Time Passes by in the Stones and the Paintings

Yuki Konno
Art Critic

A lot of time passes by in stones. When we see a stone rolling by the river, we imagine where it came from and how. We induce the passage of time that the stone carries by observing its shape and scientifically analyzing its ingredients. Stones not only record natural phenomena such as weather and tectonic movements but humans. A dolmen is a stone that is a natural object that has been erected and enshrined by humans. It is full of mysteries like how the large stone was transported and what purpose it was used for at the time. Just by looking at its unadorned appearance, you might think that it is a being of lesser presence, or being one with nature. However, the large, motionless figure has a solid quality that does not exist in humans. As Mircea Eliade says, before humans even touch or hold the stone, it strikes[1]. It is safe to say that it is thanks to the strike that there were people who brought these stones and enshrined them and that we still visit them today. It is a lump of unknown power, and the unknownness was regarded as a special force that they could accept and have. When you think about it that way, dolmens record human history in the form of natural objects.

Hyunho Kim also probably sensed the strike and transferred them to paintings. In his solo exhibition The Stone that Brushes the Sun… held at The Necessaries, the artist’s interests are directly applied in the paintings of dolmens. He went on a field trip and observed the dolmens in person, and he visualized it mainly through paintings. The show includes paintings of the artifacts, their magnified surface and a shadow reflected on them, a video showing the making process of the paintings, and a print that traces the surface of the dolmens which turned out to look like handwritten letters. However, some people may be puzzled by the fact that the background information of the rocks is not clearly made public. You may get this feeling as you realize that no information is given regarding where the stones are located and their history. However, the pursuit of an artist is not to specify their locations or identify their constituents but to capture the flow of time that the dolmens are containing. Here, the artist’s approach to the stones is to draw and trace the dolmen’s trajectory. Just as ancient people once discovered a stone, moved it and enshrined it, the artist brings the stones he witnessed into the series Stones That Speak for Themselves(2023). The stones that brought both shock and fascination to the eyes of the artist while traveling all over the country have reached the exhibition hall, the space that holds paintings.

While Stones That Speak for Themselves is an overall image of a dolmen, the series Stars at the Time (2023) is a painting that magnified a part of the stone. The details make a seam that bridges the human gaze in two directions: towards the ground and the world we live in. The surface is reminiscent of the night sky when viewed from a distance, but when you get closer, the texture stands out. Like a three-dimensionally drawn ridge, the surface of the work begins to appear (again) like a map of the world we live in. Just as the power of the dolmen is believed to lie in a place that transcends humans, the paintings are directed to space that transcends humans and the earth. Stars at the Time starts from the detail of a dolmen and presents the universe seen from the ground and the ground seen from above. Kim has left a line as a painting and in the painting and it connects the sky and the ground. The connected are humans and the transcendent beings. In this regard, if the expression ‘vibration of energy’ is appropriate to describe Kim’s work at all, the energy is not perceived in the painted object itself but in the presence of humans and transcendent beings, between where we are and where we are not, creating a thrill.

Kim’s paintings present a map of the world we live in and simultaneously connect and expand towards both sides of the sky where we do not live in but are influenced by and often look up to. It can be summarized as the artist’s capability to accept the strike from the stone through paintings and radiating the energy visually. The power that we sense from the stones that transcends humans leads us to space and the earth. In other words, the stone that attracts human attention leads our gaze to a vast area beyond them. Such is the same now as it was then, just like how artists capture the image and people see the work. A lot of time has passed and the same applies to the stones. The expression of time being engraved in stones is both practical and metaphorical. The dolmens not only hold the time before and after it was displaced but also the humans’ visions who discerned its spiritual power. Although literally we refer to the artifacts as ‘deceased’ stones in Korean, a lot of time passes and lingers here in the perspectives of the stones and people. The two video pieces introduced in this exhibition, Reception (2023) and Engraved Stars, Embossed Stars (2023), feature the making process of the work, but they are not about simply revealing the inner story of the process. Just as the location or composition of the dolmens is not of the utmost significance, what is important to the artist is the process of following the time that flows and stays in the stone. As emphasized in the video, Kim’s approach to the series is to draw lines and comprehend time, rather than making geopolitical, scientific approaches. Layers of time, not a specific point in time lie as and in the paintings.

[1] Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. Rosemary Sheed, Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1958, p.216

related exhibition: The Stone that Brushes the Sun…