A World of Light and Shadow

459Scribble_ChristineKimScribble. An installation by Christine Kim.

It is 6:00 PM. I am sitting on the front steps of a lovely old Toronto townhouse in Mirvish Village watching pedestrians and cyclists as they pass me by. This is such an inspiring little street – lined with galleries and studios, neat pubs, eclectic restaurants and my favourite book store – The Beguiling. The door behind me opens. I gather my things and introduce myself to Christine Kim. I follow her inside, up some

stairs, around a corner and down a hall. We pass several doors and I can imagine the artists busily working behind them.

I saw Christine's work for the first time at the Artist's Project a few weeks back. She was busy talking to a gaggle of people so I didn't want to bother her. I have never seen paper art like hers ever before. It stuck with me for days after the show – I knew I had to connect with her.

460Christine Kim 2Gas mask series inspired by photos of World War II school safety drills.
Watercolour by Christine Kim.

At the end of the hall is Christine's studio. It is small and her wonderful paper installations are hanging everywhere. My head brushes one as I step inside. Dusk has set in and light is streaming through the studio windows playing with the paper sculptures, bringing them to life. This is Christine's world – a world of light and shadow.

Christine's background is lithography and drawing which is evident after a quick scan of her walls. On the wall closest to me hangs several framed pieces. The frames are quite deep which allow for her to control where the layers and levels of paper are placed. Each of these works contain paper cut outs of fences; ornate fences, Victorian fences, chain link and industrial fences, and these fences all interact with Christine's drawings and watercolours. Christine's fascination with fences is in keeping with her love of opposites. Fences demark and claim an area, they divide people and yet they are ornate and pretty to look at. Sometimes she places these fences on her illustrations to look like lace. "Lace is similar to fences in that it is contradictory – lace both conceals and reveals", she explains. 

458ChristineKim1Crown. Mixed media by Christine Kim.

"I don't really plan my work," she tells me, "I complete many pieces and then start combining them and see how they fit together". I find it hard to believe that these intricate and thoughtful pieces evolve out of random combinations. She then shows me an illustration of her nephew, "In the photo he is playing with typical kids toys. But I have eliminated them in my illustration and want to combine him with little fences". (Ahhh, so there is a plan). I imagine these images coming together and how uncomfortable a scene like this would be–the innocence of the child in opposition to the hostility of the fences.

462Christine Kim 3Pieces by Christine waiting to be assembled.

On the opposite wall at least 20 vintage clipboards hang above her desk. The clipboards hold more of her intricate works that combine pencil drawing, water colour and delicate paper sculptures. This is how she displayed her work at the Artist's Project. By not framing them people can actually experience them in a more immediate way, without a glass barrier to interfere with how the light interacts with the paper.

463Christine Kim 4Clipboard wall in Christine's studio.

The representative quality of the pencil drawings, the looseness of the watercolour and the precision of the cut paper play against and with each other in a remarkable way. Sometimes even the loose splatters of paint have been cut out and raised which really highlights this contrast of precision and gesture.

464Christine Kim 6Watercolours.

As we are talking about these pieces the sun is slowing slinking away and as it changes so does the artwork. These small works live and breath and have a kinetic quality – as the sun rakes across the wall the shadows shift and dance. The mood of each piece changes with the hours of the day and a shift in the weather.

I step back to take a few photos and once again my head brushes against the installations hanging above me. "I was inspired by a memory of making paper lanterns as a child" Christine tells me. "They only work at a certain size. Once the paper gets too large they can't support themselves anymore and the elegance is lost". Unlike the pieces on the clipboards these paper installations are truly 3 dimensional and hang by fishing line so that they float, sway and twirl with a slight shift in air flow.

465Christine Kim 5Installation at dusk in Christine's studio window.

Another installation hangs in the window and while the sun is slowing receding this piece filters the remaining rays. I am mesmerized. This piece is made from a thicker paper that is folded into geometric forms. Tiny slivers are cut away from the centre of each panel making me think of biology and cells.

469Christine Kim 8Christine's desk.

It is hard to believe that these pieces are all done by hand. I asked Christine if she had ever worked with a laser cutter (a digital system that will take your design and cut it out of a surface). She looked at her calloused fingers as she responded; "The cuts would be more exact but the process would be totally different". I glance at her desk, the X-Acto knife lays at the ready, pieces that are half finished lay on the cutting mat. There is an intricate piece that has been folded into a small pyramid.

466Christine Kim 7Prototypes on Christine's desk.

"I was first inspired to do paper cuts after seeing the work of Peter Callesen, " she explains as she turns on her desk light and starts playing with these small prototypes. "Paper is temporal, ephemeral and fragile. I had been working on a very large drawing and I got mad at it. I began cutting into it and folding it and realized that there were possibilities in what I had done." She has one of the unfinished pieces in her hands and is bending it infront of the light. I watch as the shadows dance across her desk. I am bewitched.

470Christine Kim 9

471Christine Kim 11Playing with prototypes.

The sun is completely gone.
Her works are now sleeping
and I must leave this enchanted place.

473Christine Kim 12Watercolour by Christine Kim