“Just like when Newton discovered gravity with the apple, I was happy when I found dopamine – a neurotransmitter produced in the brain when we feel pleasure,” said Dopamine.C. The artist uses Dopamine as his pen name, and this serves as proof that “The discovery of dopamine became a very important starting point [for me].” Dopamine.C gives form and color to dopamine, which exists as chemical sign or text but does not have ‘form’, with his imagination and brings dopamine into existence. His goal is that “I hope the form of dopamine used throughout the world is made by me.”



Dopamine Choi, who participated in the exhibition <Shackle and Nose Ring> at the OCI Museum of Art deals with the dilemma of an art work and a living work. He assumed that the exhibition space is a ‘Brain’ and showed the scene of Dopamines’ activities and the connection of various thought rings, their coherence and disintegration.

Dopamine Choi, who received a great response from young collectors at KIAF Art Seoul 2019, is into supermarkets these days. After getting married, “I was addicted to the space where the healthiest shopping comes into action, and the time I spend in a place full of things stimulates my five senses.” Anything can be his work, as long as he can feel the activity of dopamine which makes him feel happy by raising the enjoyment of anything in his daily life. Even mankind’s mystery, ‘Love’. When discovering that he himself was addicted to situations when finding a ‘refuge’, like a movie or game in order to overcome the sense of loss in separation, it was as if he got an accidental chance to realize that the mysterious dopamine had a ‘duality’. “Originally, my works were the irony of happiness and addiction. I was just focusing on other things to find the feeling of happiness, and I experienced the symptom that I was addicted to them. And I found out that mental strength and willpower are also involved in dopamine hormones in the brain through years of research. Dopamine deficiency causes a loss of desire and motivation, and is a cause of depression and Parkinson’s disease. However, excessive secretion causes addiction, which makes extreme wakefulness, OCD, mental storm, megalomania, and so on. It was interesting that dopamine is an extremely ‘two-faced hormone’ with positive and negative in extremes. Since then, I tried to draw the countless ‘fantasies’ in my brain by giving shape to dopamine as a character.”

Dopamine & Jennifer, 2019. acrylic on canvas. 116.8 x 91 cm
Dopamine & Jennifer, 2019. acrylic on canvas. 116.8 x 91 cm

A unique character appeared to the world in 2014. Starting with the graphic novel ‘The Brilliant Sun’ that he published while working as an illustrator in the UK, he has shown a character in various works such as drawings, paintings, videos, art toys, and collaboration projects with companies and brands. The Dopamine Character, with infinite darkness and empty looking ‘eyes’ like black holes, has a human body shape but no expression. “The Dopamine Character isn’t even able to show his expression because it doesn’t have eyebrows and a mouth, I tried to convey cerebral emotional paths through their various actions or number of individuals. Since hormones exist in the brain, I attached hairs to it and I made its shape like a brain wrinkle. Of course, it’s all my imagination.” Dopamine Choi, the creator of the cute but weird Dopamine, continued to talk about the utility value of ‘addiction’ enjoyed in one’s life without losing oneself. The work ‘Marriage’, which is the most notable title among his recent works, holds an important clue. Dopamine gives a stimulating and thrilling pleasure, while serotonin gives the subtle and small happiness. If dopamine opens ‘the door’ as a strong motivation, serotonin’s role is to continuously keep the pleasure and pave the ‘way’. The neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’, which has recently started to make an appearance in Dopamine Choi’s ‘fantasy system’, delights in surfing the boundary between happiness and addiction. It is not only a material that can be compatible with the ultimate goal of art, which asks and ponders for the sake of finding some value, but also an element that explores the ego of ‘I’ who lives as a social being in constant conflicts. This means that fantasy is delivered through the dopamine found in all people’s stories which the artist discovered by chance one day and became the artist’s source of inspiration. The main keywords connected to the Dopamine Character making an appearance in front of us are #dopamine #brain #happiness # addiction # duplicity #pink.

life of dopamine_1, 2015. mixed media on canvas. 84.1 x 118.9 cm
life of dopamine_1, 2015. mixed media on canvas. 84.1 x 118.9 cm
life of dopamine_2, 2015. mixed media on canvas. 84.1 x 118.9 cm
life of dopamine_2, 2015. mixed media on canvas. 84.1 x 118.9 cm

The character made by giving a specific shape to dopamine is also interesting, but it is surprising that it is such an intense pink color!
It is not important what the dopamines do in the work. Because the Dopamine Character is the object that implies and conveys the story of the four elements of the primitive brain – appetite, sexual desire, pursuit of safety and self-esteem. Pink color is also one of the keywords that symbolizes the brain. Pink looks like a very delicious and sexual color, but my pink is very violent compared to other artists who use a very feminine pink. It was interesting that the color pink, something that I had never used before going to the UK for studying at the age of 28, had an undertone of an intensity and social taboos. A work using pink and black color together is a way by which I could to make my own elements.

