Heather Kim

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Artist Statement

My paintings are often begun without my conscious knowledge; automatic painting occurs in the eye of my mind. At times, I can see a painting fully rendered in my head before a single stroke has been committed. Other times, paintings begin in a cacophony of intense sounds and smells, the pulse of feelings, or the rush of a memory. These sensory stimuli often eclipse common sense and overwhelm me with a sense of urgency to make. This rush to make, this need to paint images out of my head, often spills out awkwardly. And that lovely awkwardness, the growth struggle and effort of trying to make something that does not exist more honest, more real, more perfect than anything that has ever existed, is what makes painting so beautiful and necessary to me.

I find painting portraits to be endlessly inspirational, a collaboration of fresh vibrant possibilities. When I compose a portrait painting, my objective is to make a visual study of interconnections. This interconnected visual study is a dot-to-dot of supporting imagery from which my main subject can emerge. It is intended to further support the literal and metaphoric language of the portrait narrative. My work often has cultural and religious overtones, intentionally taken the wrong way and conscientious of the hypocrisies that my narratives create. I negotiate, balance, and exploit that awkwardness, with my intuition for the irrational and my love for the painterliness of the paint. This push and pull, this lovely awkwardness, and struggle for honesty, is all for the possibility of understanding who a person is or was or could be.

My formal interests include the absurdity axiom and hard collage lines of Dadaism with contemporary Pop Pluralism's lowbrow Surrealism and macabre humor. I base my work in the Old Masters tradition of portrait painting, as taught to me by mentor, Harry Ahn. I prefer live modeling my subjects and photographing them for more realistic portraiture. I enjoy experimenting with the chemistry of oil paints, as reflected in my backgrounds and finishes. My paintings are finished with a combination of lacquer, aging glazes, and controlled crackling techniques to produce a distinctive crackle patina.