Kim Guiline’s meta-windows
By Jean-Louis Ferrier
In the beginning all was black. Not Kandinsky’s black where nothing exists but a silence, a void; and neither the black of clair-obscur, the extreme edge of the shadow, and neither Matisse’s black a colour and a value at the same time, but an absolute black without any connotation. A black surface in a black room disturbed by neither dust particles or the smallest ray of light.
This was in the nineteen sixties. Kim Guiline made the black come out of his paintings as he said. Fourty layers of paint one on top of the other which sqeezed out the oil leaving only the colour like a powder in its atomic structure. A materialization. After a short figurative period this was the real stard of his monochrome work.
Then come the white. Chinese paper stuck on the canvas delicately and layer upon layer once again. White also without any connotation. A dematerialisation.
Colours as we know, black and white, but also red, blue and yellow offer a network of different meanings. Let us open our dictionary of symbols. Black is associated in different civilisations with primeral darkness, watery depths and mourning with its train of pain and suffering. White on the contrary is linked to birth expressing a renewal or change.
In Kim’s work symbolism as far as possible is refused. His paintings are physical bodies, which when black absorb all visible radiations and when white diffuse them. A kind of double zero point of vision.
All words in our current vocabulary are inevitably denoted and connoted, on the contrary to what happens in scientific language. The American linguist Roman Jakobson explains in fact in one of his books that this is only denoted. He takes the example of the word field which appears often in the sciences. In ordinary language a field is an area of ground for cultivation, and in a more abstract sense an area in which we exercise a certain activity, research or study. One talks of a field of action… some unfortunately die on the field of honour ; the whole set of meanings, infinitely variable, infinitely flexible.
A scientific notion such as an electro-magnetic field is on the contrary perfectly stable. Four vecteurs E D, H, B, enclose and fix it once and for all. There is no vore shift in meaning, no interpretation possible of the world field. Jakobson adds that science empties the everyday vocabulary so much that it lacks words to describe its new discoveries.
The same thing happens, I find, in Kim’s paintings. After so many battle scenes, princes and princesses Salomons, Salomes and Venuses, Kim’s paintings aim at being nothing more than perceptive fields. That was the exact sense of his phenomenal reduction of black and white twenty years ago.
Kim Guiline of course is not the inventor of monochrome painting. His distant initiator was from 1928 on.
Malevitch with his famous White square on a white ground; but throughout Malevitch’s work there are spiritual and even theological dimensions which are absent in Kim’s. His work is also very different from Yves Klein’s monochrome blues in as much as they are essentially like all the "new realism" a deviant fonction as Pierre Restany has shown. Kim’s work is above all integrant. It aims at showing colour itself and a patient quest to reveal the sources of visual perception.
The development of his work shows this very clearly. After his black and white paintings, the artist has gone on to treat red, yellow and blue, but now not only does he make the colour stand out from the canvas he opens it.
We know since Newton that light breaks down into the colours of the spectrum and we can qualify their wavelengths in millimicron’s as in the following table :
a. red 800-650
b. orange 640-590
c. yellow 580-550
d. green 540-490
e. blue 480-460
This was a considerable progress on Aristotle’s idea that colours were a mixture of white and black or Platon who saw colours as infinitely small flames escaping from physical objects and coming together in our sight which he conceived also as a flame.
Without dwelling on the fact that Newton had added little used Indigo to make of the seven colour spectrum a divinatory parallel with the seven notes of the musical scale, his vigourously scientific division belongs quite definitely to European civilization, which as semiology underlines divides up chromatic continuity at its own convenience. There were we use variants : dark blue, light blue, pale yellow… examples of different divisions abound. In the division of the spectrum E which we call blue, according to Umberto Eco, Russian has two distinct words, Goluboj et sinij, whereas Hindi groups together in one term the slice A-B was much as it makes no difference between red and orange.
The neo- impressionists Seurat and Signac who at the end of the last century based their painting on Newton’s divisions (subject matter of swimming parties in the Seine and circuses left aside) expressed perfectly the perceptive values of the scientific and industrialized Western society of the time. It is however pleasant to imagine other artists with a different cultural sensibility working in non-Newtonian areas of visibility.
Guiline Kim by his recent work is in the forefront of this group. When he paints a monochrome yellow canvas he starts by applying a black or ochre base on which he lays large orange patches and then a final yellow layer which allows the other colours to be felt.
The base of his red monochrome canvases are also black, the patches brown or orange… so that he subvents and sub-divides the Newtonian system and illustrates it otherwise. The result is a series of windows.
There are many windows in painting from the <
Guiline Kim, on the contrary, attempts a visual revolution which takes place inside and outside of our field of perception. Our eyes as we know can only receive that small part of colour wave-lenghts which lie between those areas which we call for want of a better term intra-red and ultra-violet. We are cosmically half-blind in comparison with what a more perfected eye would perceive and Kim’s work is directed at those gaps in our perception. After his exhaustive experiments with black and white he attacks in a more radical way the definition of colours themselves ; that is their wavelengths. Everything happens, I feel, as if he was proceeding to the frontiers of a land of meta-vision