The Other Side of My Mind: An Interview with Heenang Heesoo Kim
If 2020 provided us with an opportunity for anything, it was the one to self-reflect, self-examine, or realize and accept a thing or two about ourselves, especially about how we react or adapt to situations that are beyond our control. And this particular part is the focal point of Heenang Heesoo Kim's new solo exhibition, The Other Side of My Mind, on view at Everyday Mooonday gallery in Seoul through January 10, 2021.
Coming from the perspective of an individual experiencing this unstable period within society that reacted to the global pandemic differently than the rest of the world, Kim's honest and uncensored self-observation exposes the negative side of the human mind, existing in each of us regardless of cultural backgrounds. This universal way of internalizing burdens and struggles adds to the paintings' relevancy, and significance. Presented in a custom-painted, pitch-black space of the gallery, The Other Side of My Mind feels like a therapeutical experience of sorts, with an original soundscape further elevating such an experience. We reached out to Kim to talk about the intimate presentation, the triggers or emotions that pushed him towards making it and the uncanny way it's presented in.
Sasha Bogojev: What did these figures develop from and what informed the way they look, the style they’re painted?
Heenang Heesoo Kim: It’s fairly easy to tell a story when you look at a drawing or a painting. I think this is what attracts me to it. The style changes slightly as I continue.
Since I started drawing and painting, I’ve avoided stories that are extremely happy or sad. In that sense, I’m presenting more diverse expressions in this exhibition. I wanted to imagine a side of me that’s not often seen, reflected in a mirror.
Were there certain moments or experiences that triggered these particular images or metaphors?
I don’t have a lot of special experiences. They’re mostly pretty normal experiences, like hiding my sorrow or trying to avoid negative thoughts. I’m simply realizing and recognizing the fact that I’ve been trying so hard to avoid the difficult side of me within my everyday life. It’s really nothing special.
How did the idea of painting the gallery all-black come about and what is the meaning behind that concept?
I have a clear concept in this exhibition. I blocked all the lights with darkness to create this environment in the gallery space. I started by thinking about the presence of the ‘dark room’ in everyone’s heart - there hangs a portrait of oneself, a self within that we can’t even see ourselves, with sorrow, depression, and anger.
I also worked with a Jazz pianist, Sukchul Yoon, to create a theme song for this exhibition. This exhibition invites you to experience, not just the paintings on the wall, but a whole new space, a dark space in you.
So the entire experience of the exhibition is in a way an allegory for dealing and acceptance of one's own emotions?
The gallery becomes a dark room in the viewers’ hearts. I thought, "How about take care of and keep those necessary emotions close by?" The concept is to see these portraits of oneself in that room and return to reality, rather than avoiding our sorrow and pain. Maybe this will help us live a better life.
The Other Side of My Mind is on view at Everyday Mooonday gallery in Seoul through January 10, 2021.