Perhaps the largest piece in this remarkable show of the works of Hayoung Kim is a sparkling grid, on separate sheets of paper in gouache depicting a congregation of young women, each facing three ways – forwards and to left and right, reminiscent of police mug-shots or especially, from a different century and characterization, Van Dyke’s triple portrait of Charles First, made to inform Bernini’s bust of the monarch. Yet these women have a uniformity of features similar enough to be from the same family, or a troupe of benevolent girl soldiers, blank eyes, each drawn and painted with the fluency and firmness to be found in all of Kim’s work.
Some of her pictures have a double layer, using drafting film for an upper, (second) image, sometimes pierced by irregular openings to reveal the earlier figuration beneath, that often contrasts with it dramatically, creating a miraculous dialogue between the two and together an intriguing sub-aqueous appearance.
Her imagery often concerns reflections of her own bodily functions or feelings – ‘Eat’,( in and out), ‘Breathe’, ‘Sleep’, like a grey anthropomorphic cloud descending, etc. The complex, twisted imagery seems concerned with personal medications, capsules appear, or a girl character is consuming – or regurgitating(?) the paper prescription. The multi-coloured ‘Mop’ hides a taciturn face, that brings to mind Archimboldo’s portraits made from painted fruit and vegetables.
There is a psychedelic manga soup in which disparate elements and body parts float, with tubes – many tangled tubes, and numerous dancing human teeth. Although this sophistication may collide and be blasted apart suddenly by a knowing familiarity with abstract expressionist brushwork.
Overall, the tone of these imaginative metaphors appears benign, tender and even humorous, but there is an ominous underlying quality of threat and pain seeping through that tends to disturb the dazzling beauty of this comic universe.
‘My over-riding impression of these works of Hayoung is that there seems really to be no influence from any other artist, they are truly original and uniquely her own – she is making them out of herself.’
Keeper. Royal Academy