Digital Abstraction: The Work of Krista Kim
By Lucy Smith
For Krista Kim, light is the new ink. The artist works with LEDs to create mixed media pieces which explore light, how it affects us, our perceptions and our physiological reactions. She is one of the impactful artists that is part of the “Techism” movement, where artists use technology as a way to express creatively. Artists expressing Techism in their work allows for a positive view for how we perceive technology, but also as a way to create a role for art in the future. And vice versa. Techism is a marriage of innovation and art, effectively progressing each side.
Kim studied political science and planned on being a journalist. She then moved to Korea, began working for the Korean Herald and was reviewing artists for the culture section. Surrounded by artists, Kim started to think that she needed to make a change. She moved to Japan for a few years and where she found her inspiration and calling. “In Japan there is no separation between art and the artist. It is a place where art is life and life is art.” Kim lived in Japan for a few years fine tuning her skills as an abstract painter, and then decided to move to Singapore and enroll in the Masters of Fine Arts program. While studying, she couldn’t ignore that her artistic practice felt disconnected from the life she was living. “You go to art school and it’s so archaic. I had a crisis because I felt such a disconnect with my practice and the devices of communication. Why am I painting?”
Kim’s thesis focused on how we interpret abstract art in the digital age, which became the base for her current portfolio. Singapore is a modern city with a push for modern architecture to create iconic buildings, and a lot of the landscapes architecturally integrates LED lights. Kim was inspired by the physical, digital landscape of her surroundings and began to photograph it. She took the photographs and started playing with them, creating her own aesthetic and niche in the Techism world. With new media, she could create a painterly abstraction with light as her ink.
“Software will allow all these roles to blur. Engineers can be artists and artists can be engineers. An artist can code or collaborate to create this new dialogue.”
Kim’s message focuses on mending the disconnect between the new digital age and the role artists have in it, which is why she believes that it is so important for them to have a voice. “Art is an expression of humanism. As long as artists are involved in how technology evolves and how it’s used in expressing what it is to be human, then there is a balanced evolution of where we will be in the future. If we leave art out, there will be an imbalance. Art is about bringing people together and expressing each others lives and thoughts. Artists should be encouraged to participate in and explore these mediums.”
We always think of painting as the way to express color and emotion. We forget that we see color through light and the experience of both reflect upon each other. Without light there would be no color.
“If you are staring at a device everyday and light is invading our retina and communicating thousands of messages, this rewires our brains. We have a digital consciousness now and we think faster. We are craving faster things and we are not as patient anymore. Light is not only affecting us physiologically, it’s rewiring our consciousness.”
Kim’s Studio is located in Brooklyn, and she splits her time between New York and Toronto where her children live. “I’m a real proponent for work life balance, as well as tech life balance. We live in a world where you can’t ignore technology unless you are making a conscious decision to do so. But it’s important as a way to tune back into yourself and remember the role of technology. I’m a very meditative person, which I think is important in relation to my work because it is about digital consciousness. I like to keep one foot on the real ground and the other on the virtual ground.”
Each one of Kim’s mixed media pieces is made using light photography, which is remixed and reorganized so the light is an explosion of color. She often sites the Abstract Expressionist movement as inspiration, with Rothko’s “multiform” paintings having a particular influence. Each of her pieces are unique in their creation, and yet they leave the viewer with an incredible emotional reaction to their color and unity. It’s hard to believe she didn’t paint each one by hand.
“If you look at a digital photograph, we are trained to see it as a photograph but we forget that it’s made up of binary code. Everything that we are capturing digitally is binary code. It’s algorithmic art and what I’m doing is algorithmic abstraction. We are expanding the parameters of art, art’s definition, and what it means to be an artist. It’s very hard to change your perspective, and even artists get stuck in paradigms. However, in the digital age we live in, it’s important to think about the art that we can make that is relevant to this moment.”
You can keep up with Krista Kim by visiting her site http://www.kristakimstudio.com/