Korean artist Lim No-sik enjoys exploring art in various styles. Initially, the 34-year-old artist was deeply immersed in realist paintings, then expanded to an etching style in his more recent works. While some may be surprised at how frequently he changes his style, he refuses to remain in any box for too long.
“Many artists stick to a certain style, but I am not that kind of artist. I feel like I have to constantly change in terms of pursuing art before people define what my art is like,” Lim said at his studio in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, on Aug. 28, where he moved in after completing the Nanji Residency run by the Seoul Museum of Art.
On the walls of his studio are his recent paintings, done with a unique etching technique in which he applies acrylic over a canvas and draws while the paint is still wet. After the paint dries, he inlays color and smooths out the surface using a sanding machine. The resulting canvas surface feels like pottery.
Titled “Sand from Somewhere Else,” the series was shown in May at the exhibition “Deep Line” held at the Kumho Museum of Art in Seoul as part of “Kumho Young Artists 2.” The paintings were also featured at the exhibition “Nosik Lim: Unfolded” at the project space Sarubia in Seoul and the exhibition “Landscapes” at Wooson Gallery in Daegu this year.
Lim recalled a conversation with his father, a farmer in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, where the Namhan River runs. They talked about huge sand piles in Yeoju, dubbed "sand mountains," which were formed as a result of former President Lee Myung-bak’s Four Major Rivers Restoration Project undertaken from 2009 to 2012.
Some people considered the sand mountains side effects of the project. Some of them were used as sand sleds where plants were grown, he recalled.
“One day my father said, ‘There is a fine, slim tree on top of the sand.’ I don’t know why, but his words struck me at the time. When I went home to check on the tree, it was no longer there,” he said.
Lim started to draw a thin tree using his unique etching-inspired technique, experimenting with various lines. He came to think of the distance between the object in reality and also what is invisible, he said.
Lim drew his studios and images from his hometown in a realist style before the “Sand from Somewhere Else” series. Lim said he is turning his eyes to his studio to paint scenes – but not in a realistic way.
“I want to explore the distance between the object and myself. I feel like things are missed when I convey an image on a canvas. It can be something that exists in reality but is invisible,” he said.
Growing up in a farming household has had a large influence on Lim's work. He remembers standing in front of an animal pen at age 7, holding a bat to guard the cows inside. Lim also did a lot of chores around the farm to help his parents, he said.
“All the scenes I saw in childhood remain deeply embedded in my memory. My father is a typical country person who is very tough. He appears in my paintings time to time,” he said.
Lee studied fine arts at Hongik University in Seoul with a focus on traditional Korean painting. Although he does not want to confine himself to any traditional painting style in terms of techniques and materials, his way of layering colors is a technique from traditional Korean painting.
“Some people have said, ‘You have changed your style again,’ but they don’t say it anymore. I think they are slowly accepting me as an artist who experiments with many things. But I think there is a concept I have explored for my art, which is the distance between reality and what can't be seen," he said.
“What is important about art is the energy it holds -- energy that makes people feel something about the art itself.”
Lim's works will be shown at Wooson Gallery's booth during the Kiaf Seoul 2023 art fair, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday at Coex, coinciding with Frieze Seoul 2023.
This is the third in a four-part interview series with Korea's emerging artists whose works are being shown at Frieze Seoul 2023 and Kiaf Seoul 2023 --Ed.