By Sung-rok Seo

<Sun-sook Kim, Painting as an Emotional Vent>

Sung-rok Seo (Professor of the Department of Fine Arts, Andong National University)

The self is easily intimidated or oppressed in our society where efficiency and huge responsibilities are demanded. However, Sun-sook Kim breaks free from regulations or being conscious of other people, and seeks freedom as much as she pleases in her paintings. Though we pour out our loneliness, dreariness, discomfort, stress, and more, paintings accept it all. Maybe we become more captivated by paintings because we like the fact that paintings understand our situation and accept it. Choosing colors as she wishes and letting the rhythm of the form take over mean she perceives paintings as an expression of her own world of imagination and a kind of emotional vent.

Freedom of expression can also be found in Kim’s unlimited use of materials. Kim prefers to attach many different papers on the surface. Thus, Kim utilizes three-ply paper, package paper, diary paper, colored paper, stickers, etc. She also draws images on them with writing supplies that fit the paper such as pencils, ball point pens, crayons, markers, ink, oil bars, etc. By using various materials alternately, she immediately expresses what she feels and thinks without reserve. The most remarkable thing in Kim’s paintings is their Spieltrieb (“the play drive”). The reason Kim’s paintings remind us of Jean Dubuffet’s Art Brut is because her art is a gesture that rejects the existing conventions and the prejudice of reason. Also, it is because her paintings do not hide the impulses and the emotions of the inner self. Kim’s art takes aim at the latent inner workings of human beings with its coarse and rough form.

If the body is the direct passageway that perceives the self’s outside world, the house can be interpreted as the fence and nest that protects me. In other words, the artist pays that much attention to the things that revolve around “me”. As the artist specifically states, she implicitly expresses the “journey of resolving the conflicts that occur in the endless relationships and choices in the home, family, and society perceived in the process of finding the artist and the self.” Particularly, the conflict between work and homemaking activities, the problem that a female artist inevitably must face, seems to consistently influence her work.

Interestingly enough, in her recent work, innocence stands out. Especially in several of her works she created this year, more simple and spontaneous aspects can be seen. Kim has skipped the shaping process and is directly dropping images that are charged with symbolism. This is represented not only by a certain sign that decorates the surface but also by spontaneous drawings made with numerous brush strokes and lines. When drawing a house, Kim repeats the same pattern such as placing a house on top of another house. Like simple children who convey their own world at face value, Kim’s works are filled with this sort of innocence.

As mentioned previously, Kim’s work is immersed in her own world, regardless of the flow of the existing art world. It is possible to see that she desires solitude and loneliness, happiness and peace at the same time. She does not hide her inner mentality and she sublimates her difficulties as a female artist into a unique artistic style. As we contemplate between the ideal and reality, the artist contemplates between desire and environment. We feel uneasy when we see the conflicts of our own inner selves. However, through this encounter, we inevitably feel exhilaration as if watching a drama filled with the tension of life. How often do we sink into a pit and struggle to crawl out of there…

The artist explains that “the most enjoyable moment is when she is absorbed in her work, oblivious even to what she is expressing: she checks on her psychological and emotional state while being aware of the results of the subconscious.” To her, painting is a method that can verify who she is and a passage that helps her find herself. In other words, through the gush of emotions called expression, Kim fills the gap between reality and the impulse of desire and pulls herself together. This is the artist’s reason she holds a paintbrush, and the moment she identifies the significance of her existence.