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5 Minutes with Chaewon Kim

One of the artists exhibited in the SINGULART x Elisabeth Johs exhibition ‘The Butterfly Effect’ is Chaewon Kim. Based in Canada, Chaewon’s artworks, which deeply explore the philosophy of the self, have both been awarded and widely exhibited on a national level. In her works abstraction and self-portrait come together in order to find oneself in losing oneself.

We talked to Chaewon to discover more about her pieces chosen for the exhibition, the motivations that drive her creative process, and her future projects.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Art has always been my favorite subject when I was in school. But I never thought about becoming an artist until I met a sculptor in Canada. I worked at a dental clinic as a dental hygienist in Korea, and then came to Canada 10 years ago. I got a job as a sculpture studio assistant, and the sculptor recommended that I learn art. Because of his recommendation, I prepared a portfolio for about 5 months to enter OCAD University.

During this period, I felt something that I haven’t felt before from making art, pouring my expressions onto the white canvas, and I knew at that moment art is the reason why I was born, and I wanted to be an artist. A real artist.

How would you describe your style and method of expression?

It is instinctive painting that drives both decisions and embraces accident by layering paint to meet the unconditioned form, I call it Pure “I”.  It begins with a realistically sketched portrait based on a photograph, then I cover or wipe the initial subject and re-paint the new layers. The process of applying dots between the layers is meditation in tranquility.

Your artwork is inspired by the questioning of the self – what have you learnt about yourself through your art?

As humans live their lives, they have countless elements that define themselves such as name, gender, age, background, color, even job title, etc. In the process of my work, I am trying to lose myself in order to meet the pure “I” (self), and I am still in the middle of the journey. Pure Immanence, I call it Pure I. Pure I exists at the beginning, at the stage before we are born. As soon as we are born, Pure I is covered by structured things such as gender, race, and more, as we go through our life. Pure I is without order: no rule, no judgment, and no structure.

Could you tell us about the pieces selected to be exhibited in ‘The Butterfly Effect’ exhibition?

For the two large-scale paintings, I started with a realistic line sketch of the self-portrait using oil. When it reached the point that I could see myself on the canvas, I covered or wiped the figure. It was the action to peel off who I am at the moment and to seek who I really am. In a process in which intention and intuition are battling to seek Pure I. It is a painterly instinct that both drives decisions and embraces accidents by layering paint to build forms. I repeated covering the figure with aggressive and at the same time free brush strokes and repainting it with gentle and delicate touches.

Lose myself to find the self (2018)
Chaewon Kim

What is the next project you are working on?

Currently, I’m working on the 88 dots series project. The theme is ‘A pale blue dot we live in and dots within us’. They are small-scale abstract paintings with dots on the paper. They are like a journal that contains expressions of my feelings, emotions, and stories in colors. You can sneak a peek at the project on Instagram, this project account is @eightyeight_dots.

Visit ‘The Butterfly Effect’ Exhibition here