At the very first sight, it is hard to recognise Kim Woo Young’s works as photographs but as paintings. Due to the minimalistic nature and the little-to-none indications of the third dimension, his work just seems like lifeless walls of colours.
This South Korean photographer uses the camera as the recording tool, to capture the meaning of dilapidated and abandoned settings, especially those that are marginalised by the modern era, society and people.
This Autumn, Kim presents 12 photographs taken in the U.S. and South Korea in his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. The collection was inspired by empty streets and abandoned buildings. Named as “Urban Odyssey”, the exhibition invites audience to experience a visual voyage to explore the artist’s unique interpretation of an urban landscape or nature scene with colours.
Kim intentionally flattens his images to prevent the audience from presumptuously viewing the works one would conventionally do with documentary photography. To achieve that, Kim goes the extra mile to re-visit the designated site on multiple occasions, each at a different time, in search of the right composition and moment. A slight change in time, weather and surroundings could greatly affect the colours and the overall tones of the images, consequently, it could take Kim weeks to shoot his subjects.
“Sometimes people look at my (previous) works and the first thing they ask me would be where I took the image. When you look at a photograph, you want to read into what is being captured, rather than simply observing what is being presented. So I sometimes wait until dawn when there is no shadow or people on the streets to take the image. By doing so, I make my work very plain and 2D, and people will have to pay attention to the colours, textures and details that they would otherwise fail to notice.” Kim explains his motivation.
Despite these images appear to be black-and-white, they are in colours, rather than the outcome of Kim’s retouching. Such uncanny feature has to do with Kim’s ideal shooting time: the early morning and rainy days, and preferably winter time.
Kim’s exhibition is showing at Soluna Fine Art in Sheung Wan until October 19. If you are interested in the blurry boundary between photography and painting, don’t miss it!