Sparks: SIMON KO

10 January - 25 February 2023

Nathalie Karg is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Seoul-based artist Simon Ko. Sparks is his first exhibition with the gallery, and his debut solo exhibition in the United States since being awarded his MFA in Painting from Yale University in 2017.


In eleven paintings, Sparks offers a meditation on the nature of relationships; presented as a fragmented narrative of vignettes chronicling the ebbs and flows of partnership. Simultaneously symbolic and representative, Ko’s scenes focus on couples - locked together or falling apart, occasionally punctuated by renderings of contemplative lone figures. Ambient clouds, stacked books, and flowers in varying stages of vitality help shape the visual and narrative world of Ko’s subjects, and warmly lend themselves to an atmosphere of magical realism. Lamps, fireworks, and shooting stars also appear at varying degrees of lucidity: fireworks reach their apex; comets rain down; galaxies transmit their dim glow across lightyears. In spite of the charge of their surroundings each scene finds the protagonists stoic, as if frozen in paint.


Ko’s personal relationships and interior world are inseparable from his practice. Explorations of elation, infatuation, longing, belonging, jealousy, and despair are at the root of his dreamy tableaus; the slick renderings are complicated by the rough ground of the canvas, a texture slowly built by layering thin coats of modeling paste applied with a sponge. The texture masks observable imperfections of an unsteady hand; a crooked line or contour appears flawless at a distance. This juxtaposition in handling of paint and texture emphasizes that perfection in life and art is always an illusion.


Allegorically grounded and driven by emotional nuance, Sparks enshrines fleeting feelings of togetherness and solitude communicated with a honed visual language and fluency in the medium. The warmth of lovers and the afterglow of solitude invites the viewer to examine how we shift within ourselves when we love someone, and wonder where exactly we go when or if that love fades?