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b. 1994 in Seoul, South Korea ; lives and works in London
Sang Woo Kim was raised in London with traditional Korean parents. He always felt “other” to the people around him, mainly of Western descent. Alienating cultural factors affected him from a very young age. At home a cognitive dissonance arose from a drastically different daily school life. In his body of work Kim confronts these memories through a re-contextualisation of old works. Building up and breaking down boundaries to create a visual “skin” composed of nostalgia and recollections. The emotional realisation of his fractured identity imbues the works with a newfound purpose that he subversively exploits through his various facades. Identity takes on new connotations in our now social media world, where one’s persona is a multi-layered construct and can be created out of thin air. The question inherent in Kim’s work is what constitutes identity and how much of it is “real”?
Kim’s paintings are abstract and textured, metaphorically capturing a similar emotional brutality that was present in artworks from the 1950’s abstract expressionist era. The blurred lines and varying textures remove the identity of the subject. He purposefully uses abstraction as a means to communicate detached melancholy content. Text drawn on one of his paintings in his solo exhibition “Easy on the eye” reads: ‘I was blind when I was younger,’ and conflates seeing and being seen, the subject and the voyeur. Kim’s paintings suggest that the gaze comes from within and is tied to one’s identity and until one can cultivate it.