintings, the subject matter, ranging from frogs to goldfish to lizards, is depicted in extremely realistic detail with mind-boggling, delicate technique.

In this undated photo provided by artist Kim Young-sung, he is seen working on a painting from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series. (Yonhap) In this undated photo provided by artist Kim Young-sung, he is seen working on a painting from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series. (Yonhap)

A graduate from the College of Fine Art of Hongik University, a famous art school in Seoul, the artist, 43, has always loved bugs, reptiles and amphibians since he was a kid. He kept them at home, observing and painting them.

"It wasn't easy to paint their structure and color well. It was much harder than I had expected. I promised myself I will train myself at art school when I grow up and paint them perfectly," he said.

But his wish to enter art school faced strong opposition from his parents who were worried over job instability. In high school, an aimless and angry Kim wasted his time, defied his parents' every word and got himself into fights. After two years, his parents finally gave in.

"My parents realized that I wasn't just protesting and that I just can't live without painting."

  

This undated image provided by artist Kim Young-sung shows a painting from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series, featuring a snail. (Yonhap) This undated image provided by artist Kim Young-sung shows a painting from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series, featuring a snail. (Yonhap)

Since late 2006, he has been working on his "Nothing. Life. Object" series that he saw himself doing for far too long. Working from photos he takes himself, he has finished 62 paintings so far, which translates into around six paintings a year. While he believes he is very lucky to be able to do what he loves for a living, he is often frustrated with the speed at which he produces a piece. He works more than 12 hours a day, even on weekends.

"Even though I work from 9 in the morning till midnight, it takes a year for me to finish some paintings. As I want to paint as realistically as possible, it just takes forever to complete a piece that I am satisfied with."

  

This undated image provided by artist Kim Young-sung shows one of his paintings from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series, featuring a frog. (Yonhap) This undated image provided by artist Kim Young-sung shows one of his paintings from his "Nothing. Life. Object" series, featuring a frog. (Yonhap)

Currently, his works are on view at "A Sustaining Life," a group exhibition "meant to inspire and motivate viewers to engage in sustainability -- in themselves, in their communities, and in the world" from Nov. 30 to March 11 at the Waterfall Mansion and Gallery in New York. He's sealed a partnership with two more overseas galleries -- Plus One Gallery in London and REDSEA Gallery in Brisbane, Australia.

Being very hard on himself, he scores his paintings on a 100 point scale every time he finishes one. No painting has passed the 90 mark -- the score he hopes to give himself someday.

"If you enlarge a photo to observe it, you will realize it is not very realistic. Technology advances at a great speed and it is hard to keep up, but my goal is to outperform a high-definition TV or computer monitor," he said.

In this undated photo provided by artist Kim Young-sung, he is sitting in front of one of the paintings in his "Nothing. Life. Object" series. (Yonhap) In this undated photo provided by artist Kim Young-sung, he is sitting in front of one of the paintings in his "Nothing. Life. Object" series. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr

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