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‘Untitled - Chicks’

Metro Gallery, Melbourne

Steal, Mixed media on Canvas, 140x193cm, 2016

In this series, ‘Untitled- chicks’, Kim Hyunji rejects a level of artistic control often cherished by the artist, instead encouraging models to arrive at their own postures. By redistributing the power of representation, she challenges patriarchal ideas of the body. This act of collaboration is to defy a long-lasting tradition of nude works created and controlled by male artists.

Kim collaborates with a diverse spectrum of people and identities, in an attempt to move away from the predominantly white female body that remains a dominant ideal of western aesthetics. Her work is a passionate effort to dismantle discrimination and unprofessionalism in the Australian creative industry, inspired by her own experiences as a woman of colour.

Ara, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Essay by Julius Killerby

Kim Hyunji predominantly paints the faces and nude bodies of friends. In her painting, Ara, the nude figure crawls forward, staring vacantly into space. Hyunji uses this overtly sexualised pose as a reference to the curated self-presentation that is so prevalent in social media, a platform which Kim’s generation, the Millenials, has never lived without. Juxtaposed against this day dreaming figure, is its “double-figure”, a physical distortion which Kim uses frequently to convey her subject’s inner psyche, as opposed to their public persona. One allows the viewer to be a disengaged voyeur. The other almost glares at us, perhaps accosting us for staring at her nude body. Whereas other artists have used this technique in the past to convey a sense of movement, (notably in Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” 1912), Hyunji’s purpose is to convey an almost Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy in her subjects. Moreover, many of the nude paintings are inspired by the artist’s own experiences of gender discrimination within the Melbourne Art Scene and what she views as the exploitation of the female nude. There is perhaps a suggestion of this in the piercing, almost accusatory, stare of the subject.

Stefania, Oil on Reflective tint, 95 x 190cm, 2017

By painting on a life size scale and occasionally on reflective surfaces, Hyunji attempts to illicit a sense of discomfort from her audience. Rather than seeing the 2D image as part of a world removed from our own, the figure is instead brought into the audience’s space or vice versa. This effect is sometimes accentuated by the extension of a subject’s limb through an artificial frame. The genius of Hyunji’s work is her ability to break the wall that usually separates the subject from the spectator. In the same way that we frequently view people through the protective layer of a phone screen, her work encourages us to engage with the subject matter, not as a voyeur, but as an active participant.

Lister, Oil on Canvas, 170x215cm, 2018

One of the most compelling pieces in the exhibit is the “double figure” nude portrait of Anthony Lister. The pose is overtly sexualised and perhaps deliberately confronting. Hyunji is perhaps highlighting the way that the gender of a nude form will often determine how it is perceived. Why, you can almost hear her saying, does the male nude shock us when the female doesn’t? She is criticizing, it would seem, the way in which the female body is fetishized and normalised within the Art World specifically, and society generally.

Julius Killerby, 2019

Self Portrait, Oil on Linen, 150 x 200cm, 2019

Lekhena, Oil on Canvas, 120 x 91cm, 2019

Atong with her self portrait, Oil on canvas, 100 x 90, 2019

Opening night of ‘Untitled-chicks’, Metro Gallery
captured by Jason Blake