Art and soul
Creativity and spirituality become one in Sky Kim’s “Quantum One” collection
The exhibit itself is pristine, with crisp scrolls of white paper neatly lining the gallery walls. On display are perfectly-shaped petals that fan out to form clean spirals and fluid lines that twist skillfully in and out, tracing down the wall in thin waves. Altogether, it is a picture of perfect order, precision, and artistic focus.
But Sky Kim’s studio is something else entirely. And so is her creative process.
For the Pratt-trained, award-winning painter, producing something clean and exact is a surprisingly spontaneous and free-form experience, one that relies on drawing from her own surges of energy rather than adhering to any kind of structured design. These artistic expressions are currently on display at the Saint Joseph’s University Art Gallery.
Kim explained, “My art is not about planning. It’s about letting my energy flow. How can you plan that, right? You just have to be there. So when I start a new piece, I just sit there and stare at it—kind of like meditation. So I wait for things to come to me, and then they come.”
Of course, this is not as effortless as it may sound. In fact, properly expressing a vision can be a very nerve-wracking task for Kim.
This is especially true given the restraints of her studio space, which typically only allow her to work on one third of a project at once. The rest stays rolled up, not to be seen in full until the very end when it is taken to a friend’s studio, stretched out, and photographed all together for the first time.
Accepting the uncertainty of this process is something that Kim has had to grapple with in her years as an artist. However, she finds it necessary in creating pure, expressive works of art.
“At first, I used to take a picture [of a section of the scroll] after I finished before I rolled it up, so that I’ll remember what to do next; I wanted it to flow. That was my fear: What if I don’t remember what I did the day before? What if I make a mistake? I had to deal with that fear for a long time and then I learned to let it go [because] I don’t want anything to come between me and the moment,” Kim explained. “I finish what I start but I never force it. When the energy does not flow naturally, I have to stop.”
This process of overcoming fear, trusting in herself, and letting meditation and energy take control is all part of a bigger spiritual experience for Kim that she describes as
“very meditative but also labor intensive,” almost like being in a trance.
This sense of spirituality is not only the driving force behind her artistic motivation; it has come to influence the shape and form of the art itself.
One of Kim’s most influential spiritual beliefs is reincarnation: that a person lives many lives and is constantly reborn and reentering an endless loop of movement toward ultimate spiritual advancement.
The idea of energy constantly flowing without a beginning or end has become the focus of Kim’s latest works, coming to life through various motifs that recall what she describes as the spinning wheel of life.
“After I understood [reincarnation], my art changed.” Kim said, “I started using repetition, a lot of circles, wiggly lines; a lot of layers overlapping. That’s how I see life. Life as a wheel. There’s no beginning or end. It’s like a circle, all going around.”
This philosophy came about in reaction to Kim’s search to resolve her uncertainties about life, death, and the inner soul that have troubled her since she was young. The answers to those questions have changed both her outlook on life and the nature of her artwork, allowing her to, as she says, “connect the dots.”
When she works, Kim said, everything begins to make sense. Though she has been to many churches and Buddhist temples and read many books on spirituality, it is finding herself through her art that has been the most healing and enlightening experience of all.
It is this same longing to seek spiritual understanding that inspired Kim’s latest collection, “Quantum One,” now on display in Merion Hall, which highlights the space where quantum physics and spirituality meet in the study of energy.
“Energy is us,” Kim explained. “When you die, you return to your original form, the spirit, the soul. So quantum physics is all about figuring out where everything comes from—where we come from. And it all comes down to this basic form, which is energy, which is oneness. So that means we are not separated from God, we are not separated from each other.”
This notion of being born again, of being multiple beings, yet also unified in an infinite cycle of being also has a lot to do with the way Kim looks at her pieces as well as her thought process behind leaving them nameless.
“I want them to speak for themselves. If I titled them—I don’t want them to be just one thing or two things because I said so. They are more than that,” Kim said.
Kim believes that art, like life, is limitless in its interpretation and boundless in its possibilities. It takes time to understand the way that everything works together, but it does. She firmly believes that in the bigger world and higher dimension, we are all together.
What does this oneness mean to Kim? Peace.
This is precisely what keeps her coming back to her cramped studio, though it’s usually messy and always without heat. It’s why she spends up to 10 hours a day working on a new piece, painting and meditating almost straight through, sometimes without taking breaks to eat.
This is all part of her method, and it’s what keeps her spirit at rest.
“I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to go back to my studio,” Kim said. “It’s my little sanctuary. That’s where I am happy.”
Kim’s “Quantum One” collection will be on display in Merion Hall until March 27.