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Kim Yong-ik: Artist of the Year exhibition at the KCC

With the KCC’s first Artist of the Year exhibition back in 2014, which featured the work of Lee Bul, the London solo show ran in parallel with an exhibition at a major provincial gallery – Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in that instance. This year, Spike Island in Bristol partners with the KCC. The exhibition is part of the Korea / UK 2017-18 programme of cultural events.

KCCUK 2017 Artist of the year: Kim Yong-ik

Korean Cultural Centre UK | 1-3 Strand | London WC2N 5BW
26 September – 4 November 2017

Kim Yong-ik Closer … Come Closer …(2016)
Kim Yong-ik Closer … Come Closer …(2016) Installation view, Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea. Photograph by Nathing Studio. Courtesy Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul and Kukje Gallery, Seoul

Spike Island, Bristol and the Korean Cultural Centre UK, London announce two exhibitions from Korean artist Kim Yong-ik (b. 1947), marking his first solo presentation in Europe. Kim’s 40 year career as an artist, activist and teacher – spanning a turbulent struggle from dictatorship to democracy in South Korea – has had a profound impact on the country’s modern art history, influencing many younger artists. The exhibition at Spike Island surveys an array of works from the 1970s onwards, whilst KCCUK presents new site-specific paintings which engage with the surrounding exhibition space. Part of the Korea/UK Season, a programme of extensive cultural events across the UK celebrating Korean creatives, these exhibitions provide a timely insight into Kim’s influential oeuvre.

Kim Yong-ik’s exhibition at Spike Island takes place from 30 September to 17 December 2017.

Trained in painting, Kim began exhibiting in the mid-1970s with work influenced by the Korean monochrome painting movement, Dansaekhwa. Kim’s early works experimented with the relationship between illusion and materiality, in particular with reference to the visual differences between folded and flat canvas. He developed a technique that involved spraying folded cloth with paint and then ironing it flat to display the ‘memory’ of its former folded state. His early work was considered to be part of the modernist movement, although during the military regime that ruled the country with political repression in the 1980s, Kim sought to break with this association. The result has been a career devoted to what Kim calls a ‘parasitic relationship’ with modernist painting.

In the 1990s, Kim began work on a series of paintings featuring a polka-dot motif, called ‘Closer… Come Closer…’ These dots at first appear to be regular and crisply defined, but on closer inspection the reveal traces of drawing, writing, dust and hairs.

With these works, Kim explored the way in which everyday life interrupts organised systems. Throughout his career, Kim has frequently revisited existing works, painting over and repurposing damaged works, renewing them and exploring their ongoing life. He was also active in the independent exhibition space Pool in Seoul, which was founded in 1999 by a group of artists and cultural producers. In reent years his interest has focused on the environment and local life.

At Spike Island, a survey exhibition covering forty years of Kim’s artistic practice showcases the visually compelling and intellectually sharp works that established him as one of the most important artists of his generation. To coincide with Spike Island’s retrospective, KCCUK in London is also presenting major works by Kim focusing on his geometric compositions from the 1980s and his dot paintings from the 1990s.

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