Jinchul Kim’s Mapping of Experience through the Language of Common Ground
A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, "and. . . and.. . and. . ." This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb "to be."
—Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
Jinchul Kim deploys a phenomenological exploration of the world in epoché to illuminate the rhizomatic potential for connection in our everyday interactions. In his work, the figure forms the vehicle for his examination of the myriad instances of existence, from the subatomic to metaphysical. He dissects the various screens and lenses that frame our knowledge of the world through his intensive and meticulously photonaturalistic renderings of the figures and the structural forms of their mise-en-scène, the immersive nature of which he simultaneously disrupts in the application of a calligraphic and gestural impasto mark that swoops across the surface of the canvas. The potentiality for connection afforded by the suspension of knowledge in phenomenological epoché is not merely arboreal, but rhizomatic, given the various visual, verbal, figural, spiritual, physical, and filmic experiences that Kim represents.
In Kim’s works, he asks viewers to reexamine what is known and unknown through the bracketing of experience and knowledge in phenomenological epoché, in which the suspension of all preconceived notions facilitates the reading and pure perception of the figures and scenes represented on the surface of the canvas. In our epistemological reduction and exclusion of presuppositions, we can trace a new rhizomatic set of interwoven connections between those figures and forms that appear on the canvas. As described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: “A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles.” The decentered polymorphous experience of phenomenological epoché constructs itself in its possible lines of flight, mapping out the rhizomatic nature of interwoven experience and perception. In Kim’s painting Epoché (2019-2021), he represented the visual phenomena of the traces of peripheral vision in a distorted net of a field of flowers, which also resemble cellular structures, scattered across the surface of the canvas that disrupt a straightforward perception of the figure in the landscape and allow viewers to reframe the screened or filmic visual experience as well as the verbal knowledge of the world. The subtle gestural marks that flow between the flowers and the sharp focus of the landscape create further disruptions and connections between background and foreground, while the letterbox format of the internal frame and verbal insertion further distort our perceptions and allow us to experience the geometric structures and their polychromatic surfaces in new ways.
The suspension in epoché also mirrors the experience of the transitional nature of liminality and liminal spaces, which Kim also frequently represents in his work. The fragmented figures in The Conversation (2022) appear framed by the non-spaces of trade and industry, while distortion and surface gesture disrupt the familiarity of the recognizable forms and make the scene strange and distant. Kim highlights the interconnectedness of Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad in the interwoven relationships between “the triad of the perceived, the conceived, and the lived,” in the spatial practices, conceptual spaces, as well as the lived spaces of our contemporary moment. He emphasizes the notion of flux and transition between each in the impasto brushwork at the left of the canvas. Kim further interrupts the known and familiar perceived world through the abstraction of the extended figure in its mixed media appendage that simultaneously calls to mind a blazer as well as microscopic structures.
Kim accentuates the connections between the spiritual or philosophical world and the physical, subatomic realms that inform our perceptions and experiences through gestures and brushwork that allude to motion or lines of flight, as well as in the inclusion of abstract geometric forms in works such as Quantum Play (2022) and Quantum Play II (2022). The gridded network of points on each canvas references submolecular spaces as well as the potential for movement and connections between quarks in their creation of new subatomic particles. Kim highlights and deploys the liminal spaces between the particles to create a symbolic connection between the microscopic realm and the vastness of the metaphysical space of enlightenment as well as to relate the quantum forces to the physical wavelengths of light reflected by the pigments on the canvas as they reach the viewer’s eye. Following Deleuze and Guattari, he “look[s] for the molecular, or even submolecular, particle with which we are allied,” to further emphasize the decentering and deterritorialization inherent to a rhizomatic structure as well as in phenomenological epoché. 
A work such as Blue Silhouette (2020-2021) further underscores the physical, psychological, and spiritual underpinnings of Kim’s practice in his thorough investigation into the multitudinous possibilities for the visual impact of his color palette. In his deployment of the densely saturated, vibrant carmine red-orange of the background behind the silhouetted figure, Kim asks the viewer to examine the physical impact of the hue in the latent afterimage of viewing the work, in which the silhouette appears in a contrasting hue of teal blue-green. Kim once again includes a gridded arrangement of five dots to further highlight the interconnection of the visual impact of the wavelengths of light that strike our retinas with the potential for connection on the subatomic, spiritual, and personal levels.
Kim maps out the rhizomatic potentiality of human connection through his figural representations, the gestural motions and visual disruptions, the allusions to subatomic structures, the screened and filmic experiences of liminal transitions, as well as the physical and spiritual realms. Although the figure is the most immediate subject of the works, it is far from the end point, as “any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other and must be.” The interwoven, simultaneous interconnections of the layers of experience and potentiality for a new relationship and perception are Kim’s primary focus while the figure is merely a vehicle for the mapping of our rhizomatic layers of experience that he investigates in his latest works.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Fèlix Guattari. "Introduction: Rhizome." Translated by Brian Massumi, 3-25. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Cambridge Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991.
 Gilles Deleuze and Fèlix Guattari, "Introduction: Rhizome," in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 25.
 As the authors continued, “A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages. There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community” see Deleuze and Guattari, "Introduction: Rhizome," 7.
