PENNAME by L. Mace originally posted October 4, 2020
Rooms With A View・JooLee Kang・Seoul, South Korea・
Continuing from above ... The Chaos series grew in size and scope with
every incarnation; a 2018 installation in Suwon, South Korea, remains
the artist’s largest to-date, filling an 11 square meter room with an
eight meter high ceiling. Preparation can be time-consuming; one begun
in 2008 was finally ready for display in 2010, but Kang also worked on
other artwork during that period. Her Chaos color palette is kept simple: black ballpoints. ‘’I tried red once, then I realized that I like Chaos to be
grotesque, which is better from the black,’’ says Kang, who prefers to use
one color at a time for her work but is not loyal to one brand. ‘’These
days I'm using 2-3 brands for one drawing.’’ In general she downplays
the ballpoint aspect of her artwork and prefers that people ‘’find
something’’ in the work, itself — meaning over medium, you could say.
‘’The purpose to be an artist in modern society is to be a window
between peoples and ideas,’’ as Kang sees it.
For some time, the ‘ideas’ of which Kang speaks have been opening
a ‘window’ onto ecological views which ‘’interpret complicated interaction
between human and nature’’ as the side effects of human nature upon
Mother Nature, but half of that equation is conspicuously absent:
‘’Personification is shown, but no person appears,’’ she points out, while
‘‘domestic objects’’ such as vases or terrariums, et al, show a human
tendency to coexist with but control nature. Kang’s Cultivated
exhibition, earlier this year in Boston, focused on ‘’issues of hybridization
and transplantation of plants.’’ Among tableau of flora and fauna ‘’trapped
in the conspiracy of the hybridization’’ were ballpoint depictions of
‘hybridized’ bonsai arrangements, whereby the plants are the animals,
or vice versa (pictured). ‘’The hybridity reveals my contemplation about
double sides of something; beautiful and at the same time not beautiful.’’
Again: dichotomy. What might look like a ‘’relationship of subordination’’
is actually ''threads forming the same cloth''.
보이지 않지만 존재하는, 보이지만 존재하지 않는
Artwork, top & mid-right : Cannot See But Exist, Can See But Not Exist, 2020; mixed media video installation ; Changwon Sculpture Biennale, Changwon, Korea; 260 x 610 x 240cm (room). Right : Chaos, 2017; pen on paper and inkjet prints ; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; approximately 180 x 150 x 7cm. All artwork © JooLee Kang
Artwork, far left : Pattern of Life #8, 2020; pen on paper, inkjet print, dimensions vary.
Below: Viewing Stone #2, 2020;
pen on paper, 39 x 40cm.
(Featured in the artist's
All artwork /photos
© JooLee Kang.
Click on an image above to read the fully archived article.
＊Cannot See But Exist, Can See But Not Exist is on display at the Changwon Sculpture Biennale thru Nov 1, Changwon, South Korea, and viewable online. ＊ The SWAB Barcelona Art Fair is viewable online as an Artsy Tour. ＊ In conjunction with SWAB Art Fair, Art Delight Gallery in Seoul is also displaying work by JooLee Kang.
For anyone who might wonder if artistic innovation with ballpoint pens had begun drying up like the ink in an old pen, along comes JooLee Kang with a ballpoint display which breaks the mediums’s pen-on-paper confines. The artist’s Cannot See But Exist, Can See But Not Exist (pictured above & right), a site-specific multi-media installation which starts with the pen but does not end with the pen, just went live in her homeland of South Korea as part of the Changwon Sculpture Biennale. Yes: sculpture. For the event, Kang takes liberties with the idea of sculpture because, with the guiding theme of this Biennale being ‘non-sculpture’, that’s the idea. In doing so, she is also taking liberties with the idea of ballpoint art — perhaps that’s the idea for Kang — and in turn she is providing ballpoint art lovers a breath of fresh air.
