Christine Kim is a thoughtful artist who works in illustration, cut-paper collage and art installation. We had the chance to meet up with her for coffee and chat about uniqueness, experimenting with technique and her incredibly successful exhibition at this year’s edition of Nuit Blanche entitled “Paper Orbs”.
Why did you choose to pursue art?
I think that, for people who go into the arts, it’s not so much a conscious choice. Even when you’re not creating, there’s a significant part of you that feels the burden of not working/drawing/making. So the choice lies not in your career as a whole, but the daily routine of working. Without the support system of schooling, the studio has become a solitary practice for me and it’s the work routine that you have to subscribe to.
Was there a particular moment or milestone that made it apparent that you should pursue art full-time? What was it, how did it change what you were doing?
There was a time when I thought I would step away from art. I had convinced myself that I was okay at it, that it wasn’t worth pursuing. However, when I applied for my Master in Art Education I started drawing again and this is when I started cutting into paper and the practice of collage became something I did. It was a summer program, so I could still teach and I would spend my summers in Victoria making art and reading by the beach. That lasted for three summers. I met two professors there who have given me the freedom, support, courage, and confidence to do the work.
How would you describe your unique style?
I think the tone/atmosphere that I’d like to relate to the audience is one of serenity, yet tension at the same time. Balancing harmony and cacophony, the friction between elements makes your eye linger there and makes you think more. Most of the colours I use are muted down, I find some colours are too overpowering. I prefer focusing on the contrast between the blacks and revealing more intricacy in the illustration.
Besides illustration, what medium do you enjoy working in?
It’s always been more experimental for me. I’ve always admired artists that can focus on one particular thing. Every media has its own language and level of possibility, and you have to take what most relates to you. I chose printmaking at first and just loved it, the romance and primal element of drawing on stone, the whole idea of making your mark on any surface. I went on to learn about layer, collages, composition. I did performance and some video work as well. I’ve always chosen different media in terms of what the concept is, choosing the concept first and seeing what works after.
The paper orbs installation you showed on Nuit Blanche, what was the inspiration behind that?
The initial inspiration was actually a collage. I hadn’t done art in a while and I got into a Masters program where they gave me a studio space over the summer. I started off by drawing on this huge paper I had pinned on the wall. It got bigger and bigger, and I started cutting out the parts I didn’t like so a sort of layered collage started happening. One professor came up to me and told me that whatever medium I touched I knew it was going to be okay. That was such a relief to me! I started climbing ladders to see how high I could go.
Do you have any advice for emerging and ambitious artists?
It’s about work ethic, it’s a matter of persistence. It’s really hard to aim to be an artist. I didn’t even think that where I am now was possible five years ago. I think the biggest advice for any emerging artist would be to have a strong conceptual statement, the work really has to have another layer going on, so people stay with you.
All images by Christine Kim