In the Studio with Na Kim

By Drake's

2024년 6월 28일

In the Studio with Na Kim

There's an uncanny quality to Na Kim's paintings. Inside her small, neat studio in an industrial part of Brooklyn, the wall is covered in canvases of uniform female figures, all just slightly different from one another. Their eyes stare directly ahead or just off to the side with an air of inscrutability, their features and form shimmering, like looking at reflections in still water. 

"I think a lot of people mistake them for self portraits," says Kim, "but I think, as with all art, there's always going to be a part of yourself in them. I don't work from photographs, it's from my imagination, so they're familiar to me. I do one, and then the next one takes elements from the one before, so they all bleed into each other. They're all the same person, and not at the same time."

Kim only started painting around a year ago, initially as a creative personal project. She now juggles it alongside roles as the art director for The Paris Review, and creative director at the publishers Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where she designs beautiful book covers. "I don't get many days off," she says with a laugh, her small dog Moonie trailing her faithfully around the studio.

"I originally went to school for painting, but then shifted more into the design world. I've always made small drawings and doodles, but never really thought about taking it seriously. I know it's a cliche, but the pandemic did make me stop and think about how I really wanted to fill my days. I started with trees and landscapes, but eventually I was drawn to painting faces. I think my job at The Paris Review contributed to it as well, because I'm now constantly looking at art and references for design, I became a lot more immersed in the art world than I was before. It made me think, do you know what, I want to do that, too."

In late 2023 a series of Kim's female portraits were shown in her debut solo show at New York's prestigious White Columns gallery, while a new group exhibition at Nicola Vassell Gallery features a selection of her work.

"I find it difficult to say, 'this is what my paintings are supposed to represent,' says Kim, considering one of her portraits, the Brooklyn skyline looking a bit tired on a grey afternoon. "I suppose that's why I'm a visual person, along with the fact that it's always shifting and evolving. I try not to get too hung up on rules or processes, I want to maintain that freedom that drew me to paintings in the first place. 

"It's just endlessly fascinating. The variations of how you can approach painting a person and a face. I guess I'm only a year into this, so I'm excited about where it could lead me."

Share This