Lingering sensations of time presented as a still life

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Lingering sensations of time presented as a still life

In a way the photographer Kim Su-gang takes the idea of “still life” to an extreme.
The objects in her latest exhibition at Gallery Kong seem motionless in every way; they provoke a sense that time and space have been frozen. She achieves this through monochrome images of banal, everyday objects, blown up to give a distorted sense of reality. This is reinforced by the painterly surface of her photographs, which look as if they are going to start disappearing at any moment.
In her work, Kim uses a laborious technique called the gum-printing method, a 19th century process in which photographic paper has to be coated by hand with chemicals mixed with pigment, then exposed to ultraviolet light through a negative. The technique is ideally suited to the artist’s conceptual approach, which deliberately captures mundane objects that have been abandoned to draw attention to the increasingly disposable nature of our lives.
In her latest exhibit she presents monochrome photographs of familiar objects from her domestic surroundings, such as piles of bowls from her kitchen, a saltshaker, a food wrapper and pencils.
The objects also reference her earlier shows. In her first photo exhibit, as a student in New York, titled “Unimportant Stories,” Kim presented a photographic series depicting objects that had been taken from her home, such as a kimchi jar and an umbrella. Her later works focused on objects like egg shells that had been left behind at breakfast and a tiny stone spinning on the ground.
In the way she captures them, her subjects naturally reveal their condition. They seem fragile to the point of disappearing from the surface. They are photographs, but their contours possess the gentle subtlety of pencil drawings. In a way, the artist uses her hands in the developing process as a means to give life back to objects that have detached from us. Her works possess a certain longing, because they capture ordinary moments in our everyday reality that, in the nature of time, become increasingly distant, both visually and conceptually.

Kim Su-gang’s exhibition will run at Gallery Kong through May 27th. The artist’s photo book is also available. The gallery is open from Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. To get to the gallery get off at Anguk Station (line No. 3) and walk toward the National Folk Museum. For more information call (02) 738-7776.


By Park Soo-mee Staff Writer [myfeast@joongang.co.kr]

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