Lovell Prize Artist Spotlight: Joonhong Min on mapping the chaos of the city
16 nov 2016 by Brooke Eastman
2016 Lovell Art Prize shortlisted artist Joonhong Min sits down with art:i:curate to discuss his submission 'Urban Methodology Triptych', his creative processes and the rampant consumerism of modern life. His series 'Urban Methodology' tackles the subjects of urbanisation and the relationship between city dwellers and their environment.
B.E. Tell me a bit about the work you submitted for the Lovell Prize.
J.M. This is a ballpoint pen drawing, which was made by my subject matter and familiar visual language. I try to transform my impression of a city into images spread onto a flat field. 'Urban Methodology Triptych' organizes two-dimensional visual outputs.
B.E. What was your inspiration for 'Urban Methodology'?
J.M. The competition in major cities is fierce. I capture chronic feelings of anxiety—living with people obsessed with success, falling behind in the competition and being alienated from others. I deal with this urban life that elevates the chronic anxiety as a main theme and inspiration.
Joonhong Min, Urban Methodology Triptych, ink pen on waste paper and objects, 2016.
B.E. How was it moving to London?
J.M. I cannot deny that moving to London was one of the greatest turning points in my life. Using a different language, meeting new people and living in unfamiliar circumstances. At first, I thought this must be a drastic new start to my life.
However, I realize I am getting more into a daily routine as time goes by. I am living a world full of people who are busy worrying about their futures and living day-to-day, sometimes with abandonment and apathy towards the uncontrollable world around them.
B.E. How does living in London differ from Seoul in your opinion?
J.M. Not that different. Seoul is a giant city, as is London. People are living with hard schedules and fast lifestyles, as usual. However, London has a great combination of history and high tech. And, the character of London gives me a lot of motivation and reference.
B.E. What’s your artistic process like?
J.M. Various contemporary artists expand their personal interests into the public arena through diverse media. This is possible because the process of converting personal memories and experiences into artworks contains numerous meanings and elements of debate within society and culture. By sharing these artistic attitudes, I aim to confirm that it can go beyond the act of merely exposing social problems related to me, as the individual ‘Joonhong Min’. It can turn into diverse records of phenomena and attempt to make such characteristics into tangible and visual results.
Joonhong Min, Urban Methodology, ink pen on waste materials, 2016.
B.E. You use waste and recycled materials as your media. How did you start working with these materials?
J.M. We live consuming many objects at each moment. There are essential objects for the purpose of survival, but there are also material objects that are used for satisfying an individual’s inner desires or enjoying a culturally rich life. Foods of superior tastes, beautiful garments, the latest home appliances and luxurious houses…I think that these are – before they are constituents that vaguely make our lives seem affluent – results onto which the psychological characteristics of an individual are projected.
Dis-used wrapping paper and building materials, once used to compose cities, which exist in people’s lives, are the dominant materials for my artworks whose subject matter is the city. I find and collect these waste objects from the streets everyday. Then the process: I dissect their original forms and functions and reassemble these collected materials in my own way. Through this process, I make three-dimensional installations. With the vertical and horizontal shapes, the installation brings up the images of buildings in cities. On the surfaces of these installations, I unfold my impression of cities with ink pen drawings. The consistent thickness of the tightly drawn lines into hatches fills the surface in an even manner that is particular to this medium. Unlike the various thicknesses of pencil and infinite colors of painting pigments, the monochromatic pen drawings are expressed by methodic composition of lines. Currently, the finished visual outputs are arranged in installations, which are a response to the real space and are transformed as the images spread out onto paper.
B.E. Where do you create your works? Do you have your own studio practice?
J.M. Yes. I have my own studio practice. At the same time, I regard the city as a site that could be my practice area. I explore this area and look for diverse resources and possibilities for my work.
Joonhong Min installing Urban Methodology, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. How do issues of urbanisation and environmental impact play into your works?
J.M. The ‘city’ has transcended the significance of ‘permanent habitat of human beings’ and plays a central role in the human life ranging from production and distribution of goods to consumption, welfare, entertainment and culture. All of this is assisted by the machine-driven civilization since the industrial revolution. And numerous buildings in it are equipped with diverse designs and cutting-edge facilities. These structures are both the symbols of the economic development that humans have achieved and the results shaped by a long history.
But I apply the impression, reinterpreted in my viewpoint, to such buildings in the same way I do to objects. The various ruins that voice the rise and fall of a city and the waste objects left there are those that have been disposed. These are not simply ones found in the cities of the past, but include the objects we use and our living spaces. In other words, they are seen as beings and aggregates that will be replaced by new consumer goods and consumers. And such masses are rushed into a standardized scene where the current world proceeds precariously.
The perception of the world of reality as described above, formed in the process of my life, settles into my unstable mental state and in an attempt to describe that mental state, induces me to seek the easiest and sincerest way to express it.
B.E. What’s a typical day in your life?
J.M. I am currently working in part-time position as a gallery technician where I experience diverse situations for each exhibition's preparation and have the opportunity to participate in many interesting events, and as a waiter at a restaurant in London where I can observe and learn about the culture as well. Besides that, I work and live as a full-time artist (from 9:30am to 7pm). The best situation would be to make a living from my artwork, but that is not as easy as it sounds.
B.E. What’s next for you?
J.M. Living as an artist and practicing my art…what else?
Joonhong Min is a visual artist based in London and Seoul. Joonhong holds a MFA in Media Fine Art from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London (2016). He was awarded The Henry Tonks Prize, The Slade School of Fine Art, London (2016); Batsford Prize, The Cass Art Islington, London (2016); and Jerwood Drawing Prize, London (2015). His work has recently been exhibited at Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration, Serpentine Gallery, London (2016); The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, London (2016); Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize Shortlist Show, Ashurst LLP, London (2016), as well as a solo exhibition at The Consulate of South Korea Project Space, Milan, Italy (2016).