The color black is mainly applied as an outer ‘line’ element.
The black line is important as an element as it results in creating harmony between my drawing and painting.

marriage_2, 2019. acrylic on canvas. 72.7 x 60.6 cm
marriage_2, 2019. acrylic on canvas. 72.7 x 60.6 cm

Dopamine is an activity in the brain, so you said you didn’t know what shape it could be drawn as. While you observe your surroundings, the reinterpreted images are also revealed. What kind of things do you have interest in?
It is much more detailed than choosing color. Because it is a work about drawing the inside of the brain, I obviously express in picture through things that I am addicted to in some part, and then ask people, “What about your brain?” I am addicted to supermarkets these days. Everything, such as the scent, color, flavor, and even the visually rich packages, was dopamine. I put those things in my picture, but I don’t show the supermarket in it. I just leave the title as a clue. I hope, depending on the viewer, people will feel ‘I am happy for something, and I am in this condition.’ or ‘this is the condition I am addicted to.’ My works with pop art elements could only be seen as a ‘condition’ in which a strange creature appears. So, bit by bit, I have been including elements about the brain these days.

Kill The Oxytocin, 2018. acrylic on resin. 170 x 75 x 52 cm
Kill The Oxytocin, 2018. acrylic on resin. 170 x 75 x 52 cm
kill the mother of dragon, 2015. ceramic, mixed media. 30 x 15 x 37 cm
kill the mother of dragon, 2015. ceramic, mixed media. 30 x 15 x 37 cm

You majored in engraving in Korea and illustration in the UK. Starting with drawing graphic novels, you have expanded your works to include paintings, installations, art toys, videos and other multi-media.
Naturally. It was like the point of becoming an ‘artist’, when I studied and worked on what I wanted to do. I was afraid to be an artist, but I was challenged more because of it. It may be because of this that I intentionally made books or art toys in a different direction rather than by orthodox working methods. This is the same reason I studied illustration in London. I wanted to draw pictures, but I pursued practical works that can be widely used. After I came back to Korea, I studied Photoshop Illustrator and ZBrush, an umbrella terms of 3D tool, and I made 3D dopamine and met Kitschs team. The success of ‘ART TOY CULTURE’ exhibition with Kitschs team, and the consecutive participation in the START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery all happened by accident. I happened to know Seoul Art Space Sindang, so I worked as a 9th resident artist and I had two sole exhibitions in 2018. While I worked as a 10th resident artist this year, I was noticed by the curator of Gallery Sejul and participated in the exhibition and also KIAF Art Seoul. It is amazing. I just do my work for fun, but the path has continued.

dopamine toy series 1-4, 2015 - 2018
dopamine toy series 1-4, 2015 - 2018
도파민 세계관의 기틀을 만든 그래픽 노블.
도파민 세계관의 기틀을 만든 그래픽 노블.

You got a satisfactory outcome at the KIAF Art Seoul 2019 and met collectors directly on the spot.
I was surprised at the purchasing power of young collectors. There were many people who noticed me who had been working in various media, with the response to the drawing works as high as the paintings.

What do you think are the most important parts among the internal elements composing the canvas, such as composition, arrangement, repetition and conversion?
I just placed the four elements as I interpreted them. Even if I am abstract, I think the picture should look delicious. Just like there is diversity in the delicious-looking dishes, I don’t think there is a single character or technique in my paintings yet. I just draw what I want to do at that time, but in the case of things that look delicious, sexual, and pursue safety, I think my picture has a duplicitous feeling. This means they look very anxious and stable at the same time, and I tried to retain this part. I can’t say it in one decision, but it will definitely come out of the formative part. However, it is difficult to define the shape. I think my own model should be very anxious and stable on the canvas. Then I think there is a depth and interest in the painting. After that there is my self-esteem. That is precisely what drawing dopamine is about. I am drawing or making in a way that hides the four elements and reveals them at the same time.

Dopamine code_1, 2018. mixed media. 83 x 103 cm
Dopamine code_1, 2018. mixed media. 83 x 103 cm

What is the exact meaning of a delicious-looking picture?
Taste is a frequent subject for me. I maintain the habit of choosing with my statistics and challenging new things little by little. Even though I find an unknown taste, a strange and new taste, if I repeat tasting it, it will eventually be imprinted as a habit. Works consequently try to keep ‘habit’ through brain function. (It is the sense of stability.) I am generally good at a new challenge for someone who doesn’t have any foundation in and practice cooking. While I am cooking, it feels similar to mixing paints. When I draw pictures, I somehow try to stay away from my habit. I think it is because I don't yet have my own technique or style, but it will gradually keep changing. So, I like and favor ‘current’ work that is fresh and hot. Works from the past don’t seem so tasty. My current works are overflowing with too much dopamine. I am thinking how I can bring more creativity while I adjust the excess dopamine. I am pursuing more complicated, acidic, and diverse flavors of pictures. Someday, I want to draw pictures without dopamine.

