28 Apr 2021

Spotlight on: Joonhong Min

Unframe London

Spotlight on: Joonhong Min

We explore the work of Joonhong Min and delve into his chosen themes of major city anxiety, success and competition.

The art of South Korean, London-based artist Joonhong Min is often framed around the competition of major cities. Min captures chronic feelings of anxiety, living with people obsessed with success, falling behind in the competition and being alienated from others. Most of all, as a main theme in his work, he deals with characteristics of urban life that elevate chronic anxiety.

Min Portrait
‘Joonhong Min Portrait’

Min’s practice

Min’s practice revolves around the subject of the city and the realms of the urban world. As a diaspora citizen, born in a city, Min has lived in a city. Importantly, he feels destined to live in a city. Often, his subject matter ranges from objects and scenes discovered in an urban environment, as well as accumulated personal memories. He casts his gaze upon the city, formalised through a diverse range of mediums. Although he creates his work in different forms, at the core of his practice he is an individual.

“The act of drawing repeatedly is for the feeling of achievement with which I suspend chronic anxiety temporarily. By collecting what has been left out of its usage, I embrace what has fallen behind the competition; be that objects, sentiments, or individuals. I release the agitation from the daily routine in the city by the format of art”, Joonhong Min

With this intention, Min collects wasted objects from everyday life, usually discarded on the streets. Furthermore, he focuses on the city’s residue, disassembled and left whilst losing its original form. Initially, he reassembles these parts, into new objects covered in his own drawings and waste paper. There is a real repetitiveness to the way in which he works. He uses drawing to depict the city’s visual impression on him. Using varying techniques, Min primarily uses an ink pen to cover each surface. However, there is no monotony in Min’s works, he disturbs this with vibrant colour and alluring imagery. These often highlight the cities he is aiming to portray. For the final outcome, Min arranges these objects into installations that act as a personal response to the virtual space.

Urban Methodology triptych

Joonhong Min

Urban Methodology triptych

Ink pen on waste paper and objects., 2016

50 x 70 x 2cm

Urban Methodology triptych, 2016

For his 2016 piece ‘Urban Methodology triptych’, in particular Min depicts an obsession with success and instilled competition deriving from society. In his process, he decided to solve the problematic relationship with both familiar behaviours, as well as objects. In this case, he looked to waste paper and furniture collected habitually during everyday life. After this and during his study of these disused materials, Min dissected and reassembled them in his own way. Through this process, consequently Min expressed the effect cities and urban life had on him. As well as this, he explored the symbols of cities and the meaning of civilisation.

In ‘Urban Methodology triptych’, specifically he pairs these objects with geometric patterns, deriving from the visual imagery of cities and ballpoint pencil drawings. In this case, these become linear records of the repetition involved in his art making. To conclude, for his final output he organises these as a solid being, which is in response to ideas of ‘real space’ and flat field. 

Joonhong Min Installation
‘Urban Methodology’, 2016. Joonhong Min. Courtesy of the artist

3D Series

As well as this, Min creates immersive 3D installations. In particular, he collects waste objects from the streets as his material. Once he collects these objects, he then dissects them from their original forms and functions. Next, he reassembles the objects in his own formations. He covers the surface of each object with pen drawings and waste paper. In his collage like approach, Min visualises his impression of the city through repetitive drawing.

As a continuation from his two dimensional pieces concerned with urban environments and the city, Min creates an enveloping ‘mini city’. In contrast to his 2D work, Min’s installations mirror the emotive effect the city has had on him. Also, the various images he prints onto the surface of the waste paper, highlight the consumerist qualities attached to urban life. He creates the finished visual artworks as arranged installations, which are in response to real urban landscapes and life in the city.

Future's Present Joonhong Min
‘Future’s Present’, 2018. Joonhong Min. Courtesy of the artist.

Future’s Present

Around the same time, Min’s piece ‘Future’s Present’ was selected from the Future SPACE open call. From this, Min exhibited this series in a solo exhibition. He presented a remembered, current and imagined city. These themes were heavily linked to his upbringing within a city and his feeling of being destined to always live within one.

Min Future's Present
‘Future’s Present (Detail)’, 2018. Joonhong Min. Courtesy of the artist

As an urban dweller, Min draws his subject matter from objects and settings found in the metropolis. As well as this, he looks to personal memories formed within the city. However, at the core of his work Min meditates on isolation, by both voluntarily isolating himself and by being isolated by surroundings. Min can often be found collecting unwanted objects discarded on the streets of the city. The gaze he casts upon the city gains a form through his use of diverse media. Through collecting what has been cast out, Min embraces what has fallen behind. To conclude, he captures the rapid pace of city life through objects, sentiments, or individuals.