Kim Ku-lim



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Not on display

Kim Ku-lim born 1936
Wooden barrel, tree branches and acrylic paint on vinyl
Support: 950 × 630 mm
Presented by the artist 2019


Relation 1987 was made at a time when the artist was exploring the technique of assemblage, interrogating the representation of forms in two and three dimensions by incorporating real-life elements with paint on a flat surface. The work ambiguously presents itself as both a painting and a sculpture; two tree branches positioned side by side make up the top half of the vertical work, but in the bottom half of the work their forms are continued as a drawn outline continuing down the surface of the work. The background also changes from a piece of grained wood in the top half, behind the real twigs, to a section of vinyl that constitutes the lower half of the piece. In the work’s application of organic materials, it shares similar objectives to the earlier art movements of arte povera in Italy and Mono-ha in Japan, which would bring a heightened awareness to the plight of the natural world against the backdrop of growing modernisation in industrialised societies.

This semiotic relationship between the object as a depiction and the object as it appears in reality – indicated in the title of this work – was a key concern for the artist in the 1970s and 1980s and can also be seen in the earlier painting Light Bulb 1975, in Tate’s collection (Tate T15304). Such works represent Kim’s desire to break down the supposed hierarchy between the artistic sphere and lived experience, setting up an interplay between reality and fiction, nature and civilisation. These are significant strands in his practice which has persisted in challenging the viewer’s fundamental assumptions about art-making and contexts for viewing. Kim Ku-lim occupies a unique position within Korean contemporary art as a pioneer in a range of disciplines including performance, painting, video and sculpture. His performance work is visually represented and recorded in archival newspaper clippings, three examples of which are held in Tate Library’s Special Collections: Body Painting 1969, From Phenomenon to Traces 1970 and Tying the Art Museum 1970.

Further reading
Sook-Kyung Lee, ‘Subversion and Enunciation in Ku-Lim Kim’s Performance’, in Kim Ku-Lim: Like You Know It All, exhibition catalogue, Seoul Museum of Art 2013, pp.6–19, reproduced p.28.

Katy Wan
November 2018

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