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Ilwah Kim - Real Life Architecture - HOFA Gallery

Ilhwa Kim (b. 1967 in South Korea) creates works that are composed of tens of thousands of seed units. Each seed unit has a combination of straight lines and circles, which compose a tiny single universe. The materials are created personally for every single universe. The Korean artist dyes each sheet of paper by hand with thousands of different colours cutting and rolling the layers of paper to make them rigid. It gives Kim an emotional bonding to every single universe. Not a single universe has the same shape, look or color in her work.

The tactile universe pushes away the distinction between sculpture and painting; tenderly relaxed conversation goes on ceaselessly between the sculptural weight and tactile painting quality. The universe transforms dramatically from afar to close up. The sense of completion never comes as each perception betrays the previous one from moments before. Kim’s universes are free from an optimum point of view. Taking a look at the work closely, you can witness the seeds lodged tightly in the surface, pushing and pulling themselves to sprout. However, the moment you watch it from a distance, the work transforms into waves lashing out from the confines of the work.

Acquired by museums, some of Kim’s selected solo shows include: “Korean Contemporary Art: The Present and Future” at the Kowloon Art Museum, Seoul, “Golden Eyes” in Coex, Seoul, “Seed Universe 天下圖,” in Dennos Museum, USA, “Beyond Visibility” at Gallery Hue, Singapore and “Seeds of the Universe”, “Seed System”, “Sensory Portrait” at the House of Fine Art Gallery, in Mayfair, London.


“When we plant a seed in a vase, we are both curious and expectant. We quickly begin to have expectations about what the seed will become. As we watch the seed grow over time from seedling to small plant and maybe into a small tree, we’re always surprised and a bit disappointed because it never happens exactly the way we expect. Our understanding of the seed always contains the betrayal of our initial expectations to some extent. This experience of betrayed expectation also happens when we grow into adulthood and beyond. Surprise and betrayal are part of growing up.”


“As I worked on my live architecture, I intentionally included the attributes of surprise and betrayal because without them, my live architecture cannot grow and change.”

“Cezanne was right in saying that our senses do not represent the outer world as it is. However, this does not mean we cannot or do not have to represent things as they are. Without knowing the surface of the apple for instance, we cannot learn how to cut the apple or how to make juice out of it.”

“Tactile transactions are the building blocks of our interactions with the world. Cezanne simply pointed out the ‘chasm’ between our sense perception and real understanding of the world. This chasm is not for us to deny, but to observe and explore. This is the core of my 2022 solo show and the reason I call it a ‘Real Life Architecture’. ‘Real Life Architecture’ artworks remind us of the chasm between everyday senses and tactile reality, and how this chasm betrays us, forcing us to explore deeper, evolve and grow.”


“I began my career with painting, but was frustrated with it when I found my body moved faster than my hands or my plan as I worked. When moving from painting to sculpture, I wanted to do everything I was able to do in painting, especially using brush strokes and a wide range of coloured paints. However, I didn’t want to portray another three-dimensional Cezanne’s apple in my paper sculpture. I needed my works to have a stronger real-life presence and contain the architecture of our sensory evolution.”

“I’d like my ‘Real Life Architecture’ to function as a record of personal histories that become sensory monuments as time passes. These monuments keep record of the changing boundaries of our sensory map; between the mountain and the river, between you and me, between my yesterday and our tomorrow.”

“My real-life architecture tries to understand the dynamism and the betrayal of our real-life everyday experience.”


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