Atomaus has become the hallmark of the artist’s works and can be found playing in flower covered hills and gardens, contemplating flowers, eating noodles or just flying through a colorful imaginary space. Sometimes he is attacked by bombs and even hung on the cross like Jesus Christ. The works shown at ONE AND J. Gallery include the disruptive Atomaus split into pieces along with older Atomaus works portraying his innocent heroic image. As the artist himself has aged over the last thirteen years, the fully mature Atomaus sometimes smokes cigarettes, appears as a world destroying man wearing a uniform loaded with weapons like guns, knives, and bombs.
Lee’s works possess pop art aspects as he works with images acquired from existing iconic models. He uses various images that are mass produced; however, he does not use mediums of mass production such as print. All of his works are hand-painted. The perfect lines and tones make the paintings look like prints, generating an artificial and mechanical tone, but actually, his works are carefully painted on canvas using acrylic paint. Also, Atomaus’ costumes, color of hair and skin are constantly changing. Unlike industrial characters with fixed identities and form, Atomaus represents a character of multiple identities and also reflects the artist’s transforming emotions.
The solo exhibition “Smoking” at ONE AND J. Gallery features Atomaus inhabiting celebrated works of western art history. Unlike his previous works, the artist has made an attempt in this show to make works that appear more abstract. His work “Smoking” features Atomaus blowing streaks of colorful cigarette smoke from his mouth and eyes and the curvy stripes resembling color field abstraction indicates that the artist is consciously breaking down the boundaries between cartoons and fine art, pop and abstract, and subject and space. Through his work featuring Atomaus, a hybrid from birth and mingling the images from the past, the artist allows his viewers to understand that none of the contemporary art works can be completely original, only variations are possible.
Text excerpted from ONE AND J. catalogue essay by Kim Hee Kyung