Kim Wan (b.1970) is a British artist of East Asian Polynesian and Western European heritage. Wan’s artworks are all painterly – whether it is the obsessive exploration in his series of self-portraits, or the heavy impastoed, painted surfaces on found objects contributing to large-scale major installations. He made a lot of hip hop inspired graffiti during the 1980s, and the speed and power of spray-painting has remained a strong thread throughout his art career.
In the UK, Wan has worked with museums and institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery, TATE Modern, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the National Gallery. He is a selected artist by international committee at the Florence Biennale and is represented in the Saatchi collection. Exhibiting regularly in New York City, recent shows also include Art Basel Miami and range from Berlin, Moscow and Beijing to the Louvre, Paris.
Kim Wan c.1983 Hastings
Selected past exhibitions and events
- SCOPE, See.Me, Miami Beach, USA
- ‘Et Tu Art Brute?’ Andrew Edlin Underground Gallery, NYC
- Cultural Traffic’ publication fairs, NYC, Los Angeles & London
- Rugby World Cup, England 2015, Opening Ceremony
- Richelieu balcony, La Louvre, Paris, France
- See Me Takeover, digital collaboration, Times Square, NYC
- SWIM film by Amy Sharrocks, Somerset House, London
- SCOPE, Miami Beach, USA, See.Me
- Opening ceremony UEFA champions league final- Wembley stadium
- London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony-Isles Of Wonder by Danny Boyle
- TATE Modern Tanks and Five Years Gallery
- Westminster Reference Library, London
- Institute of Contemporary Art, London
- Rebecca Marshall & the London Film School
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- University of Brighton
- ACInstitute, New York City
- Sanlun Yishu Global Project Beijing China
- Ania Bas and Walsall New Art Gallery, England
Winchester School of Art, 1998. By kind permission: copyright-Alastair Eales
See.Me Interview with Kim Wan
Kim Wan: Paint Skin, an essay by Alastair Eales
To appropriate the words of Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message”. In the case of Kim Wan, rudimentary equates immediacy; this is an artist who paints first and asks questions later!
Kim Wan’s work is wonderfully rudimentary. It is rudimentary, in the sense that it is about the fundamental blocks that constitute a medium – oil paint – and it is about combining that with an idea of what is ‘inside himself’. Basic stuff. Paint and the surface which it is applied to, which in turn form the warp and weft of the ‘‘World according to Wan’. Wan’s World becomes the world within his skins, and his skins can cover everything.
Wan enjoys paint! Great volumic clods of smeary paint – gathered together and layered – twirled, slathered hastily, and yet always controlled and unadulterated. Paint is skin – it sits on the surface and (usually) alludes to form – but in Wan’s case his painterly skin holds a beating heart; it is his personal message to the world.
Kim Wan’s skill lies in the combination of the physical skin of paint, and its application, to form interesting and unexpected relationships. His paint describes form, and its sheer volume becomes form; it becomes an object of “an object”. Slathering, stratified clods that form landscapes of paint, that make skin surfaces. Wan’s topography of paint skin and its inferred meaning encapsulate everything in the pliable congregation of an ever-shifting, evolving and borderless environment. It contains something limitless; it’s the skin of something infinite. The ground onto which his environments adhere could just as easily be a canvas as a concrete floor or an old sideboard. He’s a painter who goes over the edge between art object and everything else. He is an artist with skin in the game.
This makes his environments vulnerable and violent, on edge and paradoxical; everything becomes an autobiographical façade; awkward and brilliant, difficult. Wan’s work rests on this difficult knife-edge between contained self-love and actual, recognisable, unbound genius.
There is a danger, of course, that, in his exuberance, his work could fall on the side of self-indulgence; that he is implicitly saying that his art, that he himself, really is everything. However, this indulgence allows a chance of a catalyst – there appears to be a symbiotic relationship between the ‘indulgence’ and ‘genius’; both are needed, both are valid and combined, both aspects yield results!
The art critic and writer, Sasha Craddock remarked of Wan’s painting back in 1998, and I paraphrase:
“Kim paints with such energy that one may think the result could only be a mess, but in this case [points to very large painting of thick, loose gestural marks in ultramarine and pink].There is a fine line between utter indulgence and brilliance – Kim paints like a maestro – at least in this painting, maybe his other work is awkward indulgences?”
Squirting £250 of oil paint onto a canvas, all in one go, is an indulgence: a self-gratifying outlay of artistic spending power.
So I am going to suggest that awkward solipsism and brilliant outlay exist at the same time. I’m going to propose that Wan’s best work is his most awkward and indulgent work; that it is a brilliant form of compromised genius.
It is Kim Wan’s exclusive focus on the painterly that drives the violence, the verve and vigour of his paintings and at the same time echoes his vulnerability and vacillation within a certain tunnel vision. He is an artist caught between flesh and sinew, between pigment and medium; an artist who revolves around a helix of what it is to be everything inside a human skin but who then compromises that with his chosen medium; he ends up articulating being human in paint and so everything becomes boundlessly alive within his paintings’ thick skin.
