1. The exhibition’s name is drawn from a passage in Rick Moody’s memoir, The Black Veil, which itself references Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Minister’s Black Veil.” “There’s this layer of the unknowable between people,” says Kim. “A lot of the pieces have figures who are turning away or covered or layered. I think people are drawn to my work because of the mystery that surrounds it.”
2. Kim traced words from a copy of Hawthorne’s original manuscript, including parts that he struck out; it’s fitting that some might find the text difficult to decipher. “All this talking and maybe you don’t get your message across. Sometimes in my worst moments in studio, I feel like that: Am I saying what I want to say? It’s the futility and the romance of the attempt that keeps me going.”
3. “The figures are drawn with skulls and the bones showing [through]—it’s a reference to vanitas pieces, a tradition in art history of reminding people of their mortality.”
4. Kim lined up spears in her sketch to create a kind of fence, but realized that paired with the skulls, the effect was “too tribal—I didn’t want her to become this strange woman hunter.”
5. Many of the exhibition’s works feature fences as barriers that are “strangely defined”—beautiful in and of themselves, but designed to restrict access. Although Kim’s family moved from Seoul to Ontario when she was three months old, she traces her interest in boundaries to the border between North and South Korea, “that ultimate fence dividing people.”
6. Kim bases each piece around a figure or a part thereof, often taken from fashion magazines; in context, those elements are meant to reflect “how beauty is so fleeting.” When she was 17 years old in the late ’90s, she says, her parents wanted her to get surgery to make her eyes “more Western, bigger, open. I said no. It’s a weird question to ask a teenager: ‘Do you want to change the way you look?’ It definitely makes you think about appearances.”
7. “Fragility, I think, is the strongest theme in my work, because of the paper-cuts. I love how beautiful they are, how intricate, but also how temporal…. People are worried sometimes when [the work] isn’t framed, [as if] it’ll turn to ashes in their hands.”
8. Kim added birds to the final composition to contrast with the pervasive depictions of restricted access. The work involves a balancing act—even between different textures. “The watercolours are purposefully loose and washy,” says Kim. “Everything else is very solid, [without] the nuances of colour.”
9. Kim uses foam core, tape, and glue to lift her collages, which sometimes include recycled work (in this case, vegetation cut out from a screen print series she wasn’t happy with), from the backgrounds. Her work only really takes shape during this final stage. “That’s the fun part: I’ll have this mound of paper-cuts, a mound of watercolour possibilities, and then the drawing, and it’s really just playing around with the different elements and seeing which one fits. The more shadows, the better.”
Founded in 2011 by a printmaker (Pam Lobb), an illustrator (Erin Candela), and a graphic designer (Jessica Bartram), Graven Feather is both a studio and an all-purpose gallery. The small space—600 square feet, in the basement of an Artscape building beside Trinity Bellwoods Park—has expansive designs: It hosts musical performances, lecture series, workshops, a monthly exhibition, and sells cards and calendars printed on its own antique presses. Graven Feather also barters with artists seeking space, equipment, or expertise, and offers group shows. Next up, in November, the gallery space will be covered with coasters that feature the work of up to 100 artists.
Christine Kim’s “At the End of All This Language” runs to April 27 at Graven Feather, 906 Queen St. W., gravenfeather.ca.