There is something utterly mesmerising about the illustrations of Jee-ook Choi, the Seoul-based creative we picked as one of our Ones to Watch earlier this year. Partly this is down to the way that the surreal and the everyday often sit side by side in her drawings, forcing the viewer to study the images and what they’re really showing. Partly, though, it comes down to the sense of stillness she manages to convey. Many of Jee-ook’s illustrations appear to capture scenes that are frozen in time.
In one piece we wrote about last year, the foreground is dominated by a huge mobile, holding the planets suspended in space. The illustration also depicts the figure of a woman in the background, looking pensively out of a vast window on to the night sky. These are the hallmarks of much of Jee-ook’s portfolio to date – thoughtful, silent figures and still scenes, with any movement reduced to the barely perceptible swing of a mobile.
“My pictures tend to have a static feeling like time has stopped,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I like the feeling that you’re sitting idly for a long time, and if there are things moving around, I want the objects to just float in space.”
It should be said that movement isn’t completely lacking from her work, though. Last year we also wrote about her series Sprinting Balls, which featured her typical serene backdrops, but here they were broken up by bouncing balls that injected a real dynamism into the otherwise still scenes. “I got the idea from a technique used in cartoons to represent a sense of speed, while viewers imagine the escape of the ball,” she told us back then.
So Jee-ook is no stranger to movement. Nonetheless the brief we set her for this project – to interpret the lightness, airiness and coolness of Uniqlo’s AIRism range – was one that felt suitably new and exciting to her. The AIRism range is all about keeping you cool and dry in hot temperatures, with light fabrics that wick away sweat while maintaining comfort. The interpretation Jee-ook eventually landed on relied on each picture showing items of clothing and vast sheets of fabric, all so light that they are being carried away on an unseen breeze. Movement was essential. As always, Jee-ook started by taking lots of notes and looking at reference imagery. “My creation process is very simple,” she says.
“Once I’ve organised my thoughts with a few simple notes,” Jee-ook continues, “I can immediately draw them in my head and if the images are interesting to me, I will look for photographs that can help me recreate my imagination. This time I looked at a lot of fashion pictures to express the texture of cloth.”