 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Cambridge Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991), 39.
 Deleuze and Guattari, "Introduction: Rhizome," 11.
 Deleuze and Guattari, "Introduction: Rhizome," 7.
Jinchul Kim’s numinous paintings inspire in the viewer an instinctive reverence for these sacred testimonials which bear witness to achingly vulnerable human privacies in which the deepest, most authentic moments of being are revealed.
Faces, streetlights dissemble from the quotidian as Kim’s subjects are suspended in Kundera’s unbearable lightness of being between the definitions and limitations of history and the unknown potential of the future, that brief, mystical moment before they make the choice that will cast the trajectory of their fate.
With absolute discipline, devotion and fidelity, Kim does not simply paint, but rather invokes, raises, and calls forth from the very fabric of the canvas every molecule until the primal, originating emotion is incarnate, and the painting, begotten, not made, transcends it materials and breathes and lives.
We, who are privileged to be in the presence of this phenomenon, experience, however briefly, the Negative Capability that poet Keats described as the capacity to be “… in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” We no longer feel the need to speculate on the past or future in these paintings, but inhabit a divine present. As a result, we too are transformed from observer to participant in these exquisitely rendered moments, segments and fragments that woven together create the fabric of our collective, truly authentic, human selves. Jinchul Kim's paintings move us out of and beyond ourselves and we are never the same.
Poet Laureate of the City of Slisbury, Maryland
Portrait of You
Jinchul Kim has titled this exhibition of his paintings and drawings "Portrait of You." This type of paradox is at the center of Kim's art.
Despite the clarity and meticulous detail of his photo-realist style, both the subject and the meaning of Kim’s paintings are ambiguous. The array of visual facts in Kim's paintings presents us with questions, not answers. "Portrait of Kate" or "Turning Face," for example, thrust us into the midst of emotionally charged situations that seem to be part of larger, still unfolding narratives. However, the specific emotion, the situation, and the implied story all remain open to interpretation.
Most of Kim's paintings are composite images, based on his own drawings and photographs, plus other sources, including the Internet. The smooth, even surface of his most recent works, such as "Portrait of Kate" or "Self-Portrait with Green Liquid," recalls images on a television screen or computer monitor. In contrast, the visible, fine linear brushstrokes of such earlier works as "Michaela" or "In My Movie" are reminiscent of the work of Andrew Wyeth. In either case, however, we're always aware of the character of Kim's images as carefully constructed works of "art." He does not want to create the illusion that we are seeing an actual "slice of life."
Kim has referred to his paintings as "poems." As in poetry, we need to consider multiple meanings, as well as to read between the lines. Our response reveals as much about ourselves as about Kim’s works: as the title suggests, the exhibition is a portrait of “us”.
Professor of Art History
For his Union Gallery exhibition, “Portrait of You”,
Nov. 20 – Dec. 19, 2003
Art Reviewed F. Lennox Campello
Jinchul Kim at Perry House Gallery
Jinchul Kim, "New Paintings," Perry House gallery, 1017 Duke Street, Alexandria 703/836-5148 until Nov. 24, 1997. If these pieces were unsigned, and placed in the walls of some austere museum in New England, 9 out of 10 viewers would swear that they are looking at new works by Andrew Wyeth (the 10th viewer might be Andrew or Jamie). Kim has deceptively brilliant painting skills, but once we look at his texture closely, we discover thousands of tiny strokes of a mad brush which builds skill, color, eroticism in nearly every piece, including some mundane landscapes! These are Helga-like women, who sport that pouty, dark inner beauty striving to break through the Nordic boundaries of the models. My favorites were "Many Times Over" and "Miss Michaela," among the portraits (all of which seem to produce a special treatment of the eyes which deliver a sad inner look to the finished pieces) and "Fog" among the landscapes. In the latter, an abandoned shoe by the side of a slushy automobile is disturbing and chilling. Kim is at the vanguard of the new "Get Real" movement which is sweeping the art world (I wish); don't miss this show.
Art Reviewed By
New York Times Art Critic Vivien Raynor
It is the one thing for Western artists to borrow from their counterparts in the Far East – they’ve been doing so since the first galleon circumvented the globe. But it is quite another matter when the procedure is reversed, as it was after the end of World War II.
Jinchul Kim was born in Korea and having achieved both his BFA and MFA there, he moved to the United States, where he has since gained an additional master’s degree and, over the last decade, exposure in numerous Manhattan galleries.
The artist has worked non-objectively, he has also experimented with video and other technological advances. But now, his attention is consumed by the style most at odds with Eastern tradition, namely Photo-Realism. Furthermore, he concentrates on subjects that lend themselves to the mode-Wyeth-like landscapes, comely young women with tousled blonde hair, figures seated in automobiles and the like.
Consciously or not, Kim sometimes gives an Asiatic cast to a Western face but this is so slight as to be all but imperceptible. In all other respects, he appears to be technically and culturally transformed, a painter in his late thirties waiting and assisting in the fusion of all the world's cultures. He certainly has the experience necessary for achieving this end but there is always the possibility of a revolt by his soul. Kim may well be too talented and too cosmopolitan for his own good.