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A collage of tattooed body parts

A digitized collage of tattooed body parts assembled by artist Kim Joon is strikingly shocking to many viewers.

Different body parts ― a torso, an ear, a leg and thigh and a finger ― are tattooed and juxtaposed in aesthetic harmony, prompting both awe and curiosity.

In a country where tattoos are not yet widely accepted as a way to express oneself, Kim has been making artwork featuring various tattooed body images since the beginning of his artistic career 20 years ago.

He creates images of bodies using three-dimensional software that animation studios use to create characters such as Elsa and Anna of “Frozen.” He then imprints patterns and images on the skin and creates a colorful and beautiful assemblage of body parts. 

“Somebody-003” by Kim Joon (Park Ryu Sook Gallery)
“Somebody-003” by Kim Joon (Park Ryu Sook Gallery)

The digitized images of tattooed human bodies has attracted wide attention in Korean and international art circles. Recently, he was selected as one of 44 emerging artists from 25 countries by New York-based Tagore Foundation International to showcase works at an exhibition in Venice held alongside the Venice Biennale running until Nov. 22.

In Seoul, Kim is holding a solo exhibition at Park Ryu Sook Gallery finishing Sunday. His new works feature digitally rendered images of body parts tattooed with images of leather prints, cartoon characters and images, including Oriental animals and landscape paintings.

“My new works are my everyday journals. The images are based on what I see every day,” said Kim in a phone interview.

What has caught Kim’s eyes recently have been fashion accessories he has spotted during overseas trips. He borrowed patterns from leather shoes and bags and inscribed them on the digitally rendered skin. 

Artist Kim Joon (Park Ryu Sook Gallery)
Artist Kim Joon (Park Ryu Sook Gallery)

But the images are in fact the artist’s attempt to bridge the gap between the ideal world he imagines as an artist and the cash-strapped reality.

“I thought of a lot of wonderful ideas when I was at my studio, but reality emerged after I came back home looking at utility bill notices on my doorstep. They completely separated myself from what I saw at the studio. The most stressful thing was having to manage each day when I was young. I began to think it’s all derived from the matter of a physical body,” he explained.

He separated body parts from the torso to make them look like beautified objects, like displays on a shelf.

“At one point, we, human beings, have become products, judged by salaries we make,” he said.

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By Lee Woo-young (