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.
Below: Viewing Stone #2, 2020;
pen on paper, 39 x 40cm.
(Featured in the artist's
All artwork /photos
© JooLee Kang.
Since 2014・Volume 7
＊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.
PENNAME by L. Mace posted October 4, 2020
Rooms With A View・JooLee 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''.