French bank to highlight artist’s ‘micro fantasy’

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French bank to highlight artist’s ‘micro fantasy’

Credit Lyonnais has chosen to showcase the work of Korean artist Kim Sun-rae for its annual cultural project, “Credit Lyonnais Art Book 2004.”
Credit Lyonnais is one of the major French corporate banks in Korea. As a way of promoting the bank’s role in the Korean economy for the past 25 years, the country manager, Geoffrey de Lassus, initiated the project last year in the hopes that other foreign companies would sponsor similar activities in Korea.
A committee made up of industry professionals and critics selects one promising young Korean artist, organizes an exhibition for the public and publishes an art book, which is distributed to the bank’s clientele. Ms. Kim was chosen out of 11 candidates submitted by more than 10 local galleries. About 40 mixed-media works by Ms. Kim will be exhibited in the prestigious Galerie Bahk in southern Seoul starting today.
The artist has almost exclusively worked with a familiar subject matter and materials: tiny clothes made from rice and mulberry paper. From earthy robes to colorful bathing suits, Ms. Kim’s clothes are more like small sculptures. The clothes appear realistic, but they dress lovely elves of different characters, as if to realize the artist’s Lilliputian fantasy.
Anne Frechen, the director of Barkenhoff Foundation in Worpswede, Germany, described Ms. Kim’s world of familiar objects without the presence of a body as a “micro fantasy” that provokes the viewer’s immeasurable imagination.
“I think clothes are close to us, like a second skin. From birth to death, we’re clothed to express and define who we are,” said Ms. Kim. “These natural-looking clothes are sewn with real red threads, symbolizing skin and blood,” pointing at a pair of naturally dyed coats in a glass box.
The artist also incorporates her emotions drawn from personal experiences. When she was pregnant with her first child, she made a series of rice paper sculptures titled “Umbilical Code” in 1994.
The fantastically beautiful and imaginative set of small clothes titled “Boutique in Fairy Tale” (1998) was inspired by a crime involving a child abduction and murder she learned about through the German press. “After seeing the news, I wanted to express the genuine feelings of innocent children through fairy tale-like colors and shape in these outfits,” she said.
One of her recent works, titled “Swimming Suit” (2003), is a set of female torsos. The inner shell is made from rice paper, which is then covered with slices of rubber tubes. She says the work represents her thoughts about women’s role in society. “People think paper is weak, but when immersed in water, paper become incredibly resilient. I thought that quality was similar to women. In war time, in Korea or Germany, it was the women who helped build the country,” she said.
Ms. Kim graduated from Sookmyung Women’s University in 1991 and continued to study fine art at the College of Hochshule fur Bildende Kunst in Braunschweig, Germany. While there, she won the Barkenhoff Foundation Scholarship in Worpswede, Germany, and held numerous exhibitions and participated in international art fairs. After the Credit Lyonnais exhibition in Seoul, she plans to hold another in Gallery Robert Drees in Hanover, Germany, next month.
At the moment, she is excited about one project she has had in mind for a long time. “Shoes can tell a lot about the wearer. I want to make life-size rice paper shoes of 200 people I know,” she said, looking beyond her imaginary gallery space.

by Ines Cho

The exhibition runs until Friday. Galerie Bahk is located in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. For more information, contact Kim Jung-hwa, the project director, at 02-3461-9574.
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