Simon Ko (b.1988, Seoul) is a painter currently based in Seoul, South Korea. He grew up in New York and received his Bachelor's degree in Fine Art from The Cooper Union in 2011, and a Master's degree in Fine Art from Yale University in 2017.
Using the artist’s own history in personal relationships as a jumping off point, Ko’s paintings delve into the complexities of human connections and the vast array of emotions associated with them. The relationships depicted are embellished and altered – idealized or streamlined versions of how they have or could play out in real life – such that Ko fashions a new type of space where the messy process of self-realization by way of loving another is fully embraced. Ruminating on the nature of love, of emotional exchange, is at the heart of each work; in this light, Ko’s paintings not only invoke this reciprocity in terms of the subjects depicted, but also with respect to the relationship between artist and viewer, a dynamic he keeps in mind long before a painting is hung on a wall.
Ko’s process typically starts with written musings or sketches that help him build the narrative of each piece. He sometimes works with models to assemble the poses in his energetic compositions, and plays with symbolism: bubbles rising to the surface of a painting are memories of past connections; a flickering candle is the dying ember of a couple’s love. These symbols, and the scenes they populate, are the painted embodiments of the range of feelings associated with relationships: elation, infatuation, longing, belonging, jealousy, despair. These messages are encoded in Ko’s signature style: facial expressions and bodies are rendered simplistically, almost gesturally if not for the defined lines that contain them, lending a graphic aesthetic feel to his highly-texturized, stucco-esque surfaces, achieved through the use of custom tools and copious amounts of modeling paste. The resulting messiness and corrugated nature of his canvases serve as intentional imperfections that mirror those of any relationship; perfection is an illusion.
Simon Ko is a recipient of a residency at The Vermont Studio Center. He has participated in several group shows in New York, and had his first solo exhibition at Eve Gallery, Seoul in 2015. In 2021, Simon Ko had two significant exhibitions, one was an online viewing room with Nathalie Karg Gallery, which you can find here (link), and the other was a solo show with Pipe Gallery, Seoul.