Digital artist Krista Kim on Zen and healing through art, technology

Korean-Canadian artist Krista Kim seeks to evoke a sense of tranquility in her work, which she creates through the use of digital technologies. Whether viewed on a smartphone or through virtual reality goggles, the vibrant gradients Kim presents have a relaxing effect, akin to basking among the cherry blossoms.

Kim captures images of lights, manipulating them using software and crafting minimalistic still images. At times, she transforms these into gradations.

Her pursuit of portraying a sense of calm through gradients on digital screens stems from her experiences in Japan.

“I was inspired by the Ryoanji Temple garden. … When I sat in this beautiful garden, which was incredible, it changed my life. I felt healing, I felt solace and I felt incredibly inspired. I felt Zen and I thought: How can I do this using the screen?”

Zen is a Buddhist concept that embraces the values of meditation and intuition.

However, Kim doesn’t look for artistic inspiration from Zen. She simply lets art exude from her, keeping Zen in mind, Kim said. “Zen artists, when they create, they don’t think. It’s spontaneous. I create art from pure intuition and spontaneity. That’s what Zen is all about.”

Speaking on the links between Zen and the current digital age, Kim noted that she sees “all of the major problems in the world really coming down to dealing with individual mental health.”

Kim also insists that Zen should be incorporated into people’s daily lives by combining it with aspects of the digital area. “We need Zen in the digital context as part of our culture. Digital is our culture. Digital is an extension of the human brain. And, Zen is engaging with the environment in a non-intrusive way.”

In 2014, Kim initiated “Techism,” a movement which recognizes technological innovation as an artistic medium and encourages artists to promote digital humanism in the form of culture.

People are distracted by technological advancements, she added. “For too long, technology has separated us with algorithms. And, addiction and social media platforms were designed to make us sick. I think it has caused a lot of mental health problems in our world.”

Kim reiterated that the key solution to this problem should come from technology itself. “How we can create a more humane society depends on using digital technology. Because we cannot throw it away,” she said.

Technology extends beyond mere digital screens, Kim explained. “I actually think that we are going to leave our dependence on the screen and we’re going to engage in augmented reality.”

In early 2021, the digital home, “Mars House,” designed by Kim, was sold on a non-fungible token marketplace, SuperRare, for 288 Ether ($512,000).

“All the divisions of the past will be transcended; time, space, geography, race and religion. This symbolizes how our human civilization is developing into transcendency (and) into the metaverse.”

Kim’s “Continuum” will be on display through Dec. 31 at the DDP Museum in Seoul as part of the “Lux: Poetic Resolution” exhibition, the first showing of her work in South Korea.

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