Wikipedia defines the term Third Culture Kid as such: A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.
"I've always been on the outside looking in. I think that’s where the work comes from, " says artist Jim Meyerson. "It’s like being an accidental tourist. "
Meyerson was born in Korea, then adopted at the age of four by a Swedish couple from Minnesota, where he lived up until completing his Undergrad Degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He then finished his schooling at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he met gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin.
“I met Emmanuel at a gay bar...no, I’m just kidding,” Meyerson says with a laugh that throws him back into his chair. “Sorry, I’m a bit of a smartass,” he quips. “I was working with a dealer in New York with whom Emmanuel did a gallery exchange. He was looking through the gallery archives, saw my work and asked ‘who’s that artist?’ Then he came to my studio and bought a painting from me for way too cheap. But I was obviously extremely, extremely flattered.
Working with Perrotin eventually brought Meyerson to Paris, where he spent just under five years on a kind of artist's spirit quest; living within walking distance of The Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay, meeting fellow artists and travelling through Europe. “As someone who has spent half their life in the US, Europe is amazing,” he enthuses. “My friend Wim Delvoye lives in Ghent, a tiny city in Brussels with a population of maybe 100,000. You go to the church there and there’s Hubert van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, one of the most important pieces in Western art, in this tiny place. You don’t see that anywhere in the States. It’s like going to your local bar and there’s a Michelangelo; it’s just so profound."
We are in Meyerson's studio in Fo Tan, a large open space looking out to mountains and village houses within a rusty old industrial building. Before this, he was working out of a studio in Chai Wan he found through his friend, a studio director for controversial Chinese artist Ai WeiWei. “It became essential for me, when I moved here, to find a sanctuary,” he says. “If New York is a city that never sleeps, then Hong Kong is a city that never lets you rest.“
While he has hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar on play, I listen to him wax lyrical about the masters of fine art, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and how Chaim Soutine “practically invented distortion”. As much as Meyerson is a mixed bag of cultures and influences, he’s also a mixed bag of interests and passions that takes no definitive form aside from that of the artist himself. It’s intriguing.
“The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which is one of my favourite museums in the world, has 10 Brueghels and four Raphaels – it’s amazing! Why would this tiny museum have all these incredible pieces?” he says in awe, as though he had only seen it for the rst time yesterday. “When you love painting and you want to study it, you just can’t do it from books. You cant Wikipedia it. You have to go and see it. That was the most enriching thing about living in Paris; it made me grow in ways that I never could have if I hadn’t been able to stand in front of those paintings.”
But as all good things must come to an end and after years of, in his own words, “living like a rock star”, it was time to hang up the cleats. Just as well, as he was invited by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea to do a residency, which he accepted. “It was important for me to spend time in Asia as an adult, which eventually brought me to Hong Kong. I kind of accidentally ended up here, but I’ve landed on my feet,” he says.
Meyerson is now based in Hong Kong, where he tries to keep himself at arms length from the madness of the city. He says he’ll stay until wanderlust strikes again, “maybe another two years, who knows?”
A photograph that Meyerson took of his bed at the Four Seasons when he first came to Hong Kong he had chopped, screwed, distorted and then painted, spawned the concept for his exhibition at Hong Kong’s Galerie Perrotin. Entitled ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, the exhibition is particularly significant for Meyerson, as it is his first collection of paintings using distorted versions of photos he has taken himself.
“When I first started travelling a lot for my career, it really bothered me. I just can’t shut my brain off and it felt like I was having an affair,” Meyerson, a self-proclaimed borderline insomniac, tells me. “But after a while I started to enjoy it; there was something cool about being in a place where you don’t belong. There’s a certain attitude you can have because you know its temporary.”
Distortion is something that Meyerson plays with in all of his paintings, and he says he constantly nds himself in a position between representation and abstraction. A bit of a contrarian, he began developing his style by doing paintings about American football because it was “the most non-artistic thing” he could think of.
“I’m plagued by ideas. Most of them are bad. Doing one of these paintings takes an incredible investment of time, so I really have to believe in that inspiration point to start it. Otherwise it’s not worth it,” he says, taking a quick glance around the studio at paintings born from the ideas that made them. “The way I disseminate a good idea from a bad one is if the idea keeps coming back. If it does, then it’s like a personal exorcism whereby I must paint that image.”
I then ask him how he began to develop his style of painting and was surprised to see that it triggered him to jump to his own defence. Because, really, on the surface, there’s no denying that his paintings do hold a certain Jin Meyerson signature. The psychedelic, almost hypnotic, use of image distortion, the intricate detail and painting technique, which clearly shows influence from the masters – with some looking almost like cathedral frescoes.
“I think I’ve arrived at that through wanting to explore perception; what’s more important than what we see is how we see it.” He pauses before continuing. “You know what I want? I want a sense of discovery. Obviously a lot of my work is about movement and kineticism. I want to create a visual experience, mainly for myself, something I haven’t experienced before. It’s a privilege having an audience. But is that my ultimate goal? Not really. It’s like mental masturbation.”