Guiline Kim’s “Inside” and “Outside”
By Joon-Sang Yoo, Seoul Museum of Art
Originally, Guilline Kim studied linguistics. His major was French. The following story shows how he began his career in fine art. In early 1960, Guiline Kim left for france to study linguistics, which is the study of language, and thus the study of meaning. There is the saying that humans are life forms constituted of meaning. Thus linguistics is a study that searches for the ultimate whereabouts of “meaning.” Kim discovered that the “language” of the French linguists covered not only literature, but a broad area throughout the arts as a very academic “language.” This was a great surprise. To realize for the first time the existence of a vast field of language, was like the frog in the well learning about the ocean. J.P. Sartre, for example, was not a single-minded writer. His deep insights on art history in general, and especially his research on human “imagination” was amazing.
After all, to study “language” was to study “human.” P. Valery called this “the linguistic impulse.” This means that the exterior “linguistic form” varies, such as literature, art, music and dance, but there is a single root that originates from “linguistic impulse.” In other words, the sprouts and the leaves that appear outside come in all different shapes, but they grew out of the same earth and share a common denominator. It was this inductive origin that was referred to as “linguistic impulse.” Literature is language in the form of reading and writing, art is a language of space in the form of seeing and drawing, music is a language of time in the form of listening and performing, and dance is a language that expresses time and space using one’s body. Guiline Kim’s artwork emerged from such a “linguistic impulse” and he cultivated it through his studies at three prominent art schools in France throughout a period of 10 years.
In May 1968, Paris was enveloped in a fierce turmoil of social reform. Its previously calm art world underwent fluctuation and began to respond sensitively to the changes in the social environment that conditioned the values of fine art. Eventually, the Paris art circle was divided into “art of aesthetic tendency” and “art of political tendency.” One of the notable trends proposed by young artists was “Support-Surface” which questioned the issue of the support structure and the surface of the painting. The idea was to acknowledge the social surroundings of painting and discuss its material reality with a practical attitude. Discussion of this issue would ultimately conclude with the recognition of the dualism of consciousness and material. In fact, a painting is paint applied on a certain material called the canvas. The canvas’s frame structure “supports” the “surface.” The paintings we normally encounter are constructed like this. And we have accepted certain images on these surfaces as “painting.” This is the customary view we gold of painting. But if the “image” expressed on the “surface” is meaningless, only material remains. W. Worringer, an aesthetician of the early 20th century, predicted the abstract impulse of art, pointing out that when the idea fades, the work is reduced to the material itself. To deny all existing values is to consider them “meaningless.”
Thus “material” here does not indicate original natural material, but rather an object that has lost its “meaning.” A “meaningless” object, that is “material”. The point is this: It is an attempt to post-construct the language of painting (images) through mutual correspondence between the mechanism of human perception viewing the painting, and the construction of the expression of space. What does it mean to “see”? This is Guiline Kim’s starting point.
One French scholar was a great help to Guiline Kim as he started out: M. Merleau-Ponty, the excellent, refined scholar who wrote “Phenomenology of Perception,” “The Eye and the Mind,” and “The Seen and the Unseen” before his untimely death. Since it is impossible to go into this in depth now, I will just outline the main points. The visual schematization of Guiline Kim’s “Inside and Outside” is like this: Bordered by his canvas, there is the “outside” there, and the “inside” here. R. Delaunay’s “window” may be used as a classical metaphor. Since nature is outside the window, and the person is inside, the idea is to express nature through the window “frame.” Thus Delaunay’s “canvas” is a “frame” to look at nature. Humans cannot look at nature on their own. They must use a certain framework.
A canvas is a rectangular surface. When laid flat on the ground, it becomes the earth surface (3-dimensional), but when stood upright, it is a vertical section (2-dimensional). Guiline Kim stands opposite to this canvas. In technical terminology this is called orthogonal perception. Delaunay’s “window” is a surface open to the outside, but Guiline Kim’s surface that borders the inside and outside, is a section that stands in his way. In other words, his “inside” can be compared to a mental world. After all, his work is discovering how the “outside” “material” meets the “inside” “consciousness,” and converting “seeing” into “what is seen.” This is the art of the “eye” that he has been pursuing.