Feeling lost is a strange sensation, and it’s exactly the feeling that comes to mind looking through JaeHoon Choi’s work. The illustrations of the Seoul-based artist, animator and director are dense, packed with almost violently expressive linework. Yet, as you move through his portfolio, you are also often surrounded by negative space. This world of contrasts translates into the things JaeHoon draws, too. In one project, pebbles, small hovering shapes and crooked signs will litter sparse images. Yet in the next, giant watering eyes, engorged features, and black, cavernous holes take up the page. When the tone takes a dark turn, you still feel lost and very much like you might have stumbled down a wrong turn.
In 365 Nerve, a recent work from JaeHoon published by Prnt, with supporting design from Sparks Edition, the artist says he’s looking into his “innermost depressed self.” Functioning as a “record of recent years”, the book was created over 365 days of JaeHoon’s life. The mood shifts from foreboding to oddly peaceful throughout, but what really comes alive is JaeHoon’s ability to create almost cinematic scenes of adventure. In his comics, there is a recurring theme of people journeying through uncertain, dreamlike terrain; characters often meet at a crossroads in a deserted stretch of land or in dark inky forests. “When I was young, I lived in the country for a long time, and I think the emotion of being familiar with nature has a deep influence on my current work,” JaeHoon explains. “I think it’s good as an artist to be as honest as possible,” JaeHoon tells It’s Nice That, “365 Nerve is the most honest work for me.”
While much of JaeHoon’s work is occupied with dark and personal themes, his style translates seamlessly into the commercial world. The comic artist worked on a global campaign in collaboration with Montblanc recently, for their SkyWalker pen collection. Featuring an animation produced and directed by JaeHoon, SkyWalker is based on interviews with an actual astronaut, Leroy Chiao, who lived on a space station. “It is a work that contrasts the loneliness of the universe with the importance of the Earth,” JaeHoon explains. Somehow, the illustrator not only manages to carry the isolated sentiment of his personal works like 365 into branded work, but enriches them for it. His next work will build on this approach as a graphic novel made in collaboration with a science-fiction writer.
In the interim, JaeHoon’s artistic practice and interest in comics continues on (“I have about 5,000 comic books at home,” he says). While animating the words of a real-life astronaut is a project that seems hard to beat, we can’t wait to lay eyes on his next work, whether it’s more starry night sky or unsettling abyss.
(Copyright © JaeHoon Choi, 2021)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.