Kim Joon: Fragments

Kim Joon: Fragments
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
October, 2010

There is definitely something of the “Wow factor” when you walk through the gallery doors and encounter these large scale computer generated (CAD) works. Korean artist Kim Joon delivers striking imagery, beautifully detailed with patterns borrowed from tattoo culture to high culture porcelain china, such as Villeroy & Boch and Royal Copenhagen.

I first saw Joon’s work a few years back at an armory show and was immediately drawn to it. At first, I was under the impression that the artist was painting the bodies of his models.

I was later informed that in fact even the bodies were not real, but rather rendered on computer using a 3-D modeling program. The detail is so finely observed that even hair and pores have been painstakingly recreated – “painted” over the 3-D models in a tattoo style with Asian design motifs.

Joon’s new series ‘Fragments’ for which this exhibit is named, takes the idea of tattoos toward that of branding, for which the social meaning is a badge of prestige. The consumer expectation of quality. Utilizing the human form as fine dinnerware he infuses them with meaning by showing fragility of being as broken vessels.These fragments of nude bodies are ornamented on the inside as well as out suggesting inner meaning and possibly the richness of dreams and desires. Are we being asked to desire these objects, broken though they are? And even more to desire the works of art they become when the artificial world created within the code of a computer program is made manifest as an actual object to be consumed as a material commodity.

This new body of work moves away from the intense figurative realism of his earlier renditions and captures the cool polished feeling of glazed ceramic perfectly. In some works the broken edges have been gilded like the gold lip of a teacup suggesting a feeling of completeness and value even in their shattered state – these bodies will never be repaired but are valued as is.

Maybe on some level this is what the artist is saying about our shared experience and a continuation of our lives even after a part of us has been broken.

An interesting personal note on the artist’s life and Korean culture in general is that tattoo’s are considered socially taboo, and as such his interest in and exploration of the tattoo comes from his time spent in the military where he was tasked with tattooing others in his unit.This gave Joon the distinction of being relegated as a misfit, even in the army where one would normally associate such body modification with a degree of toughness. According to the press release, Kim feels that tattoos are not only physical inscriptions on the body but also signifiers of mental impressions left on the consciousness.

The choice of imagery must be of such deliberate significance for an individual as to have it permanently etched under the flesh.

It’s a mundane fact that in any art form there will be those who are more innovative and those who by virtue of being the students or simply inspired by the originator become clones. This now holds true for the computer arts as people are using the same programs and being influenced by the visions of others. So it was a pleasure to see Kim’s current path that he is following, while still working in his signature style.

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