Viewing the two-person exhibition NOCTURNE EARSHOT CLOCK ERROR at Mulherin Toronto feels particularly pertinent in the wake of the passing of John Berger, whose seminal text Ways of Seeing put in certain terms that what we see is affected by our knowledge and beliefs. The works of Cindy Ji Hye Kim and Keiran Brennan Hinton explore the possibilities of space and notions of seeing on an intimate scale.
Cindy Ji Hye Kim’s charcoal and graphite drawings are executed through the language of cartoons and exist in collapsed, fantastic spaces. The all-over and caricature style of the compositions serve to neutralize the campy sexual content so that the only thing differentiating the black cavern of a figure’s vagina in one work, and a dark pool of liquid in another, are slim lines denoting reflective light. Orb shaped eyeballs mirror breasts and an impossibly long nose parallels a telescopic lens of the same length. The cheeky symbolism reaches its apex in the work “Whispers” which features a character’s nose penetrating a hole in a door below a tool drilling another from the other side. Yet the act of looking extends beyond carnality and voyeurism as doorways and cameras refer to the mediators, technological or otherwise, we encounter every day. The role of the individual’s subjectivity is present in the still pools of liquid and a carved glass heart, reflective surfaces that challenge us to look self-reflexively and remember our role in seeing.
Keiran Brennan Hinton’s works, a series of small photographic oil paintings, explore the notion of looking in a far more subdued manner. Depicting the spaces in which he paints, he communicates the isolated nature of his practice in the empty rooms and sparse remnants of human presence—a few pairs of slouching boots by a door, a coat hung at the end of a hallway with its back turned towards us. Long shadows cast in cool and acidic earth tones serve to make the space feel at once vast and claustrophobic. Windows in frames, the only real portals to life outside the apartment, get turned inwards as the reflections of lights and objects from inside the apartment merge and blend with those outside, obscuring our view of both interior and exterior life.
At first glance the two Yale MFA alumni and studio-mates’ work seems at odds. Yet the artists find common ground through their mutual interest in space and the act of looking, particularly within demure and domestic environments. Their greatest departure from one another exists in the speed with which we are prompted to approach their work. Kim’s exuberant cartoon compositions provide us with a bounty of symbolic imagery to consume upon first glance, while Hinton’s quiet works require we lean in and meditate. In either case, we as viewers are prompted to become aware of the subjectivity with which we look and relate to imagery.
Cindy Ji Hye Kim, Sound Effect, 2016, charcoal and graphite on paper, 11 x 14 inches
Keiran Brennan Hinton, Ladder Shadow, 2016, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches
Cindy Ji Hye Kim and Keiran Brennan Hinton, NOCTURNE EARSHOT CLOCK ERROR, February 9-26, 2017, Mulherin Toronto