If an artist can consider their work the-air-they-breath, then there’s definitely something in the air in Changwon, or at least moving across the walls, ceiling and floor of the exhibition hall: the atmosphere Kang has created with her work, which was allotted a room of its own in an old commercial refrigerator. In that room, viewers are not so much looking at the artwork as they are standing with and within it. Video mapping presents Kang’s drawn pages floating around the room, an apt motif during this period when things-floating-in-the-air is on everyones’ mind. The connection registers with Kang: ‘’When I and Shenshen started to talk about this work, COVID-19 was hitting hard in China and Korea.’’ She is referring to Chinese artist Shenshen Luo, a friend since art school in Boston with whom Kang collaborated for the Biennale. The video projections are Luo's contribution to this project. ‘’We share a common interest in the ‘uncanny’ and cognitive uncertainty,’’ she explains. ‘’We both agreed that this crisis obviously showed the power tension between human and nature. Environmental issues are no longer something we can push back or ignore. The work shows our thoughts about existence, change, and absence, especially like this chaotic moment.’’ ‘Environmental issues’ often rear their heads, quite literally, in Kang’s ballpoint drawings: as animals bearing extra heads or limbs. Silhouetted representations of such drawings were cut into acrylic panels and positioned to appear floating along with the projected artwork.
The city of Changwon is described as ’extremely well-known in the art world as the home of some of Korea’s most notable sculptors’, and Kang considers it ‘’an honor to participate.’’ She exudes excitement about her work being displayed alongside big names in the Korean sculpture realm, names with whom she is familiar and some whom she can refer to as ‘colleagues’, but admits to anxiety about this being the first time she incorporates video mapping into her artwork. That dichotomy of excitement and anxiety is mirrored in her presentation of the static yet kinetic, the intimate but dynamic, the natural and unnatural, and her methods of ‘cutting and reassembling’, which jibe with the Biennale themes of ‘non-sculptural experiment for sculpture’ and ‘incompletion towards completion’ with attention to the ‘process rather than result’. ‘’I think my way to approach and create a mass and space is different from other sculptural minds. This time I'm trying to add one more layer with Shenshen's video work and I think this work could question and extend the definition of sculpture.’’ All of the particulars are worked out and executed by Kang, herself; no art assistants or interns. In this case, she was on her own for the full installation; the wide reach of COVID kept her Beijing-based collaborator from attending. She also handles the booking of exhibitions, phone calls, even stuffing envelopes. ‘’Sometimes I spend all day long dealing with these issues. I divide my time as studio days and meeting/paperwork days. I try to keep at least 4 days a week as my studio days.’’ The life of an artist is on-call, 24-7, and Kang listens to music on-the-job but, surprisingly, the Changwon installation runs silent.
Kang’s ballpoint penwork had already taken on three-dimensional proportions over recent years. Cannot See But Exist, Can See But Not Exist evolved through a series of works displayed under the title Chaos; paper assemblages constructed of original drawings, and/or ink jet prints of ballpoint drawings with original drawing applied to the opposite sides (pictured, right). Kang describes the two-sided distribution of original art and inkjet as ‘’all mixed up; one side is original and the other side is inkjet printed or both sides are originals or inkjet printed. Not drawings with white backs.’’
Article continues below ...・
Who better to write about art than an artist. Who better to write about ballpoint art than a master practitioner : Lennie Mace. As his debut writing contribution for The Ballpointer, Mace spoke with fellow artist JooLee Kang as her debut feature appearance in the journal ; one master to another...
A 2015 Art & Criticism article placed much emphasis on the environmental content of Kang’s work, echoing descriptives such as ‘deformation‘ and ‘mutation‘ which Kang uses, herself — words which obviously come to mind to anyone faced
with a five-legged frog or six-legged sheep — but Kang is clear about her place in all of this: ‘‘I’m focused on ecological
changes of the environment, transition of living organisms, and evolution,’’ she says, but adds emphatically: ‘‘I’m not
an environmental activist. I'm an artist.’’ (An artist whom, by the way, does happen to love animals.) She is just as
forthright about a choice of imagery which some might consider dark: ‘’People ask ‘why the mutant or abnormal
animals and plants?’ Why not? I believe this is what I do as an artist; making people, including myself, question
something familiar and suggesting diverse angles.’’ She’s also forthcoming as to whether she might possess a
so-called dark side, herself, manifesting innate abnormal or 'malformed' tendencies: ‘’Absolutely. We all have
a dark side if we have a bright side. Finding out and balancing those two would be the key if anyone asks what
my goal is through life/art.’’
