Jennifer McGregor | Senior Curator, Wave Hill | May, 2008 | download pdf

It is a balmy spring day when I visit Jung Hyang Kim in her studio on the edge of the Fashion District in New York, where instant high-rise buildings are rapidly changing the landscape and the sense of the seasons is usually muted. Stepping through the door I’m immersed by a suite of paintings and works on paper that are strongly connected to the natural world and imbued with light. This lyrical new work hints at different types of weather, the shifting mood of seasons, and a metaphoric understanding of the life-cycles of plants. In short, an approach to abstraction that is not at all urban.

Jung Hyang Kim’s earlier diptychs establish a conversation by contrasting geometric patterns with natural ones on parallel panels. The recent series synthesizes the abstract and natural in singular images that are both powerful and moody. The multi-faceted vocabulary of natural forms, abstract patterns and shapes is captivating. In "Mystical Journey #5 Night", the complex layers of different densities and color combine to create an immensely breathable space, while the circular dots suggest endless motion. Shifting the overall palette in "# 4" (not sure the title of this one) creates a different mood while the vertical dotted line and circular episodes of activity reinforce a dynamic rhythm. The eye roams across the canvas as if looking across field, concurrently zeroing-in and the grasping the expanse. "Edge of the Pond", suggests a view of the world that is both micro and macro where scale and boundaries are not essential.  In total, the works establish a dialogue between each other that is complex and satisfying.

In these paintings Kim has developed a technique of working with layered washes of
oil paint on canvas that achieves the lightness of touch that she accomplishes with gouache and pastel on paper. Her approach to color is complex and embedded within the layers. She demonstrates her control of the medium in these enduring works.

The paintings are a pleasure to view and appear to be pleasure to paint. During this studio visit I feel like I have traveled to distant places and times.  At the same time the paintings have inspired strong encounters with nature through a language that is truly abstract and encourages open-ended interpretation.

Jennifer McGregor, Senior Curator, Wave Hill