Myunghee Kim - 'Heirs'

Wednesday 26 September  - Sunday 21 October 2018

But some day a new ideal will arise and there will be an end to all wars...People will have to work hard for that new state of things, but they will achieve it.
Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945).

Influenced by the work of German artist, Käthe Kollwitz, renowned socialist, feminist and anti-war activist, this project is themed around the powerlessness of marginalised individuals in zones of conflict. It is a progression from my previous works of related themes portraying the existence and the spirit of the Comfort Women and also of the children and adolescent females compulsorily co-opted into the military regime of North Korea.

Today’s refugee crisis is born of complex conditions created by the occupying colonial powers in which the disenfranchised indigenous people were the first to bear the brunt of brutality. Never before have we encountered such enormous waves of displaced people, with the recorded number being some 68 million. We now see an unprecedented number of people forced to seek the most basic of all entitlements – the right to a home and a life free from violence.

The use of rape as a weapon of war has been regarded as an inevitable feature of conflict and yet is too often brushed aside as a subsidiary problem, or ignored as one too difficult or too uncomfortable to acknowledge. Wartime rape, which includes sexual slavery, is a historic injustice that affects not just women and girls but also men and boys. It affects not only the victims but society as a whole. It is a critical issue that must be addressed. In the 70 years since the end of the Second World War, and the subsequent conventions espousing the protection of women and children, society has not progressed and humanity still faces the calamities of war and rape.

Kollwitz’s work focussed on the suffering of the common people and her subject matter came to reflect her experience as a witness to both world wars. She was devastated by the loss of a son in the first war and a grandson in the second. In this era of major social upheaval and ethnic displacement, Kollwitz’s work has become even more relevant for me and for all of us in our current socio-political environment, where we face a phenomenon that is at the same time fascinating and morally disturbing.

Kollwitz used black and white images to portray the harsh reality of the human condition. In this body of work, whilst iterating the same themes, I chose to use the vivid colours of the clothing to represent the superficial material richness of contemporary values – that misleads the eye while standing in stark contrast against the dark background of a reality of despair – the darkness that permeates their existence, their slavery, and their deaths.

The greater tragedy is that refugees, having been stripped of their fundamental human rights, will continue to produce heirs to their suffering.”