Critic's Note: Patterns – Mandalas of the Commonplace
Lee Joong Keun’s patternwork with digital photography offers a visual experience of everyday images repeated and endlessly reproduced ad infinitum. The painting he creates with patterns is an archive of imagery representative of the artist’s unique parody, humor, wit, subversion, and puzzling imagination, as it is also the transformation and compounded groupings of images retrieved from reality. The photographic images that Lee Joong Keun selects and composes represent the dichotomy and complexity of Korean society mutated by the artist’s visual knowledge. That is, they are visual images of the artist’s Self within reality, and of the representations of his Self.
The repetitive reproduction of the decorative patternwork is the object of lighthearted pleasurable perception wherein exists a kaleidoscope of reality. Inherent in the units of the abstract pattern lies the complex lives of individuals and communities. And all these narratives of the everyday are interwoven into a systematic iconography in the repetitions and replicated patterns of Lee Joong Keun. Grotesque fantasies and uncannily graceful iconography is perceived as mere pattern as it is perceived as abstract beauty--forewarning that life is disguised and incongruous as poison is sweet and beautiful. The visual illusion and the actual reality underneath the illusion have been transpositioned by digital photography.
The abstraction in the pattern signifies life, but the structured vision of the reproduced simulacra and its repetition is isolated from all reality. Thereby life is both expanded and withdrawn, as the artwork visually illustrates a systematized slice of our world. Above all else, it is the humor that is most attractive in his artwork. There is a continuum of true and false exchange in the repetition and reproduction in this abstract pattern of iconographic images. And the predicament of the glimpses of life reflected in this artwork is bizarre and yet humorous.
Furthermore, the example of Lee Joong Keun’s patternwork rekindles a new possibility for contemporary art. He aims to go beyond the boundaries of conventional painting and sculpture since existing artwork, whether kept in storage or in galleries, all occupy consistent form and mass. But the artist’s unique working method of endless mutation of a singular pattern is an example of art in the digital age which enables a flexible existence that can adapt its dimensions according to space and setting. As presented in several exhibitions, the artist applies his unique pattern work to wallpaper, clothing, furniture, interior architecture, and also outdoor spaces in his aggressive experimentation with expressive alternatives. Not only is it about expanding the artistic medium, it also implies an expansion of the exhibition space, expanding his art into environmental spaces. As Lee’s art illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art in crossing genre borders, it is a strong example of contemporary art infiltrating real life. Lee Joong Keun is an artist that uses digital photographic patterns and applies the concepts of expansion and contraction to his work, surmounting fixed artistic formats and pushing for flexible forms of artistic expression.