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Wanjin Gim - Extremities

Words:

Edd Norval
October 11, 2018

Wanjin Gim is a Korean artist whose unique style explores the complexities and intricacies of the human body. His near-translucent figures exude life through their musculature and vascularity. Despite their clear physical strength, they seem so real that their fragility shines through.

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The body parts seem to be reaching out for something. Perhaps a hand, or perhaps a place. Their subtle delicacy, despite their remarkable liveliness, seems as close to death as they are to birth. The gut-wrenching expressions that tear across their faces scream out in pain - either physical or emotional. The lack of background puts them in a floating space of purgatory.


His work is actively engaged with both the filled in places and the spaces he leaves. "I work thinking of how the parts of the human body, which are described in detail on a screen, harmonize with the margins and what can be implied in the harmony and balance." They exist in-utero, a chamber where they are allowed all the freedom of expression, of movement, of body and of mind.

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Despite not being religious, the philosophical and reflective dimensions of the world's religions influence Gim's work greatly. It's hard to overlook the similarities with his portraits and early Christian artworks. It's like he is paying homage to the perfect machine that is the human body. With their movements, he grants them a soul and a spirit. Their eyes appear freshly opened like a newborn baby's. The world is now theirs to explore.


Psychological exploration is embedded in his work thanks to his reverence of Lucien Freud, a man who would systematically deconstruct his sitters, only to catch glimpses of the cracks that opened their infinitesimal depths. He admires the artist's acknowledgements of details. The nuance of colour is broadcast across his works with the blues of our blood never seeming further away than just a few layers beneath his subject's skin.


Usually working in pencil and oil pastels, Gim is able to immersive himself in the work, skipping the drying time. His choice of materials, specifically the use of pencils, is evocative of the earlier anatomical drawings that came to prominence during the Renaissance period.

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For a while Gim lived like a monk, sharpening his skills as a warrior would sharpen their sword - isolated from the world and honing their craft. It was a period of deep learning and focus, but also of pain. Gim became disconnected, but in this reverse-sabbatical he also gained a depth of understanding that his art will always be able to lean on.


This period created a shift in his mental state. Rather than producing the works just for himself, or using the materials that would allow him to command a higher price, he began thinking about the impact that his output could have on the world. How his work might make people feel or think is now just as important to him as the values that he had previously ascribed to.


With an intense fascination in understanding and portraying the form and colours that make up our flesh, Gim has began to explore such matter in more metaphysical ways, combining limbs and torso and heads in abstract formations that seem like a photorealistic patchwork of an idea, rather than a human form. The spiritual dimension is surfacing increasingly in his work. The flesh is now the outward portrayal not just of humanity, but of all of ours ideas.

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