I was the supervisor of Sung Min Kim’s Ph.D. Research on the aesthetics of Buddhist Mandalas at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. She developed an aesthetic approach to the subject on the basis of the philosophy and spirituality of Kashmir Shaivism. When I met her for the first time, I was skeptical: Why does a painter need a doctorate? But when I saw her paintings, I was sure that she would accomplish the theoretical research.
I see a deep connection between her paintings and what she has discovered in her philosophical research. It is difficult to classify or explain her paintings, yet at the same time it is easy to receive and absorb them. They are very simple, but not easy. They are not mimetic, realistic imitations of the world. At the same time, they are different from the abstract painting, which is very influential in the art market today and often limited to illustrate the imposed ideas and intellectual concepts.
Sung Min Kim’s painting has deep roots in the classical Chinese, Korean and partly also in the Indian paintings.
The human mind has diverse functions: functions of opening and of contraction. Sung Min Kim’s paintings dramatize this process of human mind. She creates the rhythm out of this process in her paintings, which is immediately perceived by the viewer, but cannot be easily explained. It is Consciousness, that unfolds Itself in colors.
At the first glance her paintings are formless. But if we look at them closer and longer, there comes up forms to recognize. For example, in the painting titled ‘Dalai Lama’, I see after some time concrete forms, like Avalokiteshvara and Buddha. The Buddhist philosophy says: No form is fixed. The worldly forms are instable and constantly changing. These instability and fluidity of the world are expressed in the paintings of Sung Min Kim.
Sung Min Kim is a very original painter, who developed an individual artistic language. She had a successful exhibition in a very prestigious place in India, India International Centre in New Delhi. For many painters, such a first success goes into their head. I speak highly of her attitude as an artist who did not run after success, and did not try to adhere to the style of the painting that was successful, but who searched further her own artistic way.
I am convinced that she will be discovered because she does not imitate anybody, on the contrary she will have many followers, and that her admirer will swell.
H.S. Shivaprakash (Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India) is a poet and dramatist.
In my paintings, thin layers of lines and colors are applied repetitively, and they are sometimes washed away when necessary. The technique of my paintings is based on ‘Jangji gibeop (method of long-pulp paper)’, one of the traditional methods of Korean paintings. This technique is characterized by the repetitive overlap of thin colors and lines. However, unlike the traditional method, my painting does not aim at particular objects of daily life. I go consciously with the flow of lines and colors on the paper, free from the concrete picture in my head. As like the prayer such a process requires patience and innocent faith, till the painting space acquires the elaborate composition out of accumulated layers of lines and colors. I observe forms that are naturally produced by accidental effects of painting materials, and spontaneously cope with them. While I repeat acts of ‘making and destroying’, some concrete forms are naturally constructed. When a painting shows particular forms, but does not give any subtle sound, it needs further laborious process to attain subtle sounds beyond fragmentary forms. The concrete forms should transcend their fragmentary nature, and the fragmentary forms should inevitably undergo the process of demolition in order for the integral music of a painting. The painting should embody the lively sound of Life beyond pictorial forms, yet not being cut off from the sensual forms.
The tension between forms and the formlessness carries out the creative process in my paintings. It is the ‘will’ of the formless to express itself and the desire of individual forms to return to the formless Origin that transform painting space from the physical level to the spiritual level. When the individual forms transcend their fragmentary nature, in other words, when the individual parts melt into formless space, I experience that the painting is close to the first inspiration, which is formless. The concrete forms which are naturally born out of flowing lines and colors reflect the flow of energy and the flow of light. Concrete forms make us easier to enter painting space, because we exist not only as flow of energy but also as solidified body. Without these concrete existences, the energy or the light remains abstract and it is too far from us to be in touch. For me, painting space and pictorial images in the paintings should bring together the abstract Life Principle and our breath.
I paint speaking to myself: Let yourself jump into the pool of inspiration, the archaic spring of Life!
Vienna, October 2011
Sung Min Kim.