Bo Kim’s minimal paintings embrace the textural, fibrous quality of hanji – a traditional Korean paper made using the inner bark of the mulberry tree. Kim layers hanji across her canvases with a sand mixture. Each work begins with one layer which she paints over, often in a single color, before layering numerous thin sheets of paper over the paint, creating a foggy, washed effect. “Painting on the first layer feels like recording the vivid memories of the day,” she says. “The color gradually lightens as it seeps into the paper, and the added layers soften the color further, reflecting the fading nature of memories and emotions.”
Kim lives and works in Seoul and studied at Rhode Island School of Design, gaining a BFA in painting and an MA in teaching. Her work celebrates imperfection, which, in Korean culture, implies respect for nature, honoring its natural forms. A collection of her work is named Imperfection in allusion to this; the canvases feature hues redolent of the natural world, such as mossy and leafy greens, earthy brown, the pale yellow of lichen, and warm terracotta. “The characteristics of incompleteness and decay which materialize in my paintings evoke the core Buddhist practice of accepting impermanence,” Kim says. Another collection of hers is named for this concept; these works are particularly dramatic in their texture, with layers of hanji partially flaking off and cracking across its surface, the distressed paper blending with jagged crags of coarse sand.
In her series 아로새기다, When Light is Put Away, Kim continues to explore the practice of recording memories. The Hangul ‘아로새기다’ (a-ro-sae-gi-da) means ‘to engrave or carve elaborately’, as well as ‘to keep clearly in one’s mind’. “I have a daily routine of recording emotions and thoughts through writing and photographs,” she says. “When I translate these into canvases, I think of it as engraving these thoughts and feelings upon my mind.” Each canvas becomes a visual interpretation of her mind at the time of making, inviting viewers to experience a moment of introspection in its presence.