Hyperrealistic Oil Paintings of Fish Trapped in Glass Bowls Are Metaphors for Modern Life

Hyperrealistic Oil Painting of a Beta Fish by Young-sung Kim

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South Korean artist Young-sung Kim has made a name for himself thanks to his hyperrealistic oil paintings of fish swimming in glass bowls and cups. Kim uses minuscule brushes to pull out every detail of his subjects, whether it be the colorful tail of a beta fish or the shimmering scales of a goldfish. Painted on large canvases, the animals are laid out like living still lifes for the viewer to admire.

The photorealistic paintings are part of Kim's ongoing series Nothing. Life. Object. that speaks to the disintegration of modern society in the face of the “advanced development of material civilizations.” By juxtaposing living and material things and displaying them as a piece of theater or advertising, Kim wishes to comment on society's tendency to neglect living organisms.

The painter's fascination with the beauty of living creatures began when he was a child, as they forced him to stop and contemplate their place in the world. These creatures are now metaphors for life in Kim's series and they are forced out of their natural setting into an object that cages them.

“What is the meaning or value of living organisms in the modern civilization? What is the meaning of living organisms to humans? They exist with us in the same environment, but they are always faced as food or decorative elements in a lower hierarchy,” Kim writes. “Despite that they are living things with meaning and value of existence, the humans only use them for clear purposes when we have certain reasons. In the modern society, this structure is applied to the relationships between men, men and organization, or men and society. Humans, a living organism, is sometimes considered and used as a functional object.”

In this light, Kim's hyperrealistic work takes on new meaning. While we are looking at still images of these living creatures, which are put on display for our admiration, we are forgetting the stress they must undergo when “posing” for the work. It's an irony not lost on Kim, who compares this facade with the falsehood that plagues many people. “Humans today adorn themselves beautifully and seem to be living happy, stable lives, but their lives do not seem to be any different from the state of these animals as they are struggling to survive in a confined space that is completely exposed to others.”

Young-sung Kim paints incredibly realistic depictions of fish in glass bowls using oil paint and tiny brushes.

Photorealistic Painting of a Goldfish by Young-sung Kim

The work is part of a series that comments on the current state of humanity in today's modern world.

Realistic Painting of a Fish in a Bowl by Young-sung Kim

Photorealistic Painting of a Goldfish by Young-sung Kim

Snails, frogs, and lizards are also models for the hyperrealist painter.

Young-sung Kim Hyperrealistic Painter

Photorealistic Painting of a Frog

Young-sung Kim Hyperrealistic Painter

Photorealistic Painting of a Snail

Watch as the South Korean artist creates his photorealist masterpieces.

Young-sung Kim: Patreon | Instagram | Facebook | Saatchi

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Young-sung Kim.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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