The artist Kimsooja (Born 1957, Taegu, Korea) acts as a visual and spiritual mediator through a metaphor for life which viewers are invited to contemplate.
Since the early ‘80s, Kimsooja began to include colourful used and popular fabrics in her work. Her fascination with textiles specifically began in 1983. It was a very precise moment in her life, when she was sewing a Korean bedspread with her mother.
At that time, she was questioning the concept of “painting’s surface dimension”. When she first placed a needle into the structure of a fabric, she felt thrilled and joyful, as if a ray of immeasurable energy penetrated through her fingers and into her whole body, reaching to the needlepoint where it met the surface of the fabric. Since this very particular experience, Yin and Yang have become life's essential components for Kimsooja, and have evolved on a
number of levels in her art.
Made of bright colours and decorated with symbolic embroideries, people use the textiles traditionally as bedcovers, but also to wrap into a bundle to carry personal belongings. Detached from a utilitarian context, the colourful fabric develop aesthetics of their own and become universal symbols of life itself. While the character of the object was featured foremost at first, the human body became the object in space and time in the installation "Sewing into Walking" (1994), in which the artist moved her body as a symbolic 'needle', connecting between the bedcovers.
The work “Mumbai: A Laundry Field”, showing at Galleria Continua, Beijing, in a 4 channel video format, evolved from the series "A Needle Woman" (1999-2001 and 2005). The series was filmed in cities and other locations around the world. The artist, in a featureless outfit, has her back to the camera, almost like a silhouette. The central figure is an unknown and common presence, an "everywoman”, constantly portrayed as a fixed point in the flow of the passing crowds, or lying still while clouds pass overhead. In this video series, Kimsooja’s body is always an anonymous presence moving into a deep phase of meditation, immersing in contemplative scenarios, breaking through the world’s surface and deep into its soul, "like a needle in a haystack". The eye of the camera corresponds to that of the artist, standing apart, watching from a detached perspective. It is as if in a pure act of concentration the world vision would appear clearer and undisturbed through the narrow needle’s “eye”.
Most of Kimsooja’s works seem to belong to a place where time is indefinable. They have in common universality, a timelessness that encapsulates both past and present. The present tense is then symbolised by the artist's body itself. The body becomes a medium or a void that the audience is invited to stare at.
Always on the move, Kimsooja explores the indefinable properties of fabric through video, sculpture, and installation. Her works often merge Eastern and Western traditions, observing and juxtaposing cultures and human conditions, investigating the common ground between the intimate and the universally global.
The images of the video work "Mumbai: A Laundry Field" are a mesmerizing experience of the beauty of colour. They have an incredibly powerful impact on the viewer, making one sway between a sense of enchantment and a deep dismay, constantly obliging one to question the hardship and tragedy of life while enjoying its aesthetic appeal.