Kimsooja: Thread Roots

Kimsooja: “Tread Roots”installation of 6 large linen canvases and 6 linen bundles made for the exhibition in Leiden; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Kimsooja: Thread Roots

Kimsooja`s first exhibition in the Netherlands takes place from 2 March to 21 July 2024 at the Lakenhal (Cloth Hall) Museum in Leiden, the Dtch town that back in the 17th century, was the most important textile centre in the world with a turnover of millions. The choice of fabrics was enormous. Homeworkers spun and wove imported wool, cotton and flax into more than 180 different kind of fabrics, either in plain colours or with simple to highly complex patterns. The exceptional quality of the woollen cloth and other fabrics produced in Leiden was recognised worldwide. To guarantee its quality, the city council established seven inspection halls dedicated to each of the fabric types (worsted, serge, baize, camlet, ras, warp and fustian). The most important of these , the lakenhal (Cloth Hall), opened in 1641. here in the Seal Room the inspected cloth received a hallmark: a lead cloth seal. After been hallmarked, it left the cloth hall to be traded in the Netherlands and abroad.

Kimsooja is Korean artist know for her installations in which textile plays a key role. I had seen her work in the Art & Textile Exhibition in Wolfsburg/2014 and in the Documenta 2017 in Kassel, both in Germany. Rooted in Korean traditions she combines personal histories with universal themes such as home – migration and mobility. She weaves lines between people and individuals, between societa and history, the past and the present, nature and the universe, energy and intuition.

In her current exhibition „Tread Roots“ Kimsooja examines the role her cultural heritage plays within her development as an artist and in relation to the Museum De Lakenhal collection. This collection surprises with many sample books of the textiles traded here, of which the most expensive was the black woollen cloth, dyed and felted several times to become waterproof, good for more that one lifetime.

Kimsooja´s exhibition brings together recent installations and some of her iconic work, her „Bottari“ traditional Korean wrapping cloth used to carry belongings. In her work for Leiden the fabric bundles are reduced to abstract elements with only the incisible worn garments inside the bundles suggesting human presence. Six large linen canvases together with six linen bundles are exhibited as an Installation. The linen canvases are refuring to paintings which was the medium Kimsoja started with. The traditional colourful „Bottaris“ are exposed in the oldest rooms of the museum as a link to the past.

Outside the museum there was a further installation made by Kimsooja of some iron half-circles across the water, building full circles when seen at night mirrored in the water.The title was „To Breath“ and the installation will be exibited for the next three years. During my visit it was a gray and rainy day and unfortunately no magic could be captured in photos, that is why I show one of the press pictures taken at night

As a whole I was a little disappointed that an artist I liked so much, made such very reduced nearly abstract work. But of course, she is the artist and I am only the viewer, wishing to see more of her colorful work!

Kimsooja: “Tread Roots”installation of 6 large linen canvases and 6 linen bundles made for the exhibition in Leiden; photo Beatrijs Sterk
View at the Kimsooja exhibition, colorful bottari bundles in the oldest rooms of the museum; photo Beatrijs Sterk
Kimsooja: “Botta”, these colorful bundles represent earlier work, exhibited in the oldest part of the museum ; photo Beatrijs Sterk
Kimsooja, photo of her wrapping cloths on a human figure; photo Beatrijs Sterk
Kimsooja “To Breathe”, installation near the Lakenhall Museum; photo Axel