Heesoo Kim: A Retreat in South Korea
“My studio in Yangsu-ri, about 25 miles east from central Seoul, is near the confluence of the north and south forks of the Hangang River. The area is quite out of the way, even by local standards. Two structures stand on that plot of land—my abode and my humble studio. I moved here to begin painting in earnest. At the time, the studio structure was bare-bones, with only the framing and essentially nothing else. It was not appropriate for use as a studio. Work in the studio was possible only in the Spring and Fall; bugs and other crawly things festered in the summer, and the frigid cold passed right through the structure in the winter. Over time, I put up boards and improved the walls, roofing, and installed a heater, resulting in the present setup. That is not to say that the studio is complete by any measure. My paintings were nascent but they are growing; my studio grows with my paintings.
“A farm is nearby my studio. Viewed from the front, a large mountain is in the background of the studio building, and a river passes through the foreground. It is a picturesque location, but very few, if any, would saunter by such a secluded area. It might have inspired or accommodated my works, but there are moments that the remote location can feel unbearably forlorn. It is certainly not what people imagine when they hear ‘mundane.’ This sentiment is amplified at night, like a dense fog of seclusion settling in. It is the place where I began painting, and continue to paint today, but I have been considering bringing change to my workspace. I think it'll be good to have some change reflected in my work. On that trajectory, moving my studio is another possibility I have been considering. There is this trap of mediocrity that can ensnare things that grow stagnant or stay in one place for too long, be it paintings, spaces, or artists. I hope I know when it is time.
“My easel is the thing I’m most attached to; I made it myself. When I began painting, my budget did not allow the purchase of an easel and I was leaning my canvas against walls. Eventually I decided to go DIY and made the wooden frame from found materials. Even the paint tray was DIY. I laid the wooden boards and added the wheel fixtures myself. All the worn-out objects in the studio that you can see, I made myself.
“Most waking hours, I am in my studio. The work draws me in, and I become immersed in it sometimes during the day, and other times at night. However, if I am not going to paint, I avoid being there as much as possible. I appreciate how close my living quarters are to my studio, but convenience is not the end-all. This vicinity of living and work robs me of rest. There is something unbearably depleting about working in this space. Sometimes I second guess and question the decisions that led me here. Regardless, I strive to continue growing as a painter. There is so much in my painting that can be better. This aspiration is what drives me to try harder, to cling to it, and even be fixated upon it. Those are my candid feelings.” —Heesoo Kim
Heesoo Kim will be one of the featured artists in this year’s inaugural CAN Art Fair in Ibiza, Spain from July 13—17, 2022