We continue to introduce some artists who have chosen to use the body (often their body) as the "canvas" or the "marble" on which express their creativity or pulsions.
This is an important branch of contemporary art that has its roots in the nature of human being and in the desire to modify the body or to show on it signs that link the person to a wider reality (community, culture, gods, myth...).
Among the artists we represent, it's sure that Rabarama art is influenced by the attention and focus on the body. She has her peculiar view on the theme and she is agile in changing the subjet to object in a big game of mutation: she could create on her body, with her body, on stone or metal bodies, on others' bodies.
In this way the subject is present but fades in a different concept of individuality, merging with the billions of possibilities of reality.
In August, 2014, she will be the protagonist of the RABARAMA BODY ART FESTIVAL, more information here www.rabaramabodyartfestival.com
BODY ART #10: Kim Joon
by Bryan Barcena*
Born in Seoul, in 1966, the artist’s original interest lay in traditional painting, receiving both a BFA and MFA in the technique from Hongik University. During a brief stretch of military service, the artist would put down his brushes and take up needle and thread to create impromptu tattoos by dripping Chinese ink down the thread and into the skins of his fellow servicemen. Early in his career the artist created waves in Korea by experimenting with the possibilities of tattooed cloth works resembling disembodied chunks of skin scribed with varied pop iconographies. These disquieting embroidered works provided the artist with the basis for what would continue to inspire his oeuvre. Joon would continue to use the body as canvas ripe for expression, while still maintaining an interest in the power of mass media imagery and expressed identities.
Immediately apparent to the viewer of Joon’s Party series is the artist’s ability to use pattern not as a platform to showcase the body, but instead the body as canvas to highlight pattern and color. Joon’s use of color is uncanny, perhaps even other-worldly; the colors are bold, flat and hyper-saturated and seem to exist within a palette that originates in the digital realm. The colors appear illuminated from within; the skin, onto which they are applied, seems unblemished and strikingly devoid of the imperfections, which bring the body to life. The bodies that exist within Joon’s ambit are ironically disembodied. Throughout the series’ evolution, what began as bodies enveloped in sexual embraces, have given rise to extremities disconnected and reorganized; the pieces of the body becoming abstract elements, mutated forms, onto which Joon projects his painted patterns. Sometimes the bodies exist in tandem, complementing each other’s forms and providing the artist with an uninterrupted canvas, while at times the artist separates the elements of the body completely. Although Joon has painted these patterns and images onto the surface of the body with a sponge covered in cloth, the application could be described much as a tattoo. The patterns follow the sinuous shape of the bodies flawlessly, the colors remaining vibrant and even throughout. The patterns themselves seem almost digital; the color is even and uniform; edges are crisp and paint is flat, complementing the surreal color palette.
It is within the patterns themselves that Joon’s work finds its strength and its ability to transcend the aesthetic level. The artist is acutely aware of the body as a platform on which images, with which we clothe or associate ourselves, hope to expose the inner processes of self-identification. Earlier in his oeuvre the icons that were emblazoned on the body were easily recognizable, two bodies swathed in Heineken labels, emblematic Superman S’s or Starbucks Mermaids, clear and obvious, although not critical, references to a globalized society. At times Joon’s work becomes more localized and the ‘tattoos’ reflect typically Asian motifs as might be seen on many a traditional woodcut print.
Although the technique has remained mostly unchanged since the series was developed, the subject has, the use of pattern has become more mature and nuanced while simultaneously exploding the canvas with more and more bodies. His choice of pattern has become decidedly more upscale. Instead of the bold and emblematic calling cards of giant multinational icons, Joon has chosen to shroud his subjects in styles derived from the most recognizable fashion houses of Europe. The works now reflect their origins through their titles: Gucci, Balenciaga, Hermes and Prada. The intricate patterns, coupled with the dismembered and disenfranchised bodies, create what can be described as an orgiastic scene, free from narrative and individuality. The characters are interchangeable and superficial.
It would be easy to fit Kim Joon into the box in which many contemporary Asian artists seem to exist: creating hybrids of traditional Asian arts with contemporary subject matter, turning the negatively-viewed aspects of the tattoo back on itself. It would be even easier to categorize his work as a disapproving response to global consumption and loss of individuality. However, this would be limiting in that the work functions on the latter levels while still seeking to present the viewer not with a critical response, but instead a reflection of the ability to transform the body into a positive repository for expression, even if only on a superficial level. His work is hardly subversive; it does not seek to or function as a chastising mirror for its viewer. Joon expresses: “Tattoos can reflect individual and collective reality or displaced desire.” Kim Joon is undoubtedly part of a generation of artists emanating from the East that is keenly aware of the symbiotic relationship between the symbols of a closely-connected capitalist society and the need to express individuality. Joon is perhaps expressing an appreciation for these visual elements that pervade our consciousness, infusing them into our own self-awareness of the body as canvas, spaces for catharsis.
*Bryan Barcena is a graduate of the University of Michigan specializing in Art History and Latin American Studies and is the Assistant Director of Chelsea Galleria Wynwood, in Miami.