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(Yonhap Interview) Artist invites art lovers to his private working space

2017/08/29 14:06

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By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- There were a few hundred drawings scattered on tables. In front of a half-painted canvas lay paints and brushes, ready to be picked up and used again.

Visitors sat at the dimly lit tables, flipping through stacks of sketches and drifted into a reverie. Everything about the fourth solo exhibition by Kim Hee-soo felt so casual and easy as if one had been invited to his private studio.

That was exactly what he intended his exhibit "People / Normal Life" to feel like, Kim told Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

He opened the exhibit on the first floor of Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, where his own studio is located a level above.

This undated photo provided by artist Kim Hee-soo is of himself in front of his drawings. (Yonhap) This undated photo provided by artist Kim Hee-soo is of himself in front of his drawings. (Yonhap)

Sharing his working process with visitors has become his signature exhibition style, he said, adding that looking too serious and rigid was the last thing he wanted for his own exhibition.

"I don't call myself an artist. Neither do I like high art. I became a professional painter to see if I can do popular art that is neither so light nor heavy."

   Through expressionless faces of what he said were ordinary people around him, he let viewers reflect their own emotions to interpret his paintings as they liked and feel more connected to them.

"I often paint someone from my memory. But I try to delete the personality of the person. That way, there could be room for others to enter the painting," he said. "I don't give much meaning to my work. Giving no title to each of my paintings is part of the effort. I hope people create their own narrative while watching my paintings."

  

People enjoy Kim Hee-soo's fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap) People enjoy Kim Hee-soo's fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim Hee-soo's sketches lie scattered on the desk at his fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap) Kim Hee-soo's sketches lie scattered on the desk at his fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

Before painting, he worked in advertising and then at a photo studio. Desperate to do his own stuff, he left the studio at age 29, where he had worked for nearly a decade.

For the next few years, he nearly locked himself up at home to practice sketching. Completely absorbed in drawing, he tried to establish his own individual style.

"I was nearly 30 years old but was embarrassed to say that I was a painter. Hardly a day went by without drawing. Sometimes I lost track of time. All I did was sleep, eat and work."

  

These images provided by Kim Hee-soo on Aug. 28, 2017, show his untitled paintings. (Yonhap) These images provided by Kim Hee-soo on Aug. 28, 2017, show his untitled paintings. (Yonhap)

This image provided by Kim Hee-soo on Aug. 28, 2017, shows one of his untitled paintings. (Yonhap) This image provided by Kim Hee-soo on Aug. 28, 2017, shows one of his untitled paintings. (Yonhap)

At 33, Kim is in the process of striking a good balance between art that is not too serious but not too trivial.

"Standing in the middle can be kind of ambiguous. I always think about artistic device to use so that I can overcome ambiguity, if any, in my work," he said. "My work might seem outwardly simple but behind it is enormous thinking."

   In April, his father suddenly passed away. While he stayed with his mother for the following two months, he felt completely hollow and empty. He had to work again to feel alive. The fourth exhibition -- duller in color compared with previous works -- is the result of his soul-searching, he said.

"Preparing for this exhibition was a journey to find and motivate myself again. It was physically very challenging, but I could feel alive," he said. "For me, painting is my life."

  

Kim Hee-soo's fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap) Kim Hee-soo's fourth solo exhibition "People / Normal Life" at Holocoin Studio in Mullae-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr

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