By Leah Gallant
So Hee will be installing work in a swimming pool in the basement of the Commerce Center.
You studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, but have recently been working in installation as well. Was there a turning point where you started making installations rather than paintings?
I first made an installation for the show ‘Bruises/Birthmarks.’ I tried to translate what was going on in the planes of my paintings and turn them into space. I wanted to grab the gestures that were happening in the paintings and put them into materials, so I hung them all together, and they ended up being an installation.
So Hee Kim, Blue and its Edges and Depths
How do you see the relationship between those two mediums?
I try to draw on my cultural and physical environments and interpret them in whatever medium I find. But I think my paintings and installations are very different, because although they might look like they could’ve been made by the same person, the way they are performed or even their formal qualities are very different. For example, the paintings are more formal because they are all on the wall, the sizes are all similar, and they have an all-over composition. I think the problem or difficulty in painting is I fall into the habit of already visualizing what a painting might look like. I felt like I was copying the aesthetics of some of the artists I look up to, like Cy Twombly. So I think my goal now is to free my paintings from the wall and make something that is more a fabric of space-time—that’s the next step. A similarity between the two is that in installations, I still think about the framing, the plane, and the wall a lot, because I use that to build onto space as if I’m painting in three dimensions. On the other hand, when I try to move from installations into paintings, I find a bit of difficulty because a lot of my installations are derived from something very visible and physical to the space. They might refer to a video, or a previous painting that I’ve made.
So Hee Kim, Salt and Pepper
Your paintings are really loose and gestural and make use of color and mixed media, like salt and pepper packets. But at the same time, everything is ultimately confined to a stretched canvas, bringing an underlying sense of order that I don’t see in your installations, which are much more entropic—more Jason Rhoades than Sarah Sze. What are the roles of order and disorder in your work?
I realized that when I was done with all my work, after my year was over. I think that’s so true of my practice. I guess I’ve never really been too conscious of order or disorder, it was just the materiality that shaped the work –like the paint or the canvas.
You’ve mentioned that some of your other influences include Tom Sachs, Cy Twombly, Dieter Roth, and Shinro Ohtake. What’s your interest in how each of them uses materiality in their work?
A lot of my work is based on the ‘making’ part. I just keep making and the material that I work with helps to give the piece a context or focus. I like Cy Twombly’s use of linguistic material to show the possibility of expressing that as a material quality. I started thinking about the ketchup, or salt and pepper, or mustard, because it’s so literal and direct. With Dieter Roth, I know he started writing a lot of poems and short stories before he started making sculptures, drawings, and installations. I really like how he takes all his working habits or processes and documents everythng, or makes videos of all of them, and then in the end he fills the space with all the traces of working, all the furniture and things from the studio. It’s very moving to me because it seems so alive.
So Hee Kim, Mad Ketchup
What are you thinking about doing for your installation space at the pool?
Right now, I’m making a lot of swatches to make cut-outs for the space. There are various options in my head I want to try out, but my first idea was to make a pool of memory, where I could put everything that I’m thinking about— putting all of my confusions in the pool, just making it immensely packed with stuff. I think for the pool it’s a really great opportunity for me. Instead of taking the idea of a painting and translating it from 2D to 3D or 3D to 2D, I have the opportunity to work from something new.
In her introduction to the winter 2015 show ‘The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, ’ the first major show of recent paintings at MOMA in over forty years, curator Laura Hoptman notes that in much contemporary painting, there is an “a-historical free-for-all…where all eras co-exist.” Where do you see the medium heading in the next few decades, and why are you still working in the medium?
I think I could be one of the few people who still believes that modernism is not over yet. I do believe in the possibility of painting, but we also need a new move. To me, the reason I still paint is I feel like it gives me a lot—it allows me to move in different directions, but I always come back to this medium if I get lost somewhere else.
For more of So Hee’s work, go to her website at https://www.behance.net/skim26.
Photo credit: So Hee Kim and Leah Gallant