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An Art Gallery of Text Messages


Courtesy: Jinja Kim

A Web Exclusive

Although local artist Jinja Kim’s newest show is titled “Text Messages,” it consists not of pixilated cell phone screenshots, but rather of colorful mixed media collages. Kim, who has lived and produced her art in Hawaii for more than 35 years, explains her choice of title best: “We do a lot of text messaging and it’s usually short, intimate, condensed. My work is like that, so that title comes to it.” Most of the messages in her collages are not from actual text messages. In fact, she doesn’t remember where some of the messages came from, only that they moved her. But, Kim adds, “The message is just part of it. The texture, the color, the light, everything, all those pictorial elements were very important to me. If only the message was important, I could just print it out.”

As seen in “Weather or Not,” Kim’s playfulness with titles continues. The print is divided into halves: one sunny and bright, one drab and gray. Symbols from various alphabets, including the Chinese character for weather, punctuate both, pieces laid out as if falling from the sky. Another print, “I’m Happy,” reads: “7 birds, 3 dogs, some 100 flowers.” These are figures from her own life, and the title is her conclusion. By making herself the subject of such prints, she pushes viewers to contemplate how they would fit their own lives into an 8.5” x 5.5” box.

“Why Me?” and “Why You?” are a poke by Kim at the egotistical nature of human thought. She laughs as she explains, “Unfortunate people will say, ‘Why me? Why me? Why not you?’ and then when somebody else gets successful, ‘Why you? Why not me?’ People do that.” Other pairs, such as “Life Is Better Lived Together” and “Feel Complete On Your Own,” create a balanced whole of two simultaneously strong individual works.

For Kim, text itself has always been a kind of artwork. Born in Korea, she began learning English in grade school. Before learning the sounds of her second language, she compared the English alphabet with the Korean one. To her, they “just looked like strange shapes, interesting shapes. As you may have noticed, the message itself is just part of the whole picture, literally.” Virtually all of Kim’s previous work has included text in some form, and she plans to continue this exploration.

“Some people think my art is whimsical. Some people think my art is existential. I don’t know. I don’t know who I am,” Kim laughs. The best part is that she’s not worried about it. “Text Messages” is Kim’s way of offering us small glimpses into not only her own philosophies but into our own.

Feb. 25 through March 27, 817 Cedar St., 589-1580, cedarstreetgalleries.com.


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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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