When we stumbled upon a work by contemporary artist Kim Beom, we couldn’t believe our eyes, or our eardrums: the Korean artist mixes the two “mediums” together in his 2012 video work, Yellow Scream, imbuing his brushstrokes with every shriek on the human spectrum. Ever wonder what shape agony makes? How pain is measured on a canvas? Although the setting may ooze the relaxing vibes of Bob Ross’ retro TV painting programs, Beom emerges from his half-hour of sporadic screams as the ultimate “Anti-Bob Ross”. See for yourself below – fast-forward to the six-minute mark to get to the juicy parts…
Call him crazy, but you can’t say Baum’s not informative in the film. He walks us through the painting process with complete candor. “First, let me talk about the materials,” he says in the introduction, explaining that every shade of yellow is charged with a unique energy, or sentiment. “They may look similar, but they have an amazing appeal all their own.” During the time that follows, we observe Beom as he paints brushtrokes and yellows that correspond to his own spectrum of screams. We’re left laughing, and wincing. We just don’t know quite what to do with ourselves.
That’s because all of Beom’s work, including Yellow Scream, is a form of visual catharsis. Born in Seoul, Korea in the 1963, Beom knows what it’s like to fight for your individuality; although South Korea was established 15 years prior to his birth, it took decades for his country to become a stable democracy. The pain and absurdity of uniformity under dictatorships, as well as the internalised oppression they spawn, is the undercurrent of his creative vision.
But where there’s humour, there’s hope. Beom’s works aren’t fatalistic, but a darkly playful approach to South (and North) Korea’s relationship to the West, which he can speak to on a deeper level than most (he himself studied and lived in New York City for a number of years). And in a way, Yellow Bliss is no more absurd than American darling Bob Ross, doing his thing in unflinching bliss 24/7.
“Many works are about what we see and how we see,” he told Elephant in 2017, “the matter of our perception.” In case you’re wondering, his works outside of Yellow Scream, which is arguably more about process that product, are lovely:
When he’s not breaking the internet, Beom can be found living and working in South Korea. His work can be found in Asian, European, and US museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.