10 Jul 2017 — 22 Jul 2017
Kim bum ghun

If we say we are engrossed in visual matters, in particular, is it the fallacy of hasty generalization.
Who can resist and what is the evidence? Reviewing the history of humanity, we are living in the least dialectical and the most improvised time. An image makes it possible. It expands its territory with such a speed that thoughts and imagination cannot match it by any means. The definition of lengthy arguments and sophisticated writing entrusted a single photograph or a film has the right to seek the truth. Modern people replaced Rousseau’s idea “the less we see, the more we can imagine” with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

Since 2014 Kim Bum Ghun has created paintings representing the signs at tourist sites on Jeju Island. Before he moved to Jeju Island in 2012, he had had no particular interest in them. Apart from their physical quantity, we are more apt to notice and closely observe tourists in an area unfamiliar to us. Kim, in particular, paid attention to tourist signs, on which Jeju Island’s symbolic images or tourist sites are printed. The colorful hues and bold composition in which famous local products and landmarks are enlarged with the distance view of the island’s tourist sites in the background are reminiscent of surrealism beyond a sense of fabrication.

In the work Darangshise (2014), the artist truthfully depicted the image of a tourist sign where a close and distant view intersect. In fact, a sign is a visual lure. It is created for those cars speeding on the highway?ones that do not go out of their way to slow down. In other words, the signs need to deliver the main idea of the image through an instant encounter. There is no room for such things as cohesive viewpoints, color relationships or a sense of reality to speak of here. Instead, a surrealistic wonder gets the chance to be imprinted in people’s memory. Tourist signs defy thoughts and invade into the realm of mind through our eyes. Between the desire to commodify the region and the desire of us to confirm that our choice of the product was right, the image becomes real.

The paintings Kim Bum Ghun created from 2014 to 2015 expose the mythology of tourist signs that attempt to crawl into the realm of reality. He depicted weathered or heavily dented signs or the night view of them shown through streetlights or automobile headlights. The paintings were depicted with physical wear and tear imposed on the object called a tourist sign. The work shows its fading color or some missing part in weathering time or a bright landscape in contrast to the dark highway. It reveals that the depicted landscape in the picture is not real nature and that is not only the view of the painter but of others. Within the view, a camera is covertly concealing itself.

A photograph turns a temporal instance into something permanent. An artificial thing is suggested as a natural thing. The moment of pressing the camera shutter is highly subjective. Among a million possibilities, one image was captured, and there was a matter of selection, arrangement, and complicated interests before that drastic conclusion could be made. After all, choosing what to show involves choosing what to remove, suggesting the process of elimination. Hence, a sign with text can be excused from the debate but what is with an image cannot. Text can contain its meaning in any form, but a photograph does not amount to the real object or landscape. Indeed, one that celebrates its ability is not the reality but a photograph of it.

In the artist’s recent work, the fallacy of the images on tourist signs, the view of others via photography, and his thoughts on tourist signs as an object placed in a specific space are manifested as a landscape painting in monochrome colors. The way in which the artist literally represents the image of the signs, in fact, can emphasize the fallacy of painting itself. The worn and damaged tourist signs or the signs in a night view can hardly vindicate the false charge that they are literally depicted. The monochrome paintings observed in his recent work seem to follow the general formality of landscape painting. However, what is important here is that they only seem to follow rather than really are. Although his paintings are still the landscape that originated from the signs representing Jeju Island, there is a subtle mixture of other landscapes.
Over the glass with the signs attached, the real view of Jeju Island is reflected. The way the artist dealt with a certain part of the image, where some forms are collapsed or painted brightly, is a silent imply, saying “what you are seeing is just an ad!” It is the logic of dialectic founded upon a contradiction and a conflict.

The tourist guidebook, signs, ads, postcards, souvenirs that direct the sight of tourists are visual symbols that grant the tourist site with a certain image and structuralize it. They are the product of a visual choice and exclusion. The agency of producing images makes them as if the images are “natural.” The mythology comes into being here. The mythologized image cannot clarify its cause of occurrence and justification. Because mythology states the presence of images as if they really exist in reality, an image becomes something unmistakable. The issue of this mythologized image lies in the attitude of viewers who take it as natural. Even though mythology is a mere semiotic system, viewers see it as the truth. An image of a tourist site was already complete even before it arrives there. What people desire to see are things they already saw on guidebooks, TV, and magazines. In the end, tourism is a journey through which to confirm our fantasy. The disappointed experience of a tourist site (which we sometimes have) is due to the reality rather than our preconceived images and all the blame goes to the real site. That is why a tourist image and the real landscape oppose each other.

Kim Bum Ghun’s work uncovers the difference between a mythologized image and the real landscape, between the point of view of an insider and of an outsider to the place. His painting does not represent tourist signs but instead represents through the signs. A painting is expected to borrow an image from the outside world directly or indirectly. The task of a painter is to observe elements thrown into the world based on the law of nature or of physics and collect them to create their faces. They are people who realize the presence of something through an object before their eyes. They are people who desire. Rearranging and reconstructing the world anew by drawing out that object from the chaotic reality is another name of painting. It is just that we cannot fully grasp the way painting always employs its uncanny means of implication that is so unlike our language.
Gimnyeonggul beach, acrylic on canvas, 91x117cm, 2015