JIHI: Digital Graffiti

26 March - 17 May 2020

Pontone Gallery introduces the exuberantly-graphic paintings of South Korean artist, JIHI. Young and female, she is a creature of digital culture, intimately familiar with its tropes and abbreviations. Her images owe something to the structures of graffiti, but are also, more importantly, aligned with the forms and usages of the screen.

 

JIHI paints clusters and sequences of symbols and pictograms in flat, bright colour. The compositions are assertively decorative, eschewing any spatial depth. Occasional letterforms spell out banal slogans, echoing the simple concepts of online attention- seeking. We see a network of layers of cryptic, coded information where the meaning is unknown or awaits translation. The work expresses the chaos and excitement of the contemporary digital message-stream, where bursts of quick-fire, compressed information are sprayed enthusiastically into the ether.

 

What are we to decipher? It is easy to interpret alienation in these pieces: they are dense with equivocal and inexplicable signage. However, their very density and surface excitement stimulate enquiry. Formal qualities of shape, colour and dynamic composition seduce the eye.

 

The artist seems to pose the question: how do we negotiate a world full of multiple alerts and differing messages couched in a babel of many languages and visual signs? Competition for our attention from all sorts of agencies is intense. How does one sift through the chaos for significance, usefulness and relevance? Her paintings, in their playful and faux-naif immediacy, hint at such questions. These pictures are a visual simulacrum of the process of 21st century digital communication - something that is mundane, unremarkable and mostly of little significance, but is, nevertheless, an essential part of contemporary life.

 

JIHI's effervescent and animated paintings present us with an idea of 'message' and ask us to think about what the content might be.