Jiyeon Kim – Meme Paintings

Postponed - Exhibition Dates TBA


With Meme Paintings, SomoS presents Jiyeon Kim’s new group of paintings, conceived in Berlin early 2020 during her SomoS Artist Residency, offering a comprehensive look at the unique creative vision of this prolific young South-Korean artist that bridges real and online life in exciting ways.

Note: This exhibition is postponed, due to the current international health concerns surrounding COVID-19.

In her paintings, Jiyeon Kim consistently explores ways of representing the individual in our digital era. Most of her work uses acrylic paint, and combines elements of abstraction with figuration. Deeply invested in reinterpreting the art of portraiture in a contemporary way, she focuses on the ways in which our attitudes toward depictions of the human face and figure have changed with the rise of the internet and digital technology.

Kim previously completed City of Singles – Portraits of Tinder, a series of acrylic portraits of people she found on Tinder. Her interest in how we represent ourselves on social media drives her to question whether the photos we post on Tinder, Facebook, and Instagram might be revealing deeper subconscious desires. Although these individuals are represented in a classic painted style of portraiture, each face in the series remained recognizable. They were painted on 50 x 50cm square canvases, and most figures were cropped at the shoulders to focus on their faces. She used mainly muted shades of blue, grey, green, and occasionally red, contrasted with blank white backgrounds, bringing the entire focus on the individuals themselves.

The Meme Paintings as presented at SomoS comprises 11 paintings, ranging from 20 x 30cm in size to 165 x 125 cm, all using mixed media on canvas. In the series, started in 2020, Jiyeon Kim’s work evolves from “selfie” to “story,” from private to public figures, from using candid imagery to overly familiar ones, as she moves beyond her earlier relatively straight frontal portraiture to visualize new and more complex ideas about the ways in which we interact with the internet, and the fleeting narratives it creates within our own minds.

Taking inspiration from the flood of images and news articles that we are faced with every day, Kim creates collage-style paintings of stacked disparate elements, combined in a single canvas. There are painted elements combined loosely with parts that have been printed and pasted to the canvas. Kim first extensively designs these works by organizing the elements digitally in Photoshop, arranging and rearranging them until they achieve a visual balance. The use of collage allows a more surrealist style, absent in previous work. But keeping in-line with City of Singles, the use of real-life visuals ground her artwork, creating an impression of familiarity for the viewer. In addition, the images are soft and subtle, rendered in washed-out, muted tones, a look that may allude to the rapid fading of the lurid imagery of mass media once stored in our memory. The painting’s floating figures are orbited by hyper realistic depictions of often brand-name objects, that reference the Pop-art tradition, calling to mind the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. The incorporation of skewed abstracted geometric background motifs further contributes to an overall impression of transience and ethereality from these images.

All of these elements work together to create an insidious effect on the viewer, who knows too well the pop-culture images presented in Kim’s paintings. Kim uses this initial comfort to infiltrate the viewer’s perception, much like the visual flood of images we see every day does.

The paintings are a visual representation of the fragmented pieces of photos and articles that remain in Kim’s mind after browsing the internet, blended with her own memories and thoughts to create a composition that contains both elements of truth and fiction. Though viewers might be tempted to imagine relationships between the disparate elements depicted in Kim’s paintings, they have no real relationship outside of their shared existence in Kim’s memory, their randomness is intentional. Through the filter of our own minds, which are presented with endless information every day, stories become distorted and altered in this way. Kim’s work seeks to visually represent this distortion, in which information and narratives merge into a muddled, fuzzy state of consciousness, questioning how does the sheer amount of images and information we consume in our daily lives affects us long after we’ve seen them? What of the images that we see over and over again? What does it do to our sense of reality and the function of memory itself?

In the Meme Paintings, the digital stream is halted for a moment, its floating, frozen state inviting contemplation instead of distraction. We are left to reflect on the process of being flooded itself, and the mental flotsam left in our consciousness after the digital flood recedes.

About Jiyeon Kim

Jiyeon Kim completed her BFA at SungKyunKwan University in Seoul, and attended the Innenarchitektur Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst in Hildesheim until 2015. She has held three solo exhibitions in Berlin, participated in several group shows in Seoul, Leipzig, and Berlin, and participated in Art…Essenz 2016. She has previously held a residency at GlogauAIR in Berlin, and was nominated for the EB-Dietzsch-Kunstpreis in 2018.
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