Please tell us about the almost-finishing picture that we filmed today.
The content is about fine dust, but the title is supermarket. The supermarket, the source of addictions which penetrated my brain like fine dust, and Dopamine’s gas masks are connotative symbols that express the ‘safety pursuit’. The word ‘safety pursuit’ is difficult, but it can be amusingly divided into three categories. One is the dog’s brain of outcome pursuit, then the reptile’s brain of pursuing safety, and the human brain with self-esteem. This work placed the concept of fine dust because I wanted to express the state of a reptile’s brain.


The studio of Dopamine.C. who works as the 9th and 10th resident artist at Seoul Art Space Shindang in the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture. ‘Drawings’ found throughout this space is a ‘start point’ that is the basis of his work which is revealed in various media including paintings.


One drawing a day is his motto, but when his dopamine explodes, he can draw several pieces of papers. It is a playground where he freely exercises his imagination without any ruts.

The resident artists at Seoul Art Space Sindang united exhibition is still in progress from last year extending to this year. This year’s theme is <Start Love>.
I planned to make a ceramic work based on drawings with the ceramic artist. We integrated the progress of research, drawing and even external evaluation on the subject of ‘Love’. It was interesting that I worked with another artist while we shared resulting techniques between the artists. I think it was an opportunity to make something newer, not customary. I learned more about approaching drawing methods. It is about the ability to more instinctually turn a piece of paper into a playground.



The black outline, which is contrasted to the intense pink, clearly divides all the symbols in the picture. Dopamine Choi makes a picture where his drawing and painting are matched through the outline.

You like drawing on A4 size paper, scanning it, storing it on the tablet, and moving it over to a canvas.
I base the drawing within a scannable A4 sized piece of paper. I desire to do everything only by drawing. I can scan it and convert it into ai file, beam it onto a mural, print it out on sheet and put it on a picture, and you can just look at the screen and draw it. But I don’t like drawing on the computer. If I draw something on the computer, then I don’t have any creativity at all. This is also matter of the brain, as I think my brain feels the space in the computer is very small. Even though it’s only a A4 size paper, it is still much wider.

_MG_3946 - 2

What did you want to say through the exhibition <Shackle and Nose Ring> at the OCI Museum of Art?
The intention of the exhibition itself is about an art work and a living work, but I think I am always on a seesaw. It is like a game of seesaw where the art work is ahead of the living work, and suddenly the living work jumps ahead and beats the art work, and then the art work comes back to win again. However, I feel that my living work, such as collaborations and outsourcing activities, follows my art work. I wanted to show such a situation at the exhibition. So, I drew a scene where the huge brain mountain exploded, a longing and craving behind it, and there is Dopamine sitting on the railing in the distance, holding a dangerous rope. Luckily, there is a signpost, so there is also hope that all will go well.

And there is also an exit.
Yes, I don’t know what type of exit it is yet, but there is a signpost, so there is hope. So, I will try to have time to focus on my work rather than on other activities in the future. Unless it is an especially interesting project, I will avoid doing a lot of small exhibitions.


Dopamine.C majored in engraving at Chugye University for The Arts and illustration and animation at Kingston University in England. He expresses the series of Dopamine, which was born based on his graphic novel <The Brilliant Sun> published in 2014, in various media. He was interested in the world view of artists, such as Murakami Takashi of Japan, graffiti artist Banksy of England, the front runner of YBA (Young British Artist) Damien Hirst, and Gerhard Richter of Germany. He participated in the START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery. He works as the 9th and 10th resident artist at Seoul Art Space Shindang in the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture (2018-2019), and presides over CoP (Community of Practice) project every year. He held solo exhibitions <Dopamine Lab> at Gallery Omae and <Pink Brain> at Public-Gallery and participated in the START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery in 2017. He has participated in more than 20 group exhibitions since 2016 and has been working on activities that cross the boundaries between art and commerce through art collaboration with Nike Korea, The Booth Brewing Co., Novita, Tenga, Handu, and so on.  https://cargocollective.com/jonghwan

매거진 <아트마인>에 게재된 기사의 모든 사진과 텍스트는 저작권법에 의해 보호되는 아트마이닝㈜의 저작물입니다.
사전 동의 및 출처 표기 없는 무단 복제 및 전재를 금합니다.
작품 이미지 © 도파민최 – ARTMINING, SEOUL, 2019