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Bare Necessities

"When figures started to appear in my works, they naturally came mostly as nude. Not because they had to be nude, but more so that they didn’t require clothing", says Nam Kim in connection to her interest in exploring the essence of the human mind. Nam Kim has been on our radar since a couple of years, having come across her work through visits to Vienna, ultimately resulting in our recent collboration in the exhibition You were bigger than the sky, you were more than just a short time, curated by C-print at Belenius in Stockholm.


Nam Kim in the studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.


C-P: You recently participated in the group exhibition You were bigger than the sky, you were more than just a short time curated by C-print at Gallery Belenius in Stockholm. Please tell us more about the three works you exhibited in the show.


N. K: My works are mostly inspired from questions and thoughts about the human being itself. My interest has particularly deepened during the pandemic times. The peculiar time has allowed me to dive deep into exploring my inner thoughts, especially living in a time where it is very important to understand how different and unique everyone is. It has been fascinating more than ever for me to explore the essence of humanity, an attempt to understand the core of it, despite all the physical and cultural differences we have. I focus on capturing psychological fragments that occur in human relationships, and my works often result in figures in intimate scenes, interacting with other figures or surroundings.


C-P: A recurring motive in your works is the nude figure. Tell us more about what initiated this study and what you wish to explore and convey through your practice.


N. K: When figures started to appear in my works, they naturally came mostly as nude. Not because they had to be nude, but more so that they didn’t require clothing. As I aim to explore the essence of human mind through my works, it was most natural for the figures to appear in their most natural and intimate form.


Sahana Ramakrishnan, Eye Cry for My Wayward Son (Birth of the Second People), 2023 and Nam Kim, Open, 2021, in You Were Bigger Than the Sky, You Were More Than Just a Short Time, curated by C-print, installation view, Belenius, Stockholm. Photo: Ellinor Hall


C-P: We would love to know more about the method you employ to approach the canvas and how your figures take form. Could you elaborate on this?


N.K: My work begins in a very abstract form, painting solely with colors and strokes. I like to call this stage of work as creating a playground. I focus on the chain of thoughts or feelings that I wish to portray, and then fill up the canvas with colors. The figures only appear afterwards, usually like how a drop of ink would spread through out a cup of water. After the figures start to appear, it is more similar to the process of sculpting. I get rid of the unnecessary parts, add what it requires, and shape the picture until it feels right. Most of the times the painting would carry on with the initial emotions till the end. But sometimes while shaping the picture, it may develop into a different direction than as intended, which I find very engaging.


Nam Kim, studio view in Vienna. Photo courtesy of the artist.


C-P: At times your figures portrayed take over the surface of the canvas and at times other elements come to the fore. In some of your latest work I notice that nature motifs appear in the works. Could you tell us more about the interrelation that is explored there?


N.K: I use different elements and motifs in my works to achieve the feelings that I want to capture. Not that it has to be, but I tend to use motifs that take organic forms. I enjoy painting figures and elements of nature in my work because they are both relatable but indefinable and mysterious at the same time, which makes it intriguing to work with. But it really depends on each individual work depending on what it is that I am trying to convey through it. For instance, the work The Manipulator was painted at the time that human relations overwhelmed me, and as a result figures naturally took over the surface.


C-P: After receiving your BA of Fine Arts and BA of Arts Degree at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul you have been residing and working in Vienna since 2017 when you began studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Vienna is, almost overwhelmingly, steeped in art history. Has life in Vienna informed your practice in any way?


N.K: For sure! My time in Vienna has completely changed the way I approach my art. You can already feel how Austria appreciates art when you arrive at the airport of Vienna. The first advertisement you see will be of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, which is the art history museum of Vienna. I love how the legacy of art history is integrated in the normal life of people. And in this beautiful city, I had the luxury to study art with people from various different countries and cultures. The experience of being surrounded by different cultural backgrounds has given me the feeling of inclusiveness, that despite all our uniqueness, we could be together.


Nam Kim, studio view in Vienna. Photo courtesy of the artist.


C-P: Your works have been exhibited both in Europe and outside the continent, recently at Art Singapore. Do you find that there is a difference in how your work is read and perceived depending on where in the world you exhibit?


N.K: Hmm I haven't really recognized much difference in the way my work is perceived, at least not in my personal experience. It would be interesting to find out, if there are any!


C-P: Who are some artists who have inspired and are of significance to you in your practice?


N.K: There are too many great painters and artists that I look up to and have shaped my art world. But if I look back into my art journey, I think the artists who have left a significant mark in me are the early renaissance paintings and the Korean folk paintings (also known as Minhwa painting). Most of the creators of the Minhwa paintings are unknown, but to name some of my favourite renaissance painters are Lucas Cranach, Gentile Bellini and Fra Angelico.


Left: Nam Kim, The Manipulator, 2023, installation view,You Were Bigger Than the Sky, You Were More Than Just a Short Time, curated by C-print, installation view, Belenius, Stockholm. Photo: Ellinor Hall


C-P: The exhibition in Stockholm lent its title from the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song. Which song or artist is currently on your playlist?


N.K: My playlist changes a lot, but JANNABI have been in my playlist since I have discovered their songs. They are a South Korean indie rock band, which are known for their nostalgic sound and beautiful poetic lyrics.


C-P: Lastly, what is in store for you the rest of 2023?


N.K: The biggest event for me upcoming this year would be my graduation exhibition in the summer. It may not be the most important show in my career, but personally it has a lot of meanings to me. Since my time in Vienna has had a huge impact in my art, I am currently working on a series of works that is solely dedicated to my time and experience in Vienna. In the autumn I will have a solo presentation at the art fair KIAF back in my home country, South Korea. It will be the first time I exhibit my works in my home country, which I am also looking forward to it.


Corina Wahlin


Nam is represented by Nicolas Krupp Gallery in Basel, Switzerland www.nicolaskrupp.com





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