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 

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.’’

Artwork, far left :  Pattern of Life #8, 2020; pen on paper, inkjet print, dimensions vary.

(Shown on display at  Art Delight  gallery, Seoul, South Korea, October 2020.)

Below:  Viewing Stone #2,  2020;

pen on paper, 39 x 40cm.

(Featured in the artist's

 Cultivated  exhibition at

Gallery NAGA, Boston,

March 2020.)

All artwork /photos

  © JooLee Kang.

    Since 2014・Volume 7

Original content © The Ballpointer / Mahozawari Unlimited

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 more  ART / INFO / CONTACT, visit  :  JooLee Kang's  BLOG,  INSTAGRAM,  FACEBOOK.  

​​​​PENNAME   by L. Mace  posted October 4, 2020​​

​​Rooms With A ViewJooLee Kang・Seoul, South Korea


Continuing from HEADLINES 1  page ... 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 8 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''.