“Overlaid Series” by Kim Deok-han (Courtesy of the artist, Gizi Foundation)
Standing in front of the works by Korean artists Kim Deok-han and Keem Ji-young can be a solemn experience, as the artists’ laborious effort and sincerity hit home.
The exhibition “Keem&Kim’s Glowing Overlaid Hour” at Gizi Foundation’s Art Base in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, shows 11 works by the young artists whose works are created through the tedious and time-intensive process of layering colors over each other.
Born in 1981, Kim applies traditional Korean lacquering to his art. He applies a lacquer layer mixed with colored powder and rubs the surface with sandpaper, a process he continuously repeats. The repeated actions lead to colors that are revealed unexpectedly as if to remind the viewer of the way life consists of numerous moments and times.
“Compressed series” by Kim Deok-han (Courtesy of the artist, Gizi Foundation)
“Every time I rub the lacquered surface, I almost forget myself,” Kim told The Korea Herald. He likened his repeated layering and rubbing to digging out the memories from the past with his bare hands. That way, he tries to look into the abyss, “overlaid” by memories in his head, he said.
Meanwhile, Keem’s paintings are reminiscent of candlelight — she layers oil colors that would take about a month to create the image of glowing candlelight. Born in 1987, Keem has been exploring oil painting in the series “Glowing Hour” since 2020.
The artist’s candlelight, created with accumulated layers of oil colors, does not appear as a figurative candle flame but rather as a glowing light that inspires contemplation.
An installation view of “Glowing Hour” by Keem Ji-young (courtesy of the artist, Gizi Foundation)
“Keem has often introduced her works specifically as to ‘focus on the structural issues hidden behind social incidents and to address the relationship between individuals and the society,” curator Choi Hee-seung wrote on her work at the critique in 2020.
Gizi Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 by Korean artist Park Seo-bo, a legendary figure that led the dansaekhwa Korean art genre, runs exhibitions at Art Base to introduce Korea’s emerging artists.
Park died on Oct. 14 at 92 after he was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. He stressed three notions in dansaekhwa paintings: purposeless action in art, a repetitive exercise in meditation and material properties created out of the meditative action.
The exhibition “Keem&Kim’s Glowing Overlaid Hour,” which kicked off on Sept.1, runs through Oct. 31.