In Conversation with Nicole Ji Soo Kim: Internal Work

written by Gabriel Rojas Hruška on July 24th, 2021


Yesterday, July 23rd of 2021, I went to see Nicole, or as some of us close to her call her Ji Soo – sometimes she stylizes this part of her name as Jisu, and prior to seeing her ID, it was how I thought her name was actually spelt. I digress. I went to see her in her studio to talk about her work and life and how it all fits together.


What I’ve come out with is an even greater picture of one of my favourite artists and the way she intuitively produces work but also how she sees it as a form of conversion – my words not hers.


During, we at times came back to thoughts on what makes artwork so hard to produce, and how it really seems to be involved in all our thoughts. Jisu briefly touched on a project she’s embarked on with a friend that involves writing, and how for her, that work tends to lend itself to far more literal products, and how her visual work consistently is abstracted in some manner – for me this is often the opposite, as when I produce writings, aside from some handful of interviews I’m due to release, they’re almost always exclusively fictional vignettes meant to impart either the ridiculousness of existence or some moral in response to the socio-political state of the times.


“We want to talk about pain,” says Jisu, cracking another beer, “internal work.”


She points to a set of three pieces along the wall (which, I evidently failed to photograph),


“Drawings of dad’s hair, a month before he passed, three days since his last shower, patterns.”


When plied with yet another drink, Tatra this time I think – I made sure the second was Pilsner Urquell, and though I can’t remember what we split first (in her fantastic camping mugs), I am sure it was good as well. Again, digressions; When plied with another drink, she escapes into an explanation, saying she can sometimes find work “depressing to make,” that it’s “less about research, more about internal thoughts.”


“I think a lot of people think that being an artist is about really great ideas, but […], sometimes I think that being an artist is really selfish – thinking about myself.”


These words are hard to accept as I look back, not only are there images of her father’s hair, but also a clock about grief ticks upon the wall, and the abstract drawings pinned up invite a solemn study without really telling me why. I’m not even sure that I actually need a reason.


As the night carries on, we’re now amidst a Modelo Especial, and her words about selfishness are making even less sense. Jisu talks about how, maybe sometimes, the work is about “helping others that are going through the same internal process, trying to figure ourselves out.” She repeats, “About that internal process.” Her eyes refocus and she says another relatable yet somehow funny thing, “Being is hard.” I couldn’t agree more.


She explains,

You can do it, because you are living, because you can. I think that’s a great line, I got that from my therapist.”


Looking back on the night, I should’ve asked her if it was a direct quote or simply paraphrased, something she’d taken in, made internal, mulled over, and brought back out into the world in a manner that might wind up “helping others that are going through the same internal process, trying to figure ourselves out.”