Gallery Simon, Seoul

#20 Jahamun-ro 6gil, Jongno-Gu, Seoul 3044 Korea



Woo Young Kim

A Chance to Encounter Myself

For me who have worked abroad, the body of works in this exhibition began from the ‘symbolic’ meeting with Korean art historian Choi Soonwoo (1916-1984). In every page of his books, I found his warm gaze toward Korean culture: “All things Korean are beautiful.” Since then, I visited many Korean temples and seowons (private Confucian academies) for many years in order to capture things Korean from a new perspective. 

This journey made me constantly think about what ‘the Korean’ was that I had long forgotten. On one winter day, Ifound the answer on a wall of a Korean traditional house in the white snow-covered nature, which bore the marks of various lives of Korean people. What I saw on the wall then was an abstract painting made of wood, dirt, and stone. It was completed by lines and planes which were asymmetrical but harmonized, and not in disorder. They were utterly different from the geometric planes in Western architecture which created rigidity and tension. They showed an unrefined beauty which had passed through Korean history, and at the very moment I truly felt the beauty of blank space and simplicity.

In my works presented in this exhibition, the surface means the being of blank paper which can bear traces and textures. It is also a space in which creation from nothing can occur. To express this, I mostly worked in quiet times before daybreak. And by erasing shadows on the wall while photographing it, I connected lines and planes in harmony. In this way, walls of Korean traditional houses become black and white Chinese ink paintings which are neither shabby nor luxurious.

Working on these, I was also offered a pure opportunity to look back on my life which is full of changes. 

On the Road… 

My photography begins with landscapes that we encounter every day. 

Scenes that we might have seen somewhere. Yet, these images caught by the camera look somewhat unfamiliar – this is the beginning of the problem that I explore in my photography. Scenes in my photos are obviously taken from daily life. However, these are reprocessed images in a carefully calculated and planned visual condition. 

As the frame is determined and the shutter is pressed on the intersection in which the location of a landscape as a subject for the camera and the position of my conscious thinking are connected by logic, the feeling of tension increases. 

The look of colors is crucial in my photography. In dealing with the complication of random landscapes or the sense of reality, interpretation of colors creates a direct visual condition that is completely distinguished from a symbolic expression of black and white photography or a metaphoric unfolding of inner images. Most of my works, which are not an experiment conveying a concrete message, attempt to show possibilities of a new interpretation of landscapes by choosing the morning or the rainy day as the visual condition. My work is not a fragment of a simple landscape – it is different from other photos that intend to record something with specific intentions. 

The prominent logic in my work is to convey the reality — understanding it as the ‘world’ itself. Manipulating the system of colors in reality to interpret it into my own language, for example the color system of nature, — this is my own color system and how I perceive landscapes. While preparing this series, I wanted to develop a more controlled consciousness yet intense way. I hoped that my world would be able to perform the role of a visual language reflecting a sense of reality by suggesting broad perspectives on culture, society and art, beyond the realm of photography. 

My artistic achievement lies in the fact that my efforts do not end in urban depression and tragedy. Instead, my art provides an irony that leads one to reflect on urban desires and eventually to be freed from them. Instead of escaping from the city or transcending it, my photography visits the dark shadow of urban desires in order to discover the light of purification and regeneration. 

Woo Young Kim, E 6th Street III, 2017, 170 x 140 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 7
Woo Young Kim, W 1st Street II, 2017, 140 x 182 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 7
Woo Young Kim, Hanok 8263, 7923, 9233, 2016, 79 x 63 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 15 (a set of three pieces)
Woo Young Kim, Hanok 9346, 2016, 140 x 242 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 7 
Woo Young Kim, Hanok 9168, 2016, 100 x 125 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 7
Woo Young Kim, Hanok 0053, Hanok 0056, 2016, 79 x 63 cm, archival pigment print, ed. of 15 (a set of two pieces)