Blue Lift Sandalwood Fall

Byron Kim

2016, dyed canvas, 62.3 x 48 in.

"I drew inspiration for this series of paintings from a poem by Carl Phillips in which the poet observes a bruise on the skin of his sleeping lover:

I have to shut my one good eye and at once

the leaves falling but now blurred make it
possible to see how it happens, a bruise
lifting itself over time from the darker
blues to, slowly, something like amber,

to at last whatever, before the wounding,
the flesh was.*

I was thinking of the subject of a bruise abstractly, without much context. Given the events since I started the series, viewers have attached various worldly meanings to them. I don't consider myself primarily a political artist, but I demand that my paintings, no matter how conventional in format, seek a deep relationship with their times. Trauma is everywhere, inescapably seeping into our collective consciousness. Although a bruise can be a manifestation of trauma, a bruise is also a signifier of healing. The paintings are handmade through a labor-intensive yet cathartic process that privileges craft and self-discovered techniques over easily reproducible formulas. I begin my process by boiling raw canvas or linen. I then dye the fabric, often multiple times, with sandalwood, ochre, indigo and other natural elements to alter the color of the fibers. Sometimes I then work the surface with natural pigments using rags soaked with hide glue or with oil, rather than brushes, for a more intimate connection with the work. A bruise is a “stain below the skin” – a reminder of a past event that requires time and care to be washed clean. These paintings are externalizations of that reminder."

*from Carl Phillips, “Alba: Innocence” Originally published in Ploughshares, Vol. 23, Issue 1. 1997.

Byron Kim