Faces, Faces
Ki Yoong

Slugtown are pleased to present Faces, Faces the debut solo exhibition by London based artist Ki Yoong.  In these highly rendered, virtuosic new works, Yoong seeks to challenge the relationship between observer and the observed.  

The works in Faces, Faces are mined from a variety of sources.  A selection of pieces come from pictures taken by the artists of friends, family and acquaintances, others are sourced from the internet, and some from reaching out to strangers online and asking to take their photo.

The provenance of the source imagery is deliberately withheld from the viewer.  The titles of the works give nothing away either, granted ambiguous monikers that reveal little, such as Dayglow, Opal, and Look, prompting the viewer to draw connections between the works as well as from their own experiences.

In the process of painting, the artist delicately manipulates the portraits, through choices in lighting, colour and cropping.  In works such as Pearl, a watercolour painting of a girl, the head floats in space on black background.  Strong highlights on her nose and cheeks lean towards high-fashion, but the reductive backdrop, crop of the neck, and meticulous detailing begin to flirt with AI creation.

Other works, Evening Colours (Amber), Evening Colours (Opal) and Sunday Morning are framed by the artist in copper edging.  Through time and handling, the frames display the touch of the artist through a patina that develops on the metal. The warmth, oil and texture of the skin leaving gossamer impressions on the work’s surface.   

In Cameo and Eclipse, works in watercolour and graphite respectively, Yoong nods towards the history of court miniatures.  Diminutive portraits popular in the 18th century, desired by the wealthy as pocket-sized mementos of loved ones.  In their size and framing and soft focus depictions, Cameo and Eclipse, both hint at desirous tendencies, but could equally be pseudo-candid headshots, symptomatic of a society obsessed with their own image.  

Separate from the other pieces in the exhibition, in the works Coral and Look, the gaze is assertive, firm, directly at the viewer.  Almost confrontational in nature, these closely cropped works, appear to frame a charged moment of fleeting eye contact between two people glimpsed through a crowd.  Their intensity is startling and the opportunity to study this moment in so much detail seems almost a breach of confidentiality.  

Through this supreme handling and delicate staging of the images, the artist manages to give with one hand whilst taking with the other.  You feel you are invited into an intimate world of works treated with care and tenderness.  Yet similarly the artist keeps you at arms length by his considered and deliberate compositions, revealing only fragments, and interpretation remaining open-ended.  

This skilful duality leaves these portraits not acting as an insight into the sitter, but instead acting as a mirror both to the viewer themselves, and to those around them.  Through the up-close study of these isolated faces, the viewer is encouraged to search for a deeper connection between what is seen, and the complex tapestry of their own lives, histories, desires and aspirations.  


Ki Yoong (b.1988, Bradford) lives and works in London.  Recent exhibitions include: The Picture, Brooke Bennington, London, 2023; Face to Face, A Celebration of Portraiture, Marlborough Gallery, London, 2023; Skin Deep, Studio West, London, 2023; Bright Young Things, Alex Eagle, London, 2022; Strangers, Prospect Mill, Leeds, 2022.  Ki has collaborated with Vogue, Alex Eagle and Paul Smith in previous years, and has more recently been Artist in Residence at Coppermill Primary School, Walthamstow.