Culture & The Creative Process With Kim Kim Kim
Catching up with the Perth-based artist ahead of her first solo exhibition.
I first met pseudonymous Perth talent Kim Kim Kim at a studio space she shares with a mutual friend in Fremantle, where her works were housed prior to the installation of her latest exhibition. Having seen her artwork online for quite some time, viewing them in person was memorable. The size and scale of each piece is something to be admired, along with her signature style of raw mark-making paired with a consistent colour palette. Self-described as a “reaction to the photographic perception-affected world,” Kim’s stellar portraits display her subjects in contemplative moments – sometimes haunting, sometimes vacant.
Their empty expressions are striking, portraying a sense of “disenchantment and boredom,” as Kim notes, serving as vessels for our own projections. This echoes the obsession of younger generations with images of the self. Through her artwork, Kim highlights the nature of photography as “a blank substrate,” where dimension and aesthetic are created only by the artist. Her work is infused with expression through thick impasto lines and balanced use of negative space, all documenting the atmosphere and people surrounding her.
“My works are influenced by my own experience, people around me, what I’ve felt from my generation. These are the kind of subjects that interest me a great deal.”
Kim was born in the United States and spent much of her upbringing in South Korea, growing up around artists. Her mother’s side of the family were notably creative, providing an early influence to her career.
“Ever since I was a little kid I have always been exposed to artistic environments and atmospheres thanks to them. My grandfather was a major figure in the Korean modern painting scene back in 60s and 70s and my mom is still active… So you could say that I grew up with the arts, and I guess it was a natural choice for me to become an artist.”
Her style is refreshingly distinct. When asked if it was developed consciously or something that emerged naturally, she replies, “I can say it’s both; I’m always trying different mark makings on each piece consciously. But the way I paint – choosing colour or technique is pretty spontaneous.
“My experience is the biggest inspiration for my work. I prefer to work alone, listening to music. My current favorite musicians include FKA Twigs and King Krule. Music helps me a lot.”
Favouring oils for her paintings, and charcoals, conte chalk, pen and pencil for her smaller drawings, Kim has developed an impressive body of work. Her paintings have been shown in several group exhibitions prior to her latest – a solo showcase at Merenda Contemporary Gallery.
“I was in a few group shows since graduating last year. I learnt and experienced a lot from each exhibition I had. Showing works is really different from making works. I used to prefer to keep my works rather than sell or show them to people, but now I’m pretty confident about them and I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to show my works in a solo exhibition.”
Adding to her repertoire are a growing number of stunning public art pieces gracing the walls of the Hipflask office, Little Wing Corner Gallery, and Double Double Small Bar in Subiaco. The unique experience of painting large-scale works on walls is something she’s enjoyed.
“I got the first chance through my friend, as part of the exhibition he curated. Since then, I was intrigued by its differences from the canvas work. Bigger scale, limited colours, rough surface, its own site-specific character. The biggest difference I found is the way of communicating with the viewer, for sure.”
Her newest works are laden with a sense of disaffected beauty, capturing the anxieties of younger generations with skill. A bold direction for the young artist, Kim hopes for a wide range of responses to the exhibition, saying, “Interpretation could be as diverse as could be, depending on each person that sees my works. I don’t expect any specific response. But I hope they don’t just walk away after glancing through my works and say, ‘Oh, good faces’.”
A vibrant contribution to the city’s art scene, Kim has limited time left in Perth before making a move to Melbourne. “Perth is so chill,” she says, “Love it. I only have a year and a half left to stay in Australia, so I would like to spend this time really well. I want to meet more people, artists in other cities, develop my works through the experiences I’m having here.”