Artist and illustrator Miju Lee works across two- and three-dimensional mediums with equal style. The Busan-based illustrator paints outdoor murals, creates large-scale illustrations and delicately illustrates various still-lifes, exhibiting across South Korea in solo and group shows alike. “I started my career by drawing small, everyday emotions or scenes that I felt I couldn’t express in words”, she tells It’s Nice That.
For Miju, creative inspiration comes easy. In the last year alone, she’s completed a number of commercial commissions on top of showing vast quantities of personal work. Always painting by hand, Miju says that artistic inspiration is “never forced out of [her]”, but flows naturally once she starts talking about ideas that interest her.
Predominantly, the theme that carries all her work is human emotion. “On the surface, people appear like they are experiencing different emotions as everyone is in a different situation”, adds Miju, “but if you explore each person’s roots, there may be similar joy, sadness or enlightenment at the centre.” Exploring these overarching emotions at the nucleus of her work, Miju illustrates fleeting moments that represent the individual memories and feelings that we experience. Whether its a candid portrait, or a stark brick wall, the artist depicts subjective experiences that are unified through human emotion.
In one recent piece, Wiggle Waggle Faces, the artist creates an installation made up of a mass of large wooden cuboids. The cubes are stacked up, piled high in the gallery space while each side depicts a different subject painted in Miju’s signature style of decisive flatness. Though the images on each side of the boxes may appear arbitrary, in fact, each side depicts a memory relating to a core emotion. “I want to paint pictures that connects the viewer with the common emotions in the work”, adds the artist.
When it comes to her installation work, Miju is interested in the “free and natural beauty” that comes with being out of control, surrounded by a mass of painted objects that she can rearrange into a composition of her choice. She works intuitively and spontaneously to curate the large, experiential works and likens the process to “drawing in space”.
She says on this matter, “I go into a space and make something new. The scale, movement and thinking process is completely different.” While she is tasked with these kinds of installs, Miju likes to work quietly and alone, focusing her whole attention to the physically and mentally demanding venture. Luckily for Miju, she’s recently discovered that “physical work is fit for [her] constitution” and as the size of the installation grows, she resultantly creates a 3D painting that moves with the viewer, becoming “a living thing” in itself.
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