Anyone who wandered round the Royal College of Art’s bustling degree show earlier this summer will have been pulled into an ugly and blobby but slightly cute world created by visual communication graduate, Junhyeok Shin.
Following on from his studies in moving image at Konkuk University in Seoul, Junhyeok moved to England to study at the RCA, where he has been moulding his ugly world ever since. His graduation project, Ugly Image Project: 2 Where the Wild Things Are, began when the designer started to ask questions about the digital world, such as “How does the digital environment create an unconsciously accumulated experience?”
To discuss, in the visual sense, whether this digital environment had actually morphed into a monstrous one Junhyeok created his own characters. With bulging eyes, slimy bodies and often gaping mouths, his characters aim to expose this environment with “superficial ugliness,” but also reveal how “the whole internet provides us with a bombardment that is in of itself, ugly,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Based on this idea, the monsters were created with found images using internet algorithms, such as ‘up next’ and recommendations, which led to further imagery.”
With his monstrous characters imagined, Junhyeok began building a visual communicative world for them to inhabit, taking shape in a series of posters, a publication and a video too. This part of Ugly Image Project began by “selecting one of the strange images I collected and retracing where this image came from, adding context through research,” he says. “Selecting this weird teeth-filling video capture image from YouTube as a starting point, I thought that this digital environment, one that provides a non-linear and densely-overlapped experience, itself is monstrous and ugly.” Another key influence of Junhyeok’s characters, and a reference many It’s Nice That readers will know well is Blinky from The Simpsons, the three-eyed fish caused by a nuclear power plant overdose.
In combining recommended references, familiar ones and his own personal interests and views on the digital world Junhyeok’s work is instantly visually pleasing while posing larger questions about how we interact with technology.
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