Kim Sun Tei at Olivia Park Gallery
In the wake of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, Kim Sun Tei began to notice an anxiety seeping into his practice. “The splendors of city life that were brought forth by economic development may be nothing but a desert mirage. Nature is ready at any moment to swallow down all that is man-made. We just don’t know it yet,” Kim states of the earthquake’s effects on both northeastern Japan and the personal psyche. His work since this catastrophic event evokes part fear and part fascination before the totalizing power of nature over the ephemerality of humankind.
This anxiety induced by the potential for imminent doom results in Kim’s choice of lasting forms, such as his references to 15th and 16th century Buddhist imagery. Highly process-oriented, Kim creates his often dark and unsettling images using traditional Japanese metal leaf atop a paper support. Various chemicals are then employed to alter the surface of the metal leaf squares, darkening them to the effect of a stormy, irregularly patterned and oxidized ground. Atop this dark and cloudy backdrop, Kim’s last step is to draw the figure in precise shimmering line, echoing traditional depictions of elaborately stylized Buddhist figures in billowing clothes, as if summoning the force of nature’s winds.
Kim’s “Guardians” series likewise poses action hero-like figures frontally above a dark ground, their silhouette outlined in shimmering gold. Standing squarely and upright, the Guardians provide a protective presence in the gallery and beyond, acting as stable heroes to stave off the fear of ultimate collapse. Almost exactly five years after the 2011 earthquake, the devastating effects of which are still lived today, Kim’s anxious works arrive at a timely moment for reflection.
Olivia Park Gallery
16W 32nd St. #605 New York NY, 10001