State of the Art: Ilhwa Kim

Anna Walker 2 March 2022

South Korean visual artist Ilhwa Kim on her practice and inspirations

RD: How would you describe your art?

IK: My work could be regarded as a form of living architecture. Each artwork encapsulates a small, unique world, displaying an ever-shifting surface that inspires our imagination, memories and senses.

When observing my work, its surface and the emotions it evokes always change. I like the fluid capacity of any of my pieces to mingle with different types of surroundings as a unique but not disturbing presence.

RD: Why is the tactile element of your work important for you?

IK: I sought a medium of work between sculpture and painting and began a transition between these two.

From painting, I needed to be able to create compositions where brushstrokes and colour are always present. Sculpture allows my work to exist and interact with its surroundings.

RD: Why did you choose seeds as a medium for your work?

IK: All seeds have enormous growth potential. When I first chose paper as my medium, I fell in love with it. I immediately began to assemble and organise the paper seeds—a process like composing a jazz improvisation piece.

You do not know the end of the composition, but you move ever closer by interacting with the building blocks. Looking at each versatile paper shape and imagining its potential, work with my seeds had begun.

Thanks to the seeds’ variety in size and shape I’m able to create wall sculptures that dramatically shift and flow—my work has no restrictions. Each piece evokes a part of life and nature—they interact with light and invite the viewer to live closely with them.


Choral Symphony
, Ilhwa Kim, 2021

RD: Who or what are your main influences?

IK: One experience has massively influenced my work: Years ago, I had a very curious flight. My plane passed the exact same region in the morning, and again in the evening.

The same landscape looked completely different due to light, air, and temperature changes. I wasn’t able to figure out whether the two landscapes were actually the same place or not.

This instantly made me imagine what changes happened to any place between morning and evening. This stimulus to calculate or imagine these surprisingly romantic shifts fascinated me.


Space Sample 36
, Ilhwa Kim, 2021

RD: The title of the show with House of Fine Art is “The Divine”. What does that mean to you, and how does it speak to your work?

IK: For me, “The Divine” is the natural and organic instinct to feel and embrace my favourite objects and the people I love and respect.

Our ability to experience the world around us is “The Divine” within us.

“The Divine” also reminds me of the power we can all use to fight against discrimination.

The concept of the exhibition focuses on Women’s History Month and looks at the underrepresentation of women in art.

I have had to struggle against moments of discrimination all my life. However, to fight as a woman I needed all my natural instincts adjusted. I was able to throw away fear and come to realise the power of an independent woman. It was always important to challenge the people or institutions I confronted.


Seed Universe 122
, Ilhwa Kim, 2021

RD: What do you hope visitors take away from the exhibition?

IK: Through this exhibition, I would like people to come and experience our collective and unique power as independent women and female artists. The exhibition will be a show of beauty, solidarity and hope for change.

RD: Please tell us briefly about your solo HOFA show in September.

IK: My forthcoming show in September 2022 will be a complete immersion of my live architecture.

Ilhwa Kim is one of 12 international female artists being exhibited at “The Divine” HOFA Gallery, London. The exhibition aims bring exposure to the lack of female representation in the art world for Women’s History Month in March. It launches on International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8th March) and runs for two weeks until the 22nd March.  It is open daily to the public. Ilhwa Kim's solo show at HOFA Gallery, London takes place in September 2022.

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