Nathan Kim creates memorable images, asks real questions

Kim+with+one+of+his+works.+Photo+by+Tela+Ebersole.

Kim with one of his works. Photo by Tela Ebersole.

It is rare to find an individual as passionate and enveloped in their work as artist Nathan Kim ’16.

Kim’s interest in art began at an early age. He began sketching robots, dragons and comic book figures, inspired by his favorite TV shows. Eventually he developed an interest in muscle men and human anatomy.

As his passion took root, his drawings became more private and personal, hinting at his future intensely expressive, emotive work. He has since graduated from sketching to tackle many different art forms. His desire to master a variety of techniques prevents him from choosing one favorite method. Rather, Kim allows his instincts to dictate the form of his work.

“I really want to get proficient at most things. I definitely think form dictates medium, and so I think that it would be good to work on a lot of things, different kinds of techniques,” Kim said. “I’ve done a bit of sculpture, which I enjoy. I really like paper mâché, and I like painting because I just really like working with colors.”

Kim has also constructed masks, paper birds and cartoons, along with utilizing less conventional materials such as fly paper, plants and other organic materials.

“I like to improvise materials a lot to leave a large element of, just, chaotic-ness,” Kim said.

While all of his work is representative of his passion and talent, Kim’s style is distinctly marked by a separation between personal and professional art.

The work that he chooses to present focuses on how technology has influenced the way we see things. Kim is particularly interested in forcing the viewer to confront technological images and advertisements to which we have become desensitized. He aims to portray “things that we seem to block out or that are rendered invisible.”

One of his paintings in this realm features the form of a snowman in a wintry environment. In the foreground stands an image of a computer pop-up, a more commonly viewed image in our society, juxtaposed against the natural setting. This piece is demonstrative of what Kim most tries to accomplish with his work.

“A successful image should really stay in someone’s memory and I think that the best way to approach that is to present the viewer with something that they’re not sure how to approach,” Kim said. “[The painting is] inviting with the spatial depth and then the color. But then there’s this obstruction that really has no spatial placement.”

Through his art, Kim confronts the perceived normalcy of technology by inserting it in one of the few environments in which it seems out of place. Kim further expressed his desire to create similar, provocative images in the future that comment on the integration of technology in our society and our complacency with its power.

“I’m really into … thinking of art as a weapon or as a way of subverting advertisement. Just to communicate, through the same language, something completely contradictory,” Kim said.

To further explore his interest in technological interactions and intrusions in everyday life, Kim hopes to intern with Scott Blake, who graced Faulconer Gallery last semester with his own technology-centric artwork.

“He does a lot of similar things with how technology and the way we see things kind of changed,” Kim said. “Now, the whole imagery of ads confronting you everywhere is … striking because you just block it out. It’s an invasion of technology into daily life.”

Besides approaching art as a platform for activism or social commentary, Kim also uses art for his own personal pleasure and as a therapeutic outlet. These personal pieces differ from his professional collection in their form and inspiration—making them provides him with something of an emotional release.

“When I can’t really make sense of what is going on around me, sometimes I’ll just try and put things out on paper. … I’ll take things that are bothering me, put them on canvas and look at it later and reflect on it,” he shared. “I have trouble processing a lot of things, and to express it in art helps me to verbalize all the things that are going on around me. I guess you could say it’s a way of exerting control—you know, bringing things back together after exploding them.”

Both his personal and professional pieces demonstrate his well-honed skills and technical adeptness, and the versatility and distinctness of his work is apparent in the variety of feelings and thoughts each work provokes in the viewer.

Kim maintains a symbiotic relationship with his work, fostering a give and take between art and artist—this lets him express himself and find meaning in everyday struggles, while creating something thought-provoking and emotional. In this, Kim is able to gain a better understanding of himself.

“I’d characterize my art as constant attempts to sift through and recompile meaning within a fractured, daily-shifting plurality of self and perception,” Kim said.

Kim with one of his works. Photo by Tela Ebersole.
Kim with one of his works. Photo by Tela Ebersole.