Trained in painting, Kim began exhibiting in the mid-1970s with work influenced by the Korean monochrome painting movement, Dansaekhwa. Kim’s early works experimented with the relationship between illusion and materiality, in particular with reference to the visual differences between folded and flat canvas. He developed a technique that involved spraying folded cloth with paint and then ironing it flat to display the ‘memory’ of its former folded state. His early work was considered to be part of the modernist movement, although during the military regime that ruled the country with political repression in the 1980s, Kim sought to break with this association. The result has been a career devoted to what Kim calls a ‘parasitic relationship’ with modernist painting. In the 1990s, Kim began work on a series of paintings featuring a polkadot motif, called ‘Closer… Come Closer…’ These dots at first appear to be regular and crisply defined, but on closer inspection, they reveal traces of drawing, writing, dust and hairs.
With these works, Kim explored the way in which everyday life interrupts organised systems. Throughout his career, Kim has frequently revisited existing works, painting over and repurposing damaged works, renewing them and exploring their ongoing life. He was also active in the independent exhibition space Pool in Seoul, which was founded in 1999 by a group of artists and cultural producers. In recent years, his interest has focused on the environment and local life.
At Spike Island, a survey exhibition covering forty years of Kim’s artistic practice showcases the visually compelling and intellectually sharp works that established him as one of the most important artists of his generation. To coincide with Spike Island’s retrospective, Korean Cultural Centre UK in London is also presenting major works by Kim, focusing on his geometric compositions from the 1980s, and his dot paintings from the 1990s.