by Steve Kim
Unlikely is the second portrait by Steve Kim to be available from The File Arts. Unlikely at first glance looks like his previous edition Saltless, and other portraits in the Perfect series. Though it has a tone that doesn’t quite fit in with the others. The abstraction is very extreme and seems to reveal little of the person behind the portrait. It appears to be a heavily bearded man, yet a close inspection reveals an eye of a girl.
Steve Kim on this image:
The big difference is that it’s not a Tumblr user. It’s my sister.
With the Perfect series I try to respect the face, so that if I abstract something it’s in a way that I feel highlights or elevates it, sometimes in obvious ways (beauty) and sometimes obliquely. With Unlikely the abstraction started having a mind of its own. Because I knew it wasn’t a Tumblr user whose likeness I had to preserve, and whose username I had to use as a title, I guess I felt I had fewer restrictions.
It kind of reminds me of bad abstraction except that it has a few good looking features to anchor it. There are sections in it that were painstaking to draw, curves that I intended to look almost computer generated and imply volume. I’ve been investigating linework for a long time and I feel like this is almost like an absurd conclusion to it.
This freedom creates an arresting image. Not only the lines are remarkable and more experimental than the other images; the colour is as well. Where Saltless looks positively futuristic, Unlikely looks hallucinatory and confrontational, much harder to pass over, harder to read and to dismiss. And therefor all the more valuable.