Lee JangUk | Independent Curator

  I. Being grabbed by the collar (Art embedded with violence and resistance) Sim Up was detained and beaten by paratroopers during the Gwangju Democratization Movement of May 18, 1980. Sadly, the isolated Gwangju citizens regarded the US Navy seventh fleet that had dispatched to South Korea as reinforcements. Now, Korea is about to sign the Korea-US FTA which some are calling the new Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty. These actions point at a new neoliberalism after decades of financial crisis.

  II. Reading the age (Rage against extremely powerful capitalism) The primary iconography of Sim Up’s juvenilia, such as the Statue of Liberty, Stars and Stripes, the dollar sign, kerosene containers, guns, and swords are all strong symbolic tools representing super-capitalism’s greed, excretion, and violence. The impetus of this work derives from symbolic expressivity and a macroscopic, critic observation of capital.

  III. Looking around! (A realization of the capitalistic food chain, impotent crowds, and the struggle to escape) We often find helpless masses caught in the whirlwind of coldhearted capitalism, and those struggling to escape from this. The majority of these people are impotent within the food chain of capital. Siim Up’s seemingly torpid, drooped figures eloquently represent a fear of life, a sense of powerlessness, and resistance.

  IV. Looking within (Doubts about the driving force of humanity – emptiness) This work uses the plastic wrapped anxiety of the times to highlight concepts of nothingness and emptiness. The ash-colored drooped, lethargic figures he captures represent the essence of the age, and the symbols of capitalism disappear in this work. On the contrary, figures rendered in light, transparent, and secondary material allude to the emptiness in Oriental thinking. One opens up his heart, but nothing is there. Humans are bilaterally associated with each other, but the origins of Eastern and Western thoughts are different. Is the artist dreaming of returning to the roots of humanity?

  V. Uttering (We demand reflection and ask for responsibility!) These seated figures with characters on their faces are the result of Shim’s artistic meditation. The characters on the face are like mutant life forms. This work conveys meaning through these characters, moving beyond a mere utterance of visual symbols. This work represents the denials of established contemporary art forms and overcomes them.

  VI. Artistic and formal features of Sim Up’s work Sim Up’s work is rooted in Korea’s minjung misool (people’s art) of the 1980s. While minjung misul represents the self-awareness of the citizens who protested against the dictatorial regime, Shim’s work shows the artist’s introspection concerning the super-capitalism sweeping the globe. Unlike the assertions of formal Western contemporary art, his contentions are rough, narrative, and rich in content. His work’s energy derives from his profound look into global politics, economy, and cultural clashes as well as his concern with the struggling face of humanity, and his criticism of global hegemonism. As an attitude creates a form, his work’s originality derives from his symbolic narrations of the times. Sim’s realistic renditions do not seek formal beauty of form. The West’s formal artistic principles are subordinate to an introspection of the age and human compassion.

  Artists who are sensitive to the sufferings of the world have something in common: respect for humanity and rage against violence. Käthe Schmidt Kollwitz, a German painter called the mother of German proletarian art, Diego Rivera, a prominent Mexican anti-capitalist artist, and Sim Up all work with the theme of humanity. These artists are confident in their voices, and have aspirations and a sense of vocation. Opening their hearts, they cry out: “We demand reflection, and ask for responsibility!”