By revolving around an indulgence of self – coupled with an articulation of that self-satisfaction within the outlay of an expensive new artificial skin, and by trying to go beyond the limits imposed by this colourful artistic paint surface, he has also found a way of going beyond his own skin.
And all of this, by simply slapping paint about!
By Alastair Eales
(Editorial essay support: Phil King)
- 1998 Winchester School of Art, B.A.( hons.) Fine art- Painting
Awards and Grants
- BAFTA award Olympic Opening Ceremony London 2012
- Florence Biennale, Selected artist by International Commitee, the office of the President of Italy, and UNESCO
- TATE MODERN TANKS Five years gallery
- Workweek prize, shortlist, five years gallery, Artlicks weekend.
- TASTY MODERN, Selected for Whitechapel Gallery’s First Thursdays Top 5 Exhibitions
- Bursary award, Arts Council London
- Exhibition award#3, Arts & Business South East
- Professional development award, Princes Trust
- Exhibition award#2, Arts & Business South East
- Exhibition award#1, Arts & Business South East
- Mentoring grant, Arts Council England South East
- Exhibition award, Decibel South East, Arts Council England
- Professional development award, Arts & Business South East
- Exhibition grant, South East Arts, Arts Council England
- EAST professional development, funded by Arts Council London
- Mentoring programme, funded by Arts Council England
- Creative Routes ( Palmer-Hamilton partnership), part funded by European Social Fund
- Artist – consultant on Arts Strategy, South East Arts, Arts Council England
- Consultation report, Arts Council England National Office
- Development Forum member, Arts & Business South East Arts Member, Arts & Business South
- THIS IS NOT PUBLIC. Five Years Publications: Public Series no. 5.ISBN 978-1-903724-11-8
- KIM WAN, Westminster reference library, London, UK
- RANDOM WORKS, Westminster reference library, London UK
- THIS IS NOT A SCHOOL. Five Years publications ISBN 978-1-903724-07-1
- (IM) POSSIBLE SCHOOL BOOK:AS FOUND.APPENDIX. ISBN 978-1-903724-08-8, Five Years Publications, Tate Modern library
- VIOLENTS, Winchester School of Art library, Hampshire, UK
- VIOLENTS, The School House, ArtworksMK , Great Linford, UK
- PAN-DEMONIUM by Gilian Whiteley, art history essay featuring work by Kim Wan ISBN-13: 978-0984130900
Online Reviews and Press
- AC Institute A Kim Wan solo show Kim Wan solo show Manhattan
- AC Institute [Direct Chapel] – In A Star Orbit and Pan-demoniumdetail of Kim Wan’s drawing, literature on Bricolage Kitchen curated by Gillian Whiteley
- Amazon.co.uk Pan-demonium by Gilian Whiteley, art history essay based on the show in AC Chapel NYC, featuring work by Kim Wan, on Amazon Books.
- Art Cards London Brings you to Art
- Art Cat The Opinionated Guide to New York Art.
- Art Forum The online edition of Artforum International Magazine.
- Artrabbit International contemporary art
- Art Slant Contemporary art network
- artfacts Inside information
- Artipedia Artipedia is the new official encyclopedia for art fans as much as professionals.
- ArtLyst London Art Network
- Arts & Business Cultural investment agency
- Artslant-Kim Wan talk scroll down for information about the talk at AC Institute
- BBC Southern counties -This is not graffiti anymore Graffiti expo Brighton
- Close but no cigar Initiative set up to question the role of the artist and art institution
- Drawing Connections in Siena Siena Art Institute
- Ethos World promoting Graffiti and spraypainting.
- Five Years unfunded collaborative artists’ project in Hackney
- Interface a-n review of Surface Gallery International Postcard Show 2013
- Kim Wan Art Kim Wan Arts website
- New York Times review of Postcards From The Edge 2018
- National portrait gallery four corners Kim Wan’s self portrait
- Rhizome site.Decision Making and Output , A talk by artist Kim WanTalk at the AC
- Rhizome-at the New MuseumRhizome is located within the New Museum at:235 Bowery, New York NY 10002
- Rise Art Artist profile-Kim Wan
- Saatchi online gallery- Kim Wan Kim Wan , artist’s page on the Saatchi online gallery
- SCOPE MIami Beach 2013 Exhibiting at this prestigious art fair December 3-8
- See.Me Kim Wan to exhibit with See.Me at Scope Miami 2013
- SWIm event 55 swimmers join artist Amy Sharrocks for a swim across the waterways of London
- The Village Voice- NYC publicationNew York newspaper
- This Is Not A School Five Years Gallery present……proposal no. 47, Kim Wan
- Van Gogh one minute exhibition, New Art Gallery, Walsall Kim Wan and Van Gogh on the same wall
- Whitechapel Gallery First Thursdays Late night art on the first Thursday of every month in east London