We caught up with artist Choon Mi Kim ahead of their exhibition ACID—FREEEE at Ginny on Frederick to find out more about their art practice and the show.
The titles of your works are sometimes humorous- ‘I know this is deep’ – Is humour important?
Certainly, it’s important. When I look at paintings, whether from the perspective of an artist or a viewer, discovering humour in them is always a delightful experience. I aim for my paintings to bring a sense of freshness to people’s moods and evoke joy in their day-to-day lives. And, spending a lot of time with a painting sort of forms this unique bond, allowing you to pick up on the humorous elements within it.
How do you know when your work is finished?
In a very organic way, I’ve established certain rules within my paintings, which act as a guide to know when a painting is finished. Of course there are always elements that remain mysterious. I think that’s what attracts many artists to painting. It’s like an ongoing puzzle to solve.
Do you feel your work is becoming more abstract – is it? If it is why?
I’m not entirely convinced that it’s becoming more abstract; if anything, it might be becoming more representational in some way. The concepts driving my paintings have become more direct. I aim to express my personal interests, the things that truly matter to me in this world, and what I genuinely want to share with people. I’m delving deeper into my personal and cultural identity, exploring how these aspects influence my work. Moreover, my surroundings here in London have significantly influenced me, and I’m intrigued to observe how they might shape my work over time, possibly in a very abstract manner.
Do you paint one work at a time or several together?
My approach varies. Sometimes a painting has to be entirely finished before I can transition to the next one. However, more often than not, I find myself working on multiple pieces simultaneously. Also, there’s something incredibly satisfying about walking into the studio and seeing it filled with paintings.
ACID—FREEEE – the music, the drug?
I was intrigued by the multiple meanings it could convey. Incorporating the word ‘free’ felt particularly fitting, and I sensed a harmony between the title and the colours and gestures in my paintings. Additionally, the term ‘Acid-Free’ often found on drawing paper labels, signifying longevity and quality, resonates with my approach, blurring the lines between painting and drawing. What’s intriguing is that in the Korean language, there isn’t a distinct separation between ‘to paint’ and ‘to draw’.
The poem* on your website – did you write it?
I hesitate to categorise it strictly as a poem. The writing you see on my website reflects the profound impact my surroundings, identity, and interactions with people have on my work. I capture these fleeting moments and emotions from my daily life using brief sentences, blending Korean and English. When I revisit these notes later, I often find unexpected connections to my paintings. Writing serves as another way through which I explore my art. While expressing my thoughts in English, not being my first language, can be challenging, I find joy in the process.
Before London, you were based in Seoul. Do you have time to chat in Seoul? I hear it is fast –
Seoul is a city that never sleeps; it’s vibrant, always bustling with energy. There were moments when it felt a bit out of sync, but I just learned to go with the flow, brushed that feeling aside. Perhaps that’s why I started feeling a bit weary there. Moving to London, with its entirely different rhythm compared to Seoul, has given my painting a fresh perspective. And yet, I really do miss Seoul too. There’s something about that city that stays with you.
Do you worry about what happens to your paintings?
I try not to worry too much about it. It’s fantastic when paintings find new homes, and I genuinely hope they bring joy to whoever owns them. But, there are moments when I can’t help but wonder, what if the person who received it changes their mind and tucks it away in storage forever, never to see the light of day again? It’s just one of those things that’s out of my hands. I truly hope the paintings find the right person, someone who appreciates them and lives with them for a long, long time.
What do you have planned for Frieze Week?
The atmosphere during the fair and the energy in London are always so inspiring. My exhibition will be running at the gallery until late October. I’m hoping to see many visitors during that period, and I’m genuinely excited about engaging in discussions about the show.
*it’s beautiful – All Photography by Stephen James. Courtesy of Ginny on Frederick & Choon Mi Kim.