Artlog Interview

Arlo/Artist Spotlight: Sky Kim

Artlog spotlights the Arlo/Artists Portfolio of Sky Kim, who describes her own art as “vaguely sensual, obsessively organic, and oddly alive.” Her paintings, drawings, and installations are influenced largely by the loss of her twin sister at birth. They are disturbing, yet comforting; abstract, yet organic. As she herself says, the extreme tensions present in her work are ones that every viewer can subconsciously relate to on some level.There is a constant tug of war embedded in the organic undulations in your paintings and drawings. The shapes are comforting, yet dizzying; fluid, yet stagnant; organic, yet abstract; delicate, yet obsessive. Do you feel that producing art is a way for you to appease a tension within you?
Kim: Producing art is a way for me to narrow the gaps between my ego and inner self. This ‘self’ is dominantly controlled by the mind and often tricks me into valuing what I am not. I deal with these conflicts on both a consciousness and unconscious level in my work; I create a dimension of stillness, ironically through movement. I use dense patterns as a tool to illustrate the life cycle and to capture the silence of a solid stone under microscope. You’ll be surprise to see that there is a lot of movement going on inside of this stillness. I simply lay out the whole process of my struggle on a piece of paper.

You never had the opportunity to share a life with your twin sister, who was stillborn. Do you feel that your art is a way for you to fulfill this other half that you knew was missing, even when you hadn’t known about your sister? How did you feel when you learned about her, and did you produce any art right after this discovery?
Kim: I believe remembering her in my art is a way to complete my being as every old and new cell of my body remembers every minute I was with her. I first learned about her at age 11 and I understood right away why I had felt empty inside and was always seeking images in the clouds and horizon as a little girl. I have never stopped seeking answers as an adult.

Are most of your drawings dictated by a subconscious longing for the unobtainable, the meta-physical?
Kim: I believe so. First I listen to my noisy, scattered mind: the conscious presence, then the deeper self behind or underneath the humongous ego, which causes a serious leakage of vital energy. Then I let these noises subside and gradually sense the stillness that was obscured by my mind just a moment ago. As every sound is born out of silence, I try to listen to the stillness. Then, I feel a subtle emanation of the joy of Being and the power of potential energy and this raised vibration creates the work.

Do you believe it is necessary for your viewers to know your life story (your twin was a still born) when looking at your work, or do you think your work is powerful enough without this background story?
Kim: No, I want my audience to experience emotions, personally and privately; and be dependent on their own background so that they see what they need to see and feel what they need to feel at the moment. Hopefully, it helps one to understand the purpose of each life we choose to come back and live by recognizing ourselves as the significant creators of every corner of our lives and circumstances.

Have you always produced drawings/paintings/installations that exude this vertiginous, almost obsessive quality derived from repetitious patterns? Do you see your work relating to that of Yayoi Kusama in any way?
Kim: A circle is the most absolute, perfect shape you can find in nature. The circles represent vitality, the non-stop evolutionary life cycle and movement that is going on in the center of my work. These repeated circles, lines, dots, and curves never cease evolving in their reach for the ultimate goal – the higher self. Repeating these patterns is like reciting a Mantra in the state of true inner peace. I wasn’t familiar with Yayoi Kusama’s work until someone recently brought it to my attention. I see my work as being relatively more personal while I see Kusama’s work as more pop art influenced.

Some of your paintings and drawings are done on long rectangular sheets of paper that cascade down the wall and onto the floor. Could you explain why you use these long sheets of paper, and what it means for your overall artistic design?
Kim: I see my scroll series as a record of the energy that I produce at the very moment of creation. It records my personal time and space, as well as my raw emotions; excitement, anxieties, regrets, hope, frustration, shame, guilt and letting go of things. As writers use old-fashioned typewriters to tell their stories, I leave my own traces of being in a timely-manner on these 10 yard-long paper rolls.

You say that you use blood and water drops in your paintings, which “…implies both the principles of Yin and Yang, co-exist[ing] in one body rather than staying separated from another.” Could you explain where this idea originated and how you obtain and work with these elements?
Kim: Symbolic circle images of blood and water drops are used as elements that recreate a womb environment, a mysterious universe. Life is a repetition of cycles so birth is not the beginning of life and death is not the end of life either. It’s a non-stop evolutionary cycle and everything co-exists as one to accomplish particular purposes. In this dimension, small circles join with larger circles and their shadows become unified, as particles join one another and create the whole universe altogether.

If you were a critic looking at your own work, how would you describe and analyze it?
Kim: I would describe my work as vaguely sensual, obsessively organic, and oddly alive. The series of abstract drawings capture the vital energy of all living beings as if they were seen through microscopic scanning. It captures the enormous amount of potential energy waiting patiently in the womb but with this very calm atmosphere.

You are currently living in Ilsan, just north of Seoul with your photographer husband who you met at Pratt Institute. What is the art world like there compared to New York? Do you find it difficult to live and work as an interracial couple?
Kim: Actually, I currently live in New York. We came back to New York after living in Korea for 5 years. The art world in Korea is relatively smaller but is beginning to expand its territory into the international art scene at a fast pace. My husband and I don’t see ourselves as an interracial couple. We speak the same language after all; ART.

What artists do you currently follow and what do you find interesting about them/their work?
Kim: I think one of great artists ever lived in this planet is Sol Lewitt. I am always amazed by how he could create something so immense with simple tools like a pencil, marker, crayon and ruler. He is a great mathematician, alchemist, and of course genius.

Do you have any upcoming shows in New York?
Kim: I am in a traveling exhibition that is about to end its tours and early next year I will be in a group exhibition at the Troy Arts Center, New York.

- Article by Justine Chausson