In the center of the table, a purple jelly absorbs tears. Presences accumulate all around: masked or duplicated figures observe us alongside modelled plants, animals and monsters. Personified objects, hypnotised beings, connected yetis – this is the strange and stimulating universe of Grip Face and Miju Lee’s first exhibition in Paris. Inspired by the limitless realms of science fiction, manga and anime as well as the underground art of the 1990s in the United States, their worlds are a rush towards post-humanism. The works are inhabited by avatars, and take on themes of gender, identity and digital anxiety.
Find an offline shelter presents a set of new creations at Galerie Joseph, results of a residency in Majorca during which Grip Face and Miju Lee collaborated for the first time. Paradoxically, it is in this haven of tranquillity, sun and solitude that the two artists bonded over their questions about the visual saturation of our daily lives. This period of emotional and physical residency was an opportunity to learn from each other and create together. Thus, Grip Face and Miju Lee create unique work that is both manual and digital: they go from painting to image, which they redraw by computer, and vice versa. Proceeding by addition, the duo produces large-scale works. The layers accumulate and reveal a profusion of stories.
Supported by the Colección SOLO (Madrid) and La BIBI gallery (Palma de Mallorca), the exhibition reveals the intellectual, human and cultural encounter of these two artists with shared interests. Originally from Spain, David Oliver, known as Grip Face, creates eclectic and colourful visual universes. His paintings and installations are the fruit of a heritage drawing on post-punk, androgyny and alternative cultures. In an appealing mix of textures, shapes and figures, his creations highlight our digital overexposure. For Miju Lee, a South Korean artist, the canvas is a surface that hosts a multitude of imagined or lived stories: the elements accumulate and blend into the background in a flattened perspective. She composes interior landscapes – which layer plants, books, butterflies, cigarettes and figurines – a collection of beings and objects brought together like so many memories of a lifetime.
Although the works adopt playful and non-academic forms, a disquiet gradually emerges from them. Like a screen, the windows overlap and pop randomly, mixing screenshots, literary references, conversations and emojis. These narrative layers reveal the fears of a connected and saturated generation, looking for meaning. Around us Miju Lee’s alienated faces distort and then fade away. Through mirror games involving the audience, Grip Face shapes hybrid, masked or hollowed-out creatures. The erasure of these figures reveals a contemporary dysfunction: the need, after being overexposed, to disappear. If the mask acts as a protection against identification, it is here the symbol of a society forced into mass technological development, superficial – now virtual –relationships and the progressive dehumanisation of our lives. Find an offline shelter reflects a society of the spectacle with a thousand and one disguises, idealising a “social relation among people, mediated by images”. In contrast, the community of yetis that takes over the exhibition space seems to be charged with caring and sympathy.
However, the works of Grip Face and Miju Lee combat nostalgia and offer the public a horizon of possibilities. The broad spectrum of