Kim Sung Ho

Volume ville

Volume ville

32X32cm, oil on canvas, 2017

Volume ville

Volume ville

80X80cm, oil on canvas, 2019

Volume ville

Volume ville

80X80cm, oil on canvas, 2019

volume ville

volume ville

32X32cm, oil on canvas, 2019

Plastic Garden

Plastic Garden

116.8X91.0cm, oil on canvas, 2017

Plastic garden

Plastic garden

100X100cm, oil on canvas, 2017



32X32cm, oil on canvas, 2018

< Art critic >

Kim Sung-ho’s Volume Tower – What attitude does his “realism” requires?


by LEE Daehyung.


Close-up shows details of an object, however, it eventually hides objects that are outside of a screen. Although it portrays physical features such as touch, color and shape in detail, contextual features such as location, time and size are ousted from the frame. Accordingly, the substance of an object can be distorted. The portrayed object whose silhouette was severed and main body was enlarged in the frame looks as if it clearly shows its shape. In fact, however, the technique is a kind of a trick which hides the context of a substance. Audience in front of the screen which contains enlarged physical features without context cannot help but imagining the severed and ousted context based on guess and their experience. Like this, the close-up technique hiding the context plays a role as a symbol, not logic. Kim Sung-ho’s latest work of art <Volume Tower> series in which stacked art books fill a screen start with the close-up technique without context. Maybe his intentional exaggeration and cutting techniques create a certain symbol.

'La nona ora', Maurizio Cattelan’s work of art in 1999, isn’t a work that simply portrays actualities realistically. It clearly shows the strategy how to conceptually show a critical view toward the actualities. The definition of realism has been transforming into a larger one: for modern art, the definition of realism is showing the hidden reality while the conventional definition was the degree of technical perfection for exactly portraying actualities. Realism, a mechanism for visually portraying actualities, can be transformed into irony and satire, attacking the institutionalized value system of visual art and expressing its limitations. The first thing the audience can see is piled art books. Those books are all related with art: art books of western great artists, original editions of art history, books with English and Chinese titles and thick art history book with hardcover. The tower of stacked books –filling the screen in full- cannot be guessed for its height. The tower looks as if it can be collapsed right now, showing daunting image to the audience.

The reason why Kim Sung-ho selected art books for his painting becomes clear by seeing the composition of the screen. The books in his work show their titles, not the contents. That may be why his work reminds the audience of a tower built on a kind of “paradox foundation”. Toe tower reminds the audience of Jenga in which the volume of a tower is enlarged so as to balance and not to collapse and the space for collapse is erased in the screen. Whether he intended it or not, the paradox he created has no choice but to rely on two social problems. The first problem is the contradiction between the art education and the reality and suppressing mechanism. The second one is the fact that we cannot predict to which direction the value system –which was created in the modern society that encourages the exaggeration of image-of visual art are headed. The obsessive-compulsive syndrome for exaggeration of modern society can be a key-word for finding out the hidden intention and meaning in his painting. The instability and uncomfortable nature become even more severe as the size of books gets bigger and the height of the tower gets longer.

Due to these facts, the books in his painting cannot be explained as formalism that simply symbolizes a book. The hidden communications with audience and paradox that slightly dismantles and reconstructs the value system have been visualized as a book tower. His work looks like a quiet and silent painting. However, the symbol of his painting actually criticizes the view toward modern art, the system that produces modern art, and the imbalance between the outer power (western art history) that controls the system and the inner power (the situation in Korea and artists’ agony). However, he isn’t overconfident that the modern cultural toadyism of the art circle to which he belongs can be toppled. Moreover, he denies any moral and ideological positions and does not show direct solutions in the painting. Just like him, his painting does not easily express its own story. The artist selected a way in which the audience looks at his painting but is not controlled by it, communicates with the world of his painting and creates its own story in the world. His principle is, experience which can floats between reproduction and symbol / reality and fiction cannot be obtained through direct visual language.

Kim Sung-ho chose Hyper-Realism for form. He considers how “illusion’s” quality as a medium does not be missed out through colors, not how to finish the surface for creating “illusion”. That is, he regards the nature of color on the surface as important, not the visual illusion of “Tromp l’oeil”. This can be possible because he can understand and control the complementary nature between image and the nature of an object. The audience should not misunderstand his painting as illusion which reminds of something simply by looking at the detailed portrayal through which even corners of the screen attract the audience and the composition of the screen in which a part can be looked like the whole and the whole can be looked like a part. The audience should understand that his painting actually joins in the method and view for looking at an object, not illusion. In the same context, the audience should be able to catch the time in which colors were densely painted over and over again. Accordingly, the audience should understand the shape in deep inside the painting, not the technical illusion of the brilliant surface.

While looking at his work, the audience should not easily concluded that the painting’s meaning is all about the relationship between books, the context in which books are located and the audience who understands them. An object without context plays its role as an imaginary mechanism, not daily life any more. As the connection between physical nature and contextual nature became hidden in the screen, the story came to get more complicated. The range for interpretation got wider. The strategy of Kim Sung-ho, who expresses serious topics in a kidult style, works really well. This is thanks to his ability to control the screen: he always starts from the present when considering history. For him, how to respond to psychological and social situations in the present, not the present as outcome from the past, is important. For him in what way the reality is understood with which idea and how creative connection can be made, not how the reality is exactly portrayed, is essential. That’s why the present is more important than history. Understanding history while looking at the painting of an artist –always put the present ahead of other things- remains as the audience’s assignment.


2016 Ph.D., Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea

2010 MFA., Painting, Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea

2007 BFA., Painting, Daegu University. Daegu, Korea

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2019 "KIM SUNG HO, solo exhibition" Hotel Banyan Tree Club, Seoul, Korea

2018 "Kim,Sungho&Bentley Art collaboration" Bentley Korea, Seoul, Korea

2017 "MIRAGE" Sindoh art space. Seoul, Korea

2017 "MIRAGE" Gallery HYUNDAI. Seoul, Korea

2017 "MIRAGE" Park Soo Keun Museum, Gangwon-do, Korea

2015 "TABLETOPIA" lighting museum. Gyeonggi-do, Korea

2014 "Tableland" Gallery HYUNDAI. Seoul, Korea

2013 "Volume Tower decode-encode" Youngeun Museum Kwangju

2012 "Volume Tower of Kim, sung ho." Daegu university central museum. Daegue, Korea

2011 "KIM SUNG HO, solo exhibition".BarkRyuSook Gallery, Cheju-do, Korea

2010 "Volume Tower". Gallery HYUNDAI. Seoul, Korea

2009 "Window" Gallery HYUNDAI Window. Seoul, Korea

2008 "KIM SUNG HO, solo exhibition" Kooalldam Gallery. Incheon, Korea

2008 “미役事力士술” Kongsan Gallery. Daegue, Korea

Selected Group Exhibitions

2019 "Kim,Sungho& Lee,Sara" Gallery Silver shell, Tokyo, Japan

2019 "100 Movies 100 Artists" Avenuel Art Hall, Seoul, Korea

2018 "Beyond Still Lifes" Sanwoolim Art Hall, Seoul, Korea

2018 "幻想童話" Ieyoung Contemporary Art Museum, Gyeonggi-do

2018 "GEEKY LAND SHOW<Geek Zone>" KMCA museum, Seoul

2017 "Spread the wings" In young Gallery, Seoul, Korea

2017 "RIP TIDE" N Gallery, bundang Korea

2017 “about book"AK Gallery, bundang Korea


Art Fairs

2008~2020 KIAF (Korea International Art Fair)

2008~2020 Korea Galleries Art Fair