Kim Yong-ik, Endless Drawing

Drawing as an artist’s personal art journal

Exhibition view of Kim Yong-ik’s solo show “Endless Drawing” at Kukje Gallery, Seoul. (Wooyoung Lee)

Words mean as much as an image for artist Kim Yong-ik. He makes sure viewers and collectors know the history of his drawings by leaving memos on his work. Kim’s hand-written notes are found somewhere in his work: in the center, in the back, or in the corner of his drawing work. Some notes escape the canvas boundary and speak out on a white-painted wall.

His solo show at Kukje Gallery in Seoul is kindly guided by these personal memos. A viewer would soon find herself immersed in reading his scribbles (most of them in Korean) revealing a chronology of the work. His drawings and paintings with personal notes help viewers understand the work process, duration, and his thoughts while making them and thereafter. The memos, especially, serve as a nice guide to the viewers who are often left with a confused feeling after seeing contemporary art.

Exhibition view of Kim Yong-ik’s solo show “Endless Drawing” at Kukje Gallery in Seoul.

The pencil drawing “Closer…Come Closer” is a chronology of the work itself. Kim marks the onset of the work by leaving a note on March 13, 2003, with a cheerful remark “Shall I start?” As he reaches towards halfway to fill 64 grids with repeated pencil lines, he marks a pause “That’s it for today” on the 24th grid. It takes him 23 months to complete the work, concluded with “2005.1.17 I finish this work for now. How sloppy is this “artwork”!! This sloppiness should be seen carefully and endured well.”

There is a fun in discovering the artist’s scribbles and guessing what they mean. On a large painting, the artist timidly left a note on the top corner: “I decided to put this work outside. 2017.7.5.” “I ended up bringing in within six months not even reaching a year. 2018.1.5.” The artist says such addition to the completed work reflects the artist’s idea of “drawings can be endlessly altered over time.”

For him, the gallery space is also a huge single canvas. He lists eight definitions of what he thinks drawing is next to a collage work, featuring paper drawings boxed in a wooden frame wrapped in silk. He defines drawing as “a work that is made with old, shabby, and cheap materials,” and “a work that does not require much laborious effort or complex techniques,” and the list goes on.

The show offers humor and expectation for his future exhibitions. An unpacked work sits slant against the wall with a written note on a transparent plastic packaging sheet, reading: “This will go on display in 30 years (in 2047). … If I’m still alive, I will be the one doing the “mission,” otherwise a future curator will be responsible for it.” This will give viewers reasons to follow the 71-year-old veteran artist’s future work and shows.

By Wooyoung Lee (

The exhibition runs until April 22, 2018 at Kukje Gallery in Seoul. For more information, visit

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