WHO WE ARE?
The works of textile artist June Lee explodein youreyes first with itsintense ‘colors’. It looks like a flower garden full of colorful and sweet stories, but it is a remarkable camouflage. June Lee is famous for herhuman-shape-8inch miniature work ‘Bystanders’. Shecalls out and question ‘individuals’ who have an excellent ability to hide their existence in the crowd. ‘Who are you?’, ‘Do you live a life you have chosen by your own will?’ The colorful threads and patterns easily break the boundaries of people who hate talking about difficult stories.
The themeof your works you constantly haveledis ‘Human’. In your graduation project at Cranbrook Academy of Arts ‘Who We Are?’, you brought out ‘hands under the desk’ in which the students who live the same life take different actions using20 male student uniforms and 20 female student uniforms.
My interests are ‘colors’ and ‘human bodies’. I took anatomy classes the most at school, and at some point I becamecurious. Is it aninterest I have in showing the human body as it is, or is itan interest in showing the inner workings of humans? Then a question wasremaining, ‘From whom can we say does the most basic human form start with? I have been working on starting with ‘me’, the person I know best since my master’s degree. And I have been gradually expanding my interests to a wider range from small groups, such as family and friends, including myself.
When I look at the work based on yourexperiences while living in a social environment with a different cultural background, I can see the hybrid identity.
It is because I moved to the US after I graduated from high school. I was always insecure while I was living alone in the US as a foreigner, a woman, and an Asian. Every time there were shooting incidents and someone died in the school, I used to think who could ‘prove my existence’. The anxiety that I would become one of the people who becamenothing always followed me like a shadow.
이준 작가는, 똑같아 보이는 형상들을 반복해 사용하면서도
각각에 개성을 입히는 요소들을 사물화를 통해 병치시킨다.
Apart from the color, the characteristic ‘pattern’ of Bystanders emphasizes individuality.
The Bystanders, in which I originally aimed for100, is a work that selects colors that express the life of a person and wind a thread throughthem. I wasn’t satisfied with the first outcome, so I made it again. And I thought it was not enough to show one person in one color. I intended to put their personality in colors and patterns, and I set up characters by recalling people I know. I have created ‘one human’ by combining the feelings that I got from afriend of friend, their cousins and acquaintances through them, people seen in news, characters in books. I pay attention not to overlap the characters of Bystanders becausetheir individuality is important. I give each items a number, accumulated them in archives, and recorded the work by date. I have made 650 pieces so far, and I can find the colored thread used in each number and repair them.
You received a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship in US in 2015 and brought many experiences in many countries such as Pier2 Artist in Residency in Taiwan and European Ceramic Work Center in Netherland. And you are going to move to Sculpture Space in Utica, central N.Y.?
Vermont, where I did my first residency program, is a small town three hours away from NY, and the culture shock from in this place led me to start ceramic work. It was funny that I found a Goryeo celadon miniature in such an isolated environment. The ceramic souvenir, obvious to anyKorean that was bought inInsa-dong in Korea, first put me in mind of ‘our history’. But it was new that it was just a an ornamental propor a pretty souvenir for foreigners who don’thave the background knowledge. In the past Goryeobanned exporting celadon overseas, but it is also new that this is the era where Goryeo celadon can easily go abroad and exist. In order to start the ceramic work ‘His History’ and I needed to learn a more specialized study, so I applied to European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands where they have a ceramic specialized residency. Basically, ceramics are an index that shows the history of a country, but it was fresh that people from many different backgrounds work in the same place. I had mostlybeen doing residency program in the US until that time, but I wanted to have a challenge in a new environment. Especially in Europe,where there are so many artists of different nationalities gathered. It is the space between new stimulation and empirical knowledge where curiosity is born.
You have always been working on works that clearly show of the shape of human bodies or forms of large groups.
In the future, I plan totalkabout ‘living’ through the works. If I have been talking about ‘existence’ that a person is somewhere so far, now I am going to look deeply into the ‘life’ that aperson has. To be exact, I should say it is going to be about ‘houses’.
You have worked with some companies and brands such as Nike, Samsung Electronics, Simone, Louis Quatorze not to mention collaborating with the artist Jun Yung Kang whileworking on works combining a diversity ofelements.
The most interesting collaboration I had never tried beforewasthe leather work with Louis Quatorze. I made a chair by borrowing the ‘edge coat’ work which is colored to finish the edge of the leather. The most thrilling thing was that it was a new world in which it was possible to combine any colors I wanted apart from the basic edge coat color.
Where does the thirst for thisdiversity of colors springfrom?
Rather than a thirst, I think it is theaccumulated memories in me from my childhood play. My mom, who majored in East Asianpainting, owned many colorful pigments, and there was me, who was playing by mixing with melting pigments in a small plate. She didn’t say a word about it, and didn’t send me to an art school or preparatory school. The main factor of having my color chart is the experience of playing by mixing colors in a plastic eggbox all day. Because I have a natural experience, I don’t have to worryabout what color it could be when I mix colors together.
WRITE Nammi Chang(Contents Director of ARTMINE) PHOTOGRAPHY Juyeon Lee
이준 | JUNE LEE
June Lee was born in Seoul and move to US when shewas 18 years old. He gained his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting and MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Fiber. He held his solo exhibition <Who We Are?> at Kips Gallery in New York in 2012, and <Bystander> at Pier2 Art Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 2016. Lee is keeping on holding his exhibition around the world such as US, Switzerland, Netherland, Italy, Belgium, France and Korea. He explores duality of the modern people who are also individual with personality and a member of social group and focus on the social phenomenon which is happening to them. June Lee concentrated on negative conditions such as bystander effect, mass psychology, scapegoating, and biases. https://www.junelee.kr