Hannah Kim paints scenes from her past houses, an execution of memory, grief and joy

One of Hannah’s paintings tends to take around two to three days to complete, and certainly no more than a week. If it does reach this point, though, the work is in danger of becoming too hard to finish – for she may lose the rhythm or find it difficult to continue resurfacing the memory. A cup of Salted Water for Sterilising Your Toothbrush and Always Keep Clean Your Own Bedroom are two favourite pieces of hers, and both were made during February this year. The former features a black and white cat, addressing the bathroom in the flat she’s living in at the moment. The latter centres on her old house that she occupied around six years ago in Seoul. Both show symbolism to the memories that she bares in the spaces, like her dad boiling a kettle and making a cup of salted water to sterilise their toothbrushes on the sink in her bathroom.
“These memories basically make me feel joyous but also grieve me as well, because it’s about absence,” she says on a conclusive note about her work. “This is why I mostly rely on my own memories; my old houses have all vanished and it makes me feel like I’m working on something that’s disappeared, or will disappear in the future.”
In this sense, and when Hannah ponders on the word ‘nostalgia’, she tends to conjure up the many house numbers and postcodes of her past. She’s constantly referring to these memories, and thus transfers them into her artworks. Each and every painting tends to denote a specific space or room in the house: “It includes not only how it looked but also my feelings, thoughts and even some little happenings,” she explains, stylistically choosing a more chaotic medley of symbols, motifs and structures to tell these stories. “It doesn’t need to be lined up or arranged well because I know the memories of mine are essentially very inaccurate anyway.” By splashing marks and throwing in figures here and there, it’s a process she instills to make the pieces more visually interesting.
Her main muses are architecture and family and her recent pieces are mounted on familiarity, personal anecdotes and structuralism. Hannah’s never lived in a house for more than two or three years while living in Seoul, as her family had to relocate due to urban development and construction. “I guess I have to mention the unique house renting system in South Korea,” she says, where instead of paying monthly rent, you pay a lump-sum deposit when you move into the property. “Then a landlord could reinvest all this deposit to other estates or some buildings which seem to get higher value in the future during the contract. And you get all the despot back when you move out, so it feels like you can live in the property without paying any rent.”