Biography of Kim Yong-Ik
Kim Yong-Ik has consistently proven to be a highly progressive individual, endlessly questioning his own artistic endeavors and that of art institutions. His varied studio practice has been characterised by his commitment to the deconstruction of the complex values of contemporary art.
Born in Seoul in 1947, the artist then went on to attend the Seoul National University. Initially applying to study agriculture and life sciences, Kim Yong-Ik soon transferred to study painting. There, he would study under the Dansaekhwa artists who would have a profound influence on his practice.
Dansaekwha, translating to monochrome in Korean refers to a loose grouping of artists from the mid 70s in Korea who began to manipulate painting materials. Using monochrome or generally more muted color palettes, they would apply paint in innovative ways, soak their canvases, drag pencil and chalk across their compositions and even rip their paper. In 1975, Kim Yong-Ik would exhibit alongside these artists at the São Paolo Biennale, where he would be the youngest exhibiting member.
Kim Yong-Ik’s artistic career continued to develop throughout the 80s, a transitional period for the art scene in Korea which saw the polarization of Western oriented modernism and the Minjung Art Movement. Minjung Art emerged after the Gwangju Massacre, in which over 200 peaceful demonstrators were killed by government troops. Following these atrocities, artists collectively expressed their longing for democracy through mural paintings, banners and pamphlets. Key to the movement was a desire to create a truly Korean form of art that would reject western influence and rather look to traditional Korean culture.
In this climate, Kim Yong-Ik actively curated and criticised public art exhibitions. He authored contemplative texts on the environment and institutions which surrounded the arts, and the role of art in the public sphere.
Though his application of materials and muted color planes make clear his relationship to the Dansaekwha, he refused their occasionally cold aesthetic, and also diverged from the overtly political agendas of the Minjung artists. Determined to go his own way, Kim Yong-Ik has through the years made works which vary in their politicisation, and span from prints, to paintings, to sculptures and installations. He has also been known to re-work past projects of his own, for example with his various series of Utopia. In his different versions of Utopia, the artist used existing sketches in his repertoire, transferring them to new works on canvas and new prints, with the addition of new materials or new subtleties.
In 1999, Kim Yong-Ik co-founded one of Korea’s leading exhibition spaces known as Art Space Pool, which he then directed between 2004 and 2006. In 2016, the Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul celebrated his practice with an in-depth retrospective. Today, the artist’s work can be found in numerous private and public collections including the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (Seoul), the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Today Kim Yong-Ik continues to live and work in Yangpyeong, South Korea.