Soomin Kim A lot of my frustrations while growing up was how temporary things were.
By Mary Truong September 16th, 2020
Soomin Kim embraces stillness in her life, and her contemplations on it suffuse into her art. She often compares herself to a rock in a riverbed, saying: “Sometimes, I’ll go down some parts in the river and stay, all the while noticing the flowing water above me…” She emphasizes continuity in her position even amidst change (of graduation, of the pandemic). “Marble is marble; but if a slab of it was put in a river, it would chip over... Its shape changes over time; its texture changes over time, but it’s still the same type of rock.”
“A lot of my frustrations while growing up was how temporary things were.”
Kim is attracted to a sense of permanence in her work, which stems from her childhood frustrations in transitory routines. She says, “I thought routine was tiring because you had to do it again and again… if I took a shower, I would have to take a shower the day after.” When she makes art, she looks for materials that last: a mural on a steadfast wall, hardwood for a sculpture. The enduring nature of permanence acts as a type of stillness, in the way that a mountain’s constitution allows it to persist amidst weathering storms. Perhaps Kim seeks that form of stillness within her works.
Interestingly, Kim prefers “more physically taxing” processes when making art. She recalls the laborious process of painting a mural with fondness: preparing the surface material/plasters, priming the wall to be even— ultimately, she estimates spending only 10% of her time painting. Papermaking and printmaking are similarly attractive to Kim for being “super bodily experienced.” Even if these processes require disciplined, repetitive motion (the way a daily routine might— making the bed, brushing your teeth, showering), Kim finds the motion worthwhile because it results in a “permanent” artifact.
“I think of the audience as the space the work will reside in.”
The mediating state between stillness and movement is presence, and Kim intimates this throughout her practice by considering the surroundings in which her art objects exist. When Kim was creating stitched pouches for her Superellipse project, she contemplated the intimate habits that Korean people had with the floor— sitting on it, preparing bedding to sleep on it, taking off shoes within a household as an acknowledgement of the floor being the most touched surface. Her mural, too, activates the space of the wall, and even her prints are imbued with “presence” through the bodily labor she enacts.
“To be still is to flow gently with the stream.”
There is quietude in how Kim understands the world, and this is reflected in two sayings she has adopted: "still water rots" and “to be still is to flow gently with the stream.” The quotes reflect a coexistence and duality between repose and motion, in being both still and not still. In accepting both stagnancy and movement, Kim builds a stability of an immersed presence. Amidst all conditions of life, Kim is still a rock in a riverbed, observing the waters passing overhead or being carried by the currents, and gently leaving traces of her presence through art.
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