Browsing online recently, I discovered the beautiful textile art of Canadian artist Chung-Im Kim .
Born in South Korea, and for nearly three decades resident in Canada, Chung-Im’s art interestingly and successfully blends her cultural past with her cultural present. Traditional Korean bojagi are some of the cultural roots to which Chung-Im periodically returns for inspirational refreshment; and in one body of work these well-known traditional textiles have become canvases for print and stitch compositions. But it is her dimensional, sculptural work with felt that blew me away, with alluring titles of groups of work in her portfolio – pre-grids, grids, free grids, living geometry and miniatures.
Felt is made from a large variety of natural, synthetic fibres and blended fibres, with wool felt considered to be one of the oldest textiles in human history. Late last year I wrote of an interesting exhibition by some international feltmakers in the textile biennial here in Montevideo, and though I have found and bought some beautifully crafted felt things down the years, I’ve still never seen anyone actually making felt, and have never seriously considered it as a ‘raw material’ for my own art, though I am aware of artists such as Rebecca Howdeshell US, Siv Goransson UY and Australian Nancy Ballesteros.
Chung-Im describes her materials and process as industrial felt screen printed with digitally engineered images, which she presumably cuts into, and then assembles the remaining pieces by hand, for which see this image. So I googled ‘industrial’ felt, and now understand ‘felt’ to be a huge field, more varied than I’d ever thought about, and of large scale manufacturing of felted fibres of various kinds and blends with industrial applications including carpet underlays and gaskets for use in some machinery. The most interesting site I spent time on provides sizes of pre-cut and rolled felt from small custom shapes, various page-sized sheets up to huge rolls of various widths and thicknesses, depending on the buyer’s requirements. I immediately began developing a mental list of ‘buyer’s requirements’ to ask about, and it almost makes me want to ditch my woven fabrics and clear studio space for some industrial felt supplies … No, I doubt I’d take such a radical step, but some ideas a percolating, and as I do have some small pieces of craft felt around, some time I might paint, monoprint or stencil something on it of my own design, or look into getting something printed, as a canvas for embroidery, perhaps. Felt as a non-fraying material with some body or stiffness is inspiring…but I digress.
These works really opened my eyes to the potential of ‘grids’, and to the realisation that I may have been interpreting ‘grids’ too narrowly, despite several posts on the subject, like this one . Isohyets, topographical maps, aerial photos, erosion patterns, in fact all kinds of contour lines associated with diagrams, maps and charts all come flooding into my mind when viewing these works.
Chung-Im Kim, dawn, 2012, 71 x 60 x 6 inches. Image artist supplied.
Chung-Im Kim, nalgae, 2012, 43 x 44 x 5 inches. Image artist supplied.
Chung-Im Kim, baekya, 2009, 46 x 47 x 4 inches. Image artist supplied.
These and many more works on her website show inspiration from landscape shapes and patterns of surface textures.
Another interesting group of work is titled ‘living geometry’ , containing pieces which I initially thought could have been filed with ‘free grids’, because all their grids are certainly irregular. However, on further reflection, I realised the difference in concept is that these pieces appear to be growing right out of a surface in a very organic way, suggesting they are alive.
The combination of smooth, printable surface and stiffness that lends itself to sculptural goals, reminded me of the wool felt sculpture/garment exhibited by heather Brezo Alcoceba of Spain, which I mentioned in the post of 14/11/2017 last. (scroll well down) In this pop-over shoulder cape kind of garment, the wearability of which was not immediately obvious, it now occurs to me that that very 3D surface has a strong connection to the idea of irregular grids.
I’d like to thank Chung-Im Kim for supplying images and giving permission to use them in this article.