People / Critic

Observation on a Surface Formed of Layers, Smooth, and Old

posted 06 Sep 2022


Horizontal Move, 2021, Acrylic on stone, pigment print on adhesive sheet, dimensions variable. Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

Let’s assume that we are looking at a cross-section of an old rock. The rock is so large it can barely be held with two arms. Its surface is rough and coarse while the cross section is so smooth, it appears as if to have been cut by a machine. And it is comprised of several very thin layers as if the paint is mixed having a certain direction. The accumulations of strata could not have been formed from any short period of time, nor by man-made efforts. These rocks, the cross-sections of strata, may appear like a bundle of numerous color lines if viewed only from the cut surface. These marbling images, and other similar features, are common aspects in KIM Inyoung’s two-dimensional and three-dimensional installation works. These elements remind the audience that they are viewing a momentary visual element and forgetting the long generational time.

It is unclear what came first: perhaps the so-called strata-like images were long-lived accumulations that caught the interest of the artist because of their antique nature, or perhaps the artist was first enraptured by the strata-like image which led her to research and recreate the material. What this article is questioning, however, is the artist’s work before defining the artist with modifiers such as ‘artist creating a digital sensation with analog methods’ or ‘artist defying the boundaries by outputting a digital image with analog methods’ on some of KIM Inyoung’s works on printing digital images created by using scanography during the work process to a flat plane. The fundamental interest of the artist is inherent in the central motif of the work. This article intends to discuss the various levels of meaning and technical aspects of the work as they relate to the artist’s fundamental interest.


Exhibition view of Transition Spot (Window Gallery, Incheon Art Platform, Incheon, 2021). Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

KIM Inyoung mainly produces paintings but has a tendency to use a variety of mediums such as photography, prints (including monotype and scanography techniques), and installations. The artist also shows particular interest in prints such as monotype prints which involve the use of the hand or scanography which is also a type of print, etc. The important thing is, the reason KIM Inyoung is able to use media flexibly lies in relentlessly observing the state of the flat plane surface and expressing the same. Her solo exhibition Re-aliasing (2019) held at Insa Art Space provides an important insight into the artist’s approach. The exhibition was largely comprised of two structures: the first floor, the Smooth Membrane (2019) series, and the second floor, the Copy/Paste (2019), which are contains works that use space itself, that is, the feature-like traces or forms of the space as material.1)


Copy/Paste, 2019, UV print on foamex, dimensions variable. Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

Smooth Membrane has a vividness and three-dimensionality obtained by passing a colorful image through a clear acrylic panel. It is visually parallel to the strata-like image that KIM has continuously been interested in. The image of the strata has become a material for the artist, transitioning from paint to paintings, paintings to prints, prints to film, eventually evolving into sculpture and installation.2) Aspects such as transitioning on and off-line, making material move at one’s will or by accident, and the state of the image which changes during this process, in particular, the image being water-transferred and becoming a clear and smooth substance is probably what aligns with KIM’s sense of the work looking smooth on the digital screen.

The works on the second floor illuminate a through line in KIM’s practice: the series upstairs deals with time changing the solid nature of the inside of an old building, indicating that perhaps the artist’s true interest lies in time as a force of change(time, for example, facilitates the formation of the strata-like image). In Worms (2019) and Copy/Paste, the artist took photographs of scratches or deeply etched traces on a floor, printed the images to an identical scale, and covered the corresponding part or vicinity thereof. Perhaps the artist was interested in the phenomenon of an old material being replaced with a non-material while cross-comparing the actual traces created by time passing and the state of the image created in a relatively short time.

If so, how has the ‘digital’ been able to enter into the work of KIM Inyoung, who was steadfast in studying the physical properties of paintings? The answer, one can presume, may be found in the artist’s use of the scanography method. The following is disclosed in the artist’s note in her third solo exhibition Overlapping layers (2017), which was the first work to use scanography methods: “In the process of moving and capturing the colors on the scanner bed, distortions and knots were created along the movement axis of the scan head. The result created by using the numerous layers generated based on the instantaneous movement of the machine and myself ··· may be a still image, but can cause an optical illusion–as if the form continuously changes based on the flow of time.”3)


.jpg, 2020, Pigment print on paper, 21×29.7cm (54). Image provided by Incheon Art Platform.

By adding the artist’s movement when the scanner recognizes the image, the digitalization of the image is hindered. Even if the image of the strata generally designed by KIM has a formless machine-like quality, it is not possible to label the image as a purely digital one. Considering JPG.(2017–), which the artist calls her ‘palette’, it can be assumed that scanography was used to view the image itself in its pictorial material state laid over the panel.4) A full appreciation of the complexity of KIM’s work is lost by only considering the singular factor of its digitalization.

Because there is no determined shape to KIM’s images, the special production method, its terms, concepts, and interpretations generated, are all interconnected and essential. The pictorial material the artist has relentlessly mixed and layered on screen is the commonality of her work regardless of the variety of media and processes. The resulting effect from manipulative calculation and mechanical accident, likens the work to the unique and mysterious quality of nature. In the artist’s own words, “to draw a picture is closer to the subject rather than being the means for delivering a specific story.” Whatever the support structure and tool, KIM Inyoung continues to steadfastly study the flat plane and the pictorial surface.5) And, this is the sentence I would want to use first if I had the opportunity to introduce KIM Inyoung.


1) To reiterate the intent of the artist once more, the exhibition was comprised of three structures in the basement, the first floor, and the second floor of Insa Art Space. In the present text, the exhibition has been divided into two types based on the format of the work. Arts Council Korea, Re-aliasing (Seoul: Arts Council Korea, 2019), pp.6–7.
2) The following is an encapsulation the artist’s words on the production process of the Smooth Membrane (2019) series. First, KIM Inyoung creates an image by spreading various paints across paper such as A4 size paper and mixes the paint. Then, the artist creates a digital image different from the original by using the scanography method of intentionally generating a distortion or knots during the process of scanning the corresponding image with a scanner. Then, the digital image is processed through programs such as Photoshop and produced on a water transfer film. The image produced to film and layered over acryl by water transfer is the process of Smooth Membrane. Original images may be produced but usable images discovered from the interest, etc., are also used. From an interview with the artist, August 10, 2020.
3) Excerpt from Artist’s Portfolio.
4) JPG. (2017–) is a work of art which shows subtle yet diverse variations of the same image by actively apply methods of scanography to original images created by KIM Inyoung on paper.
5) KIM Inyoung, “A Study on dual structuring of pictorial space based on uncertainty” (Seoul: Seoul National University, M.F.A. diss., 2012), pp.65–66.

※ This content was first published in 『2020 Incheon Art Platform Residency Program Catalogue』, and re-published here with the consent of Incheon Art Platform

Heeseung Choi

CHOI Heeseung mainly spends her time organizing exhibitions and writing about artists and exhibitions that captivate her. A curator at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2015–2020), CHOI has organized 《Young Korean Artists 2019: Liquid Glass Sea》(MMCA, Gwacheon, 2019), 《Collection Highlights: Synchronic Moments》 (MMCA, Gwacheon, 2018), and 《Layers and Spaces》 (MMCA, Gwacheon, 2017), etc., and has also co-curated various exhibitions including 《Sailing a Pedal Boat》 (5%, Seoul, 2019) and 《As Two Half Moons Meet》 (BREGA Artist Space, Seoul, 2018). CHOI is currently a curator at the DOOSAN Gallery.

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