“Sea of Humanity”
Peter Kim, solo-exhibition curated by Frédéric Legros
November 29th 2018 – February 16th 2019
Opening on November 29th 2018 at 5:30pm in presence of the artist
For his first solo show in Paris, Peter Kim presents for the first time the largest array of his work from paintings to the countless sketches he draws every day, from sculptures to a brand new video.
With the outstanding invitation from Galerie Imane Farès, Peter Kim finds a context that is particularly open for his limitless creative process. Open, because at the core of Galerie Imane Farès’ ethos is the will not to be bound by physical of political borders and to strengthen bridges with the world at large.
Driven by this desire to open up and discover new approaches, Peter Kim leaves his landlocked Korean hometown of Gwangju first for Marseilles before living in London, Berlin and now New York. It’s in Marseilles that he’s struck by the hellish images of people trying to escape their countries for a somewhat less oppressive world if not less violent. The other epiphany, maybe a more serene one, is the overwhelming presence of the sea and the people crossing it, travelling on it.
Parting ways with his academic teachings in Korea, Peter Kim’s paintings become more abstract and, above all, serial.
During a residency in Merida, Mexico, he discovers the presence of a Korean immigration, from the beginning of the 20th century, when the people where enslaved along with the descendants of the Mayans. This hidden history had a strong impact on his work that became more expressionist, even more incarnate and driven.
Peter Kim’s exhibition at Galerie Imane Farès is the result of these moments in life, where one can trace back his journeys between the traditional and the modern, this acute knowledge of a world in crisis, culminating in the three large canvases made in a workshop in the Parisian suburbs during the winter of 2017.
Peter Kim paints not only people but, above all, the passage of time, the passage between two spaces, this passage as metaphor. His paintings layer several timeframes. Moments are intertwined, making it impossible to acknowledge a single definite instant.
Calm and threatening waters where motionless men are sailing fill the entire space of Galerie Imane Farès. Like a smuggler of ideas, Peter Kim teaches us how to see, how to position ourselves. Desires, hopes, the discussion between people, are the driving forces behind the works. The human beings are extracted from their environments, contexts and landmarks, and propelled into the heart of an enigmatic, dark and oppressing pictorial space.
From this stagnant position, they reveal themselves in the midst of standing, black water. In Peter Kim’s work, water is a symbol of equality as an essential resource for the survival of humanity. It represents memory. The watery colors that the artist uses succeed in creating a nocturnal and evanescent atmosphere where anything can take place. Bearing in mind that human beings are largely made up of water, this vision promotes both a scientific and a spiritual approach on how harmony with nature and the development of human mental faculties can help initiate a better world.
Here, the sea is never at rest; the elements are unleashed (winds, waves, ground swells, storms…). It is violent and threatening, full of noise but above all full of human stories. It has many faces and becomes the essential place to perceive and feel the fragility of human existence in its true dimension. In Peter Kim’s exhibition, water makes it possible to forge a link between several different worlds, while also erasing limits and boundaries.
The human figure appears similar to the wave, to the ship, to the sailor… The sea can also present itself as a desert that is both disturbing and reassuring: that engulfs but also preserves. And everywhere, naked human forms, with their gaze lost at the sea. Some are close by, others already have water up to their torso, others merge into the waves. “For me the sea is very magnanimous, it receives all the currents of water and purifies them.”
As with History paintings, Peter Kim’s convey underlying messages. They manifest a current tragic moment while replacing it in the history of art. Indeed, we cannot fail to think of, among other things, Theodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. It is also a question of protesting what is happening or, more precisely, what is not happening. When he arrived in Marseilles, for the first time, Peter Kim became aware through the news outlets of the migrants boats trying to cross the seas. He then felt the desire to grasp and bring these subjects to the scale of a large canvas. Peter Kim’s images take the act of painting back to its former privileged relationships with politics, economics and the social commentary that were somewhat severed with the advent of abstraction and its many movements.
Through this representation, the artist allows us to uncover the layers of reality, to have an in-depth reading, to formulate our thoughts. Because there is indeed a need to show these subjects, to take the time to look at them. These migrants, whose journey is both forced and voluntary, imbued with dreams of freedom and tranquility, somewhat mythicized and perhaps also feared, must challenge us, touch us in our condition as citizens.
This approach, which borders on expressionism, does not attempt to suggest a seminal authenticity or plausibility. In fact, what is active in Peter Kim’s paintings is a kind of thoughtful, meaningful feeling. His paintings call out to us and, as Roger de Piles writes, they think without words. They attract us, stare at us, talk to us, encourage us to stop in our track. The silent power of painting of which Eugène Delacroix speaks, reveals the artist’s quasi conscious thought.
Over time, layers of meaning, conscious or unconscious intentions of the painter appear little by little, thus creating an intimacy between the spectator and the painting.
The notion of time is also present in the colors, most often washed out, if not exhausted and the drippings that are part of the creative process and like a filter, or a curtain, create distance. The closer the viewer gets, the more blurred the characters in the canvas become, until they almost disappear.
They seem to be caught in an uncertain temporality, as if they were entrenched in a space-time between two shores. A deep and vague feeling of wandering, of perdition and loneliness is thereby reinforced. However, this suspension of time can burst at any time. In this pictorial blur, they look at us, we look at them, this exchange can bring us back to were we started or grant us renewed freedom. This strange climate is also accentuated by the nocturnal, watery and even stormy atmosphere of the small formats shown here.
No landscape is innocent. Each landscape has a hidden social dimension related to its natural use and to the politics of each territory, which reveal complex human and social matrices. In this exhibition, for the first time, Peter Kim uses video to dissolve spaces and civilizations, here London and Merida blend and bring together technologies and traditions; two notions that have challenged the artist since the beginning of his career.
Born in 1967 in South Korea, Peter Kim graduated from the College of Art and Design of Marseilles at the end of the 90s; since then he has been pursuing his career in the United States.
In his native country, Korea, Confucianism and war led to relatively late economic growth and social restructuring only at the end of the 20th century. Korea has developed a greater sense of community than individualism, and Korean customs and social practices are very different from those of the West. The artistic education which Peter Kim received in France has changed his vision of objects and society. While the Korean education of his childhood remained academic, he was able to develop his imagination freely in Marseilles and try new means of expression.
His collection of objects began at this time, sharing the common point of being containers or receptacles, to receive liquid.