Artist Spotlight

Joon Lee

There are some artists who make because they have no choice, and Joon Lee might just be one of those people. Like that deep, visceral, need-to-create-otherwise-I-may-cease-to-exist kind of compulsion. And we are grateful for that. His large-scale abstracts take heady concepts and express them in simple forms, to be hung and contemplated day after day.

Painting at this scale is a relatively new endeavor for you – what inspired the transition?


Large-scale paintings have enticed me ever since I was young. I remember walking through museums, staring at old masterpieces, in awe of their sizes, thinking, 'One day, I'll paint something of this size.' It's true what they say – there's a degree of satisfaction painting at such large scales ... letting the colors tower over me as if I'm faced with Goliath.



Would you say that your history in collage informs your paintings?


Yes, I'd say that hand-cut collaging disciplined and challenged how I juxtapose form, line, and color. Subconsciously, it trained my eyes to experiment until I was happy with the final composite.

Conceptually, what can paint on canvas express that other mediums cannot?


Painting on a canvas has unique qualities such as forced perspective and the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional material. With respect to numerous mediums, canvas work currently holds my attention longer as we can record through form and color... and that is intriguing to me.



Does this series speak to your identity? Or does it represent something outside of you?


The current series separates me from the canvas. I used to paint internal rhythm and emotion, but now I'm more interested in producing external consumption from my surroundings and the internet. Without the internet, I think I would just paint landscapes, to be honest.



If your art was an antidote, what would it remedy?


Anxiety, haha. I often hear people commenting on how my works, no matter what medium, are hypnotically calm and serene. Even though I don't intentionally place my characteristics into my work – I guess art brings out the creator's personality.


"I used to paint internal rhythm and emotion, but now I'm more interested in producing external consumption from my surroundings and the internet. Without the internet, I think I would just paint landscapes, to be honest."

How has institutional representation served you? How has self-representation served you?


Frankly, the only difference for me is the business side of art because being represented by reputable institutions isn't my primary goal, but it does help me reach my goal, which is to share my work as much as possible as that's what art is about – to share our experimentations.



What do you find surprising about being a career artist, if anything?


It's surprising how many people drop art when they realize the tribulation and extensive work ethic that goes into making art a career. From an outside perspective, I guess it's easy to see this path in rose-colored glasses. But I make art because I need to, such as breathing. Sometimes, it's torture that I need to create something to feel inner peace.



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