Interview with Minyoung Kim



Born in 1989, in Seoul, South Korea, Minyoung Kim graduated from Sungshin’s Women’s University with both a BA in Painting and an MFA in Printmaking in 2014.


Kim’s work mirrors her inner-most feelings, ones that language fails to express. By using un-stretched raw canvas, she portrays, in a soft manner, ironic scenes that combine what she refers to as strange but cute elements. It’s in this ambivalence, both light and serious, that she explores and reveals her inner self.


Currently, Kim resides in London where she is completing her MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Read our interview with the artist below.

Août: Could you tell us a bit more about your background?


Kim: I have been creating for more than 20 years (since kindergarden) and one of my motivations is that I find the “genuine me” when I’m drawing. Art became my longest partner that deeply reflects my inner side.
I majored in the Western Painting and Printmaking at Sungshin’s Women’s University. Since the graduation in 2014, I worked as an artist for about four years in Korea and participated in several shows. But I’ve longed to study in the UK, and I entered Slade in 2019 as my first and last chance, and I recently finished the degree show successfully.

Août: A key aspect in your artistic career was the shift from drawing to painting. Could you shed more light on this transition? (Did it come about naturally? And what did you take with you?)


Kim: My work has changed remarkably over my 2 years at Slade. Drawing used to be my primary focus, but I am now mainly working with painting. During the transition there was a lot of trial and error, and I was hesitant to work on large scale, but at some point, I discovered that I enjoyed it. It felt different from the diary-like feeling drawing used to give me, rather I realized that the bigger the size, the more the composition and timing of my images changed. Now I’m quite enjoying painting as an independent work area.

Août: You have previously mentioned your use of unstretched canvas as a medium to paint on. What does this base bring to your artwork?


Kim: I paint on un-stretched raw canvas without priming process. I’ve used gesso on canvas several times, but it doesn’t create a similar feeling to my drawing. However, after using the un-stretched canvas, the texture of the finished paint expresses a blurry or soft feeling, such as those by the use of oil pastels or Conte. This gives a similar effect to the drawings I pursue, which is why I insist on the un- stretched canvas until now.

Août: In your paintings, there are noticeable recurring elements: Cats, Snakes, Fish, the Moon, and Nature. Can you decode this pattern for us?


Kim: Animals have become religious or shamanistic objects and have been used as important materials in human-made culture and art from the past period. In modern art, animals are often expressed as a medium that reflects the artist’s psychology.
In my work, I often see images of animals, and among them, cats are the most frequent. Cats are curious creatures, and I always feel mysterious when I see them, and sometimes wonder if they are human. A recurring cat makes my work more fun and satirical; it always looks full of greed and watches every detail in the canvas as if it were a deity.

Snakes often appear in my works ambiguously because they have a dual interpretation. In Korean folk tale, snakes can symbolize fertility but they could also be viewed as cunning and deceiving humans. I found this dual aspect of snakes very interesting.

Fish mostly symbolize an anonymous public. They have a habit of almost swarming around in my work and seem to be prejudiced against things that are not similar to themselves, they tend to watch other beings with great interest or distance others from each other.

Deep nights are mysterious and contain many things, but they do not appear clearly. The faint crescent reflected in it is surrounded by numerous obstacles that must be crossed to reach that light. As a result, the moon symbolizes hope in my works. It’s something you can see in the distance, but the closer you get, the more you miss it.

I get a lot of inspiration from my dreams. My dreams often seem to be a mixture of the past and things I haven’t experienced. However, the background is mysterious and uncharted, a natural scenery. I reflect these scenes in my paintings, and this may be a space of my utopia where I don’t want to be bound anywhere.

The Moon in the Ocean, 2021 Minyoung KIM

Août: Who is “The Girl chasing the moonlight”? Is she, you?


Kim: I can say that “yes”. As far as I know, everyone has their own dreams and goals. We live our lives in the hope that we can achieve it one day. As I mentioned, my hope is the moon. One day, I felt life was gloomy and there was a moment when I wanted to give up everything. But every time I looked at the moon, I comforted myself, and overcame that period. When one goal is achieved, people are happy for a while, but move forward toward another again. It deeply resembles the moon that will never be caught.

Août: You referred to your paintings as being ambivalent. Can you explain why?


Kim: The mixture of the images I use in my paintings can be seen as a mixture of heterogeneity, a dissonance of grotesque characteristics. Ironical scenes that evoke laughter with bizarre, eerie, and mysterious emotions reflect another inner state, and both sides of psychological anxiety and conflict are included in the painting. The atmosphere of the painting, surrounded by pastel-toned fairy- tale and fresh colors, makes the scenes in precarious situations seem even more paradoxical. I hope that the audience who see my works will find and enjoy those elements in my paintings.

Who is Your Mum?, 2021 Minyoung KIM

Août: Can you tell us why you named the exhibition: “Moon Garden”?


Kim: The reason why I chose the title Moon Garden of the exhibition is because a lot of my paintings contain images of the moon, and when I thought the gallery itself is a garden, each work symbolizes the changing appearance of the moon. The full moon, the half moon, the dark moon, the crescent moon, and so on. Also, the moon symbolizes hope in my work, because the work itself to me is a bright light against my dark reality.


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