So Kim is a South Korean born multi-disciplinary artist, living and working in New York City. She received a BFA in Fine Arts from the Parsons School of Design. Her works are presented with explosive, vibrant colors—seemingly playful and uplifting, yet simultaneously reflecting the solitude of self.
Kim focuses on the inability of communication, the mere attempt of dialogue, the discordant relation between subject and content and the dysfunctions of language. She portrays her inner-self in different forms of animals and creatures, along with her ‘best friend’, Uma.
Colors have always had deep emotional resonance in my life: certain colors evoke, hide, or explain certain feelings. When I write, I search for hues in words; different people are of different colors. However, I don’t paint, so I often envy artists for all the ways they can play with colors. Looking at your work, I am interested to know more about the way you understand and employ colors.
Kim: Colors have always been an essential part of my art, as well as my daily life. In a way, it’s an interesting contrast since I’ve only recently been brave enough with my choice of colors in clothing. Going into high-school, I struggled much with self-confidence and self-esteem and eventually began to stray away from anything that would award me with “extra attention” (I shied away from wearing any bold, popping colors or statement accessories).
I always had a love for clothing and fashion—I had initially applied to Parsons as a fashion design major but declared my major as Fine Arts in my second year. I still choose to wear mostly black from head to toe. On the other hand, my paintings are often very colorful.
Once I started taking art more seriously, I began experimenting with colors and composition. Colors on canvas became the right form of expression for me after I had repressed myself from wearing colorful clothes.
A computer is a wonderful tool for pre-planning or composing my work, but I found my way of being further creative with my choice of colors by just laying all the colors from the tube out on a palette. I lay out all the colors, and then I mix colors that I have never put together. From there, I create a variety of colors.
How does the city of New York help your art? What is your relationship with the city?
Kim: New York is a truly unique city. However, I have a love-hate relationship with the city. New York is full of art; the world-famous galleries and museums are easily accessible to the public.
I grew up in Shanghai, China, the city whose pace was rather fast. China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. And New York is similarly fast-paced and alive, day and night.
Otherwise, it can be a rather lonely place. When I first came to NY, I was surprised by how “busy” people seemed. People walked a very fast pace, almost like everyone is in a rush to get somewhere and you don’t want to get in their way.
But after living here for the past 5 years, you definitely realize, it’s indeed a city where you do need to hustle to get what you want (although it is like that anywhere and everywhere)—you need to bring on your best. The living costs exponentially higher in all aspects, its a extremely fast-paced, competitive city and there’s a reason why people dream of living in New York, just like I did.
When I moved to Brooklyn, I have finally found a home I can thrive the most, and I am hopeful in regards to the extension of my visa.
You say you portray your inner-self as different animals and creatures. Can you tell us more about how and when these animals appear, do they repeat and if there are some recognizable patterns. Who is Uma?
Kim: Recognizable patterns in my works are dogs and fish. Dogs and animals have been my lifetime companions, more like family and siblings. I’ve always wanted to be an artist but also wanted to pursue a career related to animals like being a vet or zookeeper. I grew up as an only child and suffered from severe eczema for 12+ years. Due to the severeness, I wasn’t able to have direct contact with animals, despite my interest and love for them. Instead, my parents allowed me to take trips to the zoo often on the weekends. We got our first family dog at age seven named Max while living in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately we only had him for 3 years due to having to move back to Korea during the SARS times as my eczema had started to get worse and also had to move for my fathers business. The farewell was a rather traumatic experience for me, since it was my first time having a pet and my little self considered Max as a sibling— like a little brother that was taken away from me. I think from there, my obsession for animals grew till today (I’m currently living with three lizards and one dog in my studio apartment in BK!).
Uma is my dog, my best friend, and my family, now almost three years old. Uma appears from time to time in my paintings.
What is language to you, and how do your mother tongue and English converse with one another? What are the dysfunctions of the language, and how do you resolve them through art? I am very interested in the questions of language and how the language sometimes grows to become dysfunctional. I am living in the space I call in-between languages, and I think a lot about this subject. I am very interested to know how this affects and enriches your art.
Kim: Language has been a challenge for me, as I grew up juggling three languages. I was born in South Korea, soon moved to Hong Kong, then to Shanghai, China. I came to New York for college. I attended British and American schools starting from Pre-K to high school—where I learned English. My family spoke Korean in the household, but most times, outside of the home, I spoke in English with my friends. Then I learned Cantonese and Mandarin. This definitely affects and enriches my art because I’ve always struggled with perfecting a language. I think art was a way for me to express my inner thoughts and self from a young age, drawing or painting a narrative in my own way of expression. One can put words into a painting, but I think the lack of narrative or words presented on a canvas with motion, lines, colors, shapes and forms, and derived from the artists intentions and passions, is what makes a painting or art in general so “special” and limited to human creation(s).
Follow Kim So on the web at www.sokim-studio.com