by Zolton in New Art on Wednesday 20 August 2008

Some beautiful work by Los Angeles-based, Korean artist Steve Kim. Of his paintings he says: ‘Although I wish I could say otherwise, my paintings typically begin with an unpretentious, but slightly embarrassing,”Hey, that’s neat. That looks fun to paint”. If I’m lucky I’ll have my camera with me, but more often than not it’s something duly noted and set aside’.

It is with this attitude that I pick out photos to paint from. I browse the ever-expanding collection of pictures I’ve taken and when one catches my eye—for whatever reason at all—I go ahead and paint it. I don’t particularly revel in my use of photography. I am not mediating between its role in the arts or painting specifically. I use it because it’s practical, and alternatives do not exactly abound. Luckily, I like photography and post processing, so I happen to know enough to discern how it might influence my painting for better or worse.

With reference in hand, I set about the task of painting a painting. Sometimes with a specific idea of where to take it, but more often than not just trying to draw and paint what I see. If there is any meaning to be had in my work, it is in the fact that at no time do I turn off the part of me that turned me on to the image in the first place. In other words, as I paint, hundreds of little “Hey, that’s neat” moments occur within the painting. It might be some shape in the initial drawing, or some arbitrary wash of color—anything that stands alone and somehow asserts its right to exist. Although I gravitate towards figuration, or at least animate objects, there is a point where the inanimate things on the canvas seem to come to life and take over.

The real work is in deciding what should stay and what should go. Do I keep this little interesting bit of transparency in favor of opacity? Are these edges good enough or do I start anew? Is this thing really captivating or—be honest now—am I buying into my own schtick? There is a tendency to think of a final work as being a big, bold, confident statement by the artist. My best pieces, however, are often malformed , self-conscious things beaten into the shape of something passing for proud. My work has suffered the most precisely when I’d succumb to some predefined ideology or rhetoric.

A big concern of mine is how much of this process is transparent to the viewer? How can my paintings and the circumstances in which they were created be more accessible? A small thing I like to do is take pictures of my work in-progress. They serve either as a record of what could have been , or a way of holding myself accountable to my decisions. I think of them as potential points of entry for the viewer in what might otherwise be aloof, inaccessible work. This is one aspect of my practice that I would enjoy elaborating and expanding upon in the future. I really like the idea of a viewer charting the progress of a painting and deciding for himself the merits of each decision. See here. Look at this! I told you he zigged when he should of zagged’.

pink-derek by steve kim