Kitty Jun-Im is Korean, but her formal art training has taken place in British art institutions. Key features of her work derive from this dual background which in turn, is an example of the cultural interaction accompanying developments in art, during this century, from which a global visual language has evolved. So that, though incorporating the experience of two different cultures this artist's work, nonetheless, is located within a mainstream of contemporary painting.
A striking quality of her paintings is the rich, tactile surface, composed of rhythmic, linear elements crossing the canvasses in successive layers. In some areas, these are calligraphic; in others, woven meshes of paint; elsewhere, a kind of pictorial choreography. Paint medium is, also, poured so as to tether sheets of Hanji paper, which become transformed into floating, central screens. These same motifs, are, sometimes, built up from juxtaposed webs of paint, alone; in places, thickly visceral, in others, thinly transparent. Everywhere, the sense of touch is intimate and spontaneous, pulsing and alive; suggesting that, for this artist, painting and music making (which she practises, also) have a close correspondence.
Colour in the paintings is equally personal and sensuous, extending in breadth from deeply saturated to barest tint and having the luminosity of Oriental silks and ceramics. Its accompaniment to the linear forms is evocative, rather than descriptive and, here to, analogies with music (the most abstract of arts and the most expressive of pure feeling) come readily to mind. Each painting bears a distinctive colouration, which establishes a mood, or ambience; often, the trigger to the viewer's initial response, like glimpsing an exotic bird, then watching it's flight, listening for it's call.
The paintings seem to contain hints and clues about the artists's life: could the meandering lines relate to retraced journeys, or veins connecting organs within the body: the varied handling of paint, to dense vegetation, or shimmering light: the grids, to nets that trap images of remembered objects: the centred rectangles, to the inner self? Such teasing free-associations may owe something, not only to the artist's inventive practices but, also, to her diverse past. The early years in Korea; leaving home to travel in Europe; life as a musician; settling in an adopted country: all these far-ranging experiences must be a fertile source for ideas and images, if only sub-consciously.
The artist, herself, is reluctant to admit to any specific meanings and the paintings have an elusiveness which makes analysis of this kind counterproductive - a sense of mystery is part of their appeal. Reaching the mind through waves of sensation, they can become mesmeric, when an Eastern stillness emerges, reflective, serene, meditative. But, at the same time, they can seem to exist simply to be enjoyed, purely aesthetically. Here, is an original and abundantly gifted artist, whose work enhances our awareness of living.
Formerly Head of Fine Art Department,
University of Reading
"Beauty is the consonance of the parts such that
nothing can be added or taken away."
(Leon Batista Alberti)
Canvas taut as a drum, asserting flatness, the surface collaged with Korean calligraphy paper (Han-jee) is receptacle for the rhythmic act of painting. Movement and stasis; the empty silent surface where vibrating pathways flow: a container within which forms ferment. The vessel, whose outline appears in some of her paintings has symbolic resonance for Jun-Im who from childhood remembers Korean food preservation taking place in earthenware pots buried in the ground: body as sustaining vessel.
As Paul Valery stated; "The painter takes his body with him" and quoting him, Merleau-Ponty famously continued:
Indeed we cannot imagine how a mind could paint. It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings. To understand these transubstantiations we must go back to the working actual body [.] that body which is an intertwining of vision and movement. o
As Jackson Pollock demonstrated, there is correlation between the body in movement and painting. Painting as event, action which takes place in time through the agency of the body, but which is initially taken in by the viewer instantaneously-all at once. The battle between whole and part has been an integral part of the Western aesthetic legacy-especially in modern painting-since Cézanne, but its aesthetic principle extends beyond occidental parameters into oriental aesthetics.
As Gestalt psychology teaches it is integral to visual perception and reflects the body's relation of part to whole, figure and ground.
As a painter Jun-Im is both instinctively attuned and intellectually aware of this.
Modern painters-from Michaux to Marden-have worked under the spell of eastern calligraphic traditions. Jun-Im practiced Korean calligraphy as a child and has led calligraphic classes at London' s British Museum. She also trained as a professional drummer; both arts engage the primacy of touch and rhythm, to which all the senses are attuned.
Kitty Jun-Im' s paintings, the product of an active and meditative practice, persuasively invites the viewer to take their pulse.
The space of exhibition is prefaced with calligraphic panels from a Korean poem which always inspired her: encouraging risk.
o Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Eye and Mind" The Primacy of Perception, ed. James M. Edie, trans. Carleton Dalery,
Evanston: North Western University Press, 1993.
Foreword written: Roger Cook 2011
Institute of Germanic and Romance StudiesUniversity of London