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The Mind-Boggling Art of Ilhwa Kim: Organic Landscapes and Abstract Portraits Made Out of Paper

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“Run” (2021), 132 x 164 x 13 centimeters. All images © Laam Yi, shared with permission

What do you imagine you’d discover if you could peer into an artist’s mind? In the case of South Korean sculptor Ilhwa Kim, you might see paper landscapes and portraits that are breathtaking in their beauty and complexity. Each piece comprises countless paper “seeds” carefully placed in parallel lines or dense fields. The end product is a work that appears to be a living landscape or portrait, with depth and hue variation depending on the vantage point.
Kim adjusts a variety of depths, colors, and textures in each piece: she hides visible folds among more upright parts by tucking them between larger pieces and lays thin, sweeping lines over vast areas of white that evoke the strokes of a single brushstroke. “When I switched from painting to sculpting, I wanted to do everything I could to bring my work to the next level,” she explains to Freeyork. “However, I’d want my work to have a far more powerful physical presence as a sculpture.”
Because the seeds vary in size, their varying compositions shift color and texture as the viewer changes posture, bringing life to the images with light and shade. To exhibit her sculptures amid the hustle and bustle of sidewalks and public areas, Kim often photographs them on sidewalks and social media. This October, the works may be seen in person at HOFA Gallery, when she will display them in similarly hectic settings.

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Seedsystem detail
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“Spectrum 2” (2021), 119 x 93 x 13 centimeters
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“The Face of Nature” (2021), 132 x 164 x 13 centimeters
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“Forrest Keeper” (2021), 164 x 132 x 15 centimeters
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“Choral Symphony” (2021), 192 x 224 x 13 centimeters
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Detail of “Choral Symphony” (2021), 192 x 224 x 13 centimeters
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“My Seed Your Town” (2021), 164 x 132 x 13 centimeters
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“White Portrait” (2022), 119 x 93 x 12 centimeters
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Seedsystem detail