Kang’s flair for staging productions with her art commandeered another ‘domestic object’ along the way: wallpaper.
First came the densely drawn and playfully mischievous drawings, of course, using line work which appears more
etched than sketched — I imagine these drawings in an alternate-reality National Geographic magazine,
illustrating theories of un-natural selection or the construction of art via deconstruction of nature. Crosshatching,
more so than line weight, is used to achieve halftones, and is left visible. That kind of line-work invites up-close
inspection to appreciate, but her depictions require it. A passing glance at Kang’s Pattern of Life #8
wallpaper (pictured) shows octopuses, shrimp, sea anemones and the like, but a closer look
reveals the octopuses are more like quinta-puses (missing a few tentacles) and pirouetting.
Forming part of the same pattern, hermit crabs occupy bottle-tops instead of seashells. Kang
draws each element separately, then uses photoshop to multiply, flip and reassemble them
vertically and horizontally into M.C. Escher-like patterns, minus the Dutch artist's trickery
with negative-space. Nothing is random, and Kang identifies this part of her job as one of
the most time-consuming. ‘’I pair or link each other based on the my own narratives.
Through wallpaper installations I want to blur the lines between traditional handmade
works of the old masters and manufactured works of art.’’
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Link to the full article in the Ballpointer ARCHIVES...
Before long, the framed drawings themselves became merely one part of a whole,
with the full cycle on display: rooms decorated in patterned wallpapered composed
of elements pulled from the framed artwork. A string of such exhibitions took place
in the USA and South Korea. As if the busiest-gal-in-ballpointing wasn’t busy
enough, this month Kang is also participating in the SWAB Barcelona Art Fair,
in Spain. This year four Korean galleries were invited to participate as part of a
special Focus Korea program. One of those galleries, Art Delight in Seoul,
included Kang among their featured artists. The fair unfortunately became an
online-only event due to ongoing COVID constraints, but Art Delight decided to
stage a brick-and-mortar exhibition in Seoul to coincide with it. Kang provided the
wallpaper, and more (pictured, slideshow). The tiled aspect of her wallpapered
patterns had meanwhile been going through an evolution of their own, naturally
progressing into the manufacture of actual tiles. To create the tiles, Kang spent time
working with a ceramic studio in Yeoju, a Korean town known for ceramics. Kang’s tiles
have been included in exhibitions and are even permanently installed in a Seoul building.
Kang experienced the full range of art mediums during her time at universities in Seoul
and Boston. Ballpoint pens graduated from sketching tool to preferred medium in 2008, during
the second semester of her MFA program at Tufts University, Boston. Accessibility was a key
factor; she always had a ballpoint handy, allowing her to put an idea down on paper at any
time, but those Initial sketches — some even drawn in eyebrow pencil — would afterward be reworked into finished artwork using traditional mediums. One day she asked herself ‘’Why
couldn’t ballpoint pens be used as an art material, not just for sketches?’’ The answer to that rhetorical question came as a series of 213 small (8 x 11 inch) ballpoint drawings exhibited as
The Collection between 2008-2012. ’’I fell in love with the characteristics of ballpoint pen,’’
she explains. ‘’It draws peoples’ attention to details,’’ as compared to other mediums. The pens’
ability to achieve ‘beautiful gray tones’ using ‘multiple layers’ is also an attraction; so is its non-erasability, but given her skilled ballpoint penmanship and choice of imperfect subject matter,
it would seem JooLee Kang has no need to erase・
PENNAME by L. Mace originally posted October 4, 2020.
Rooms With A View JooLee Kang・Seoul, South Korea・강주리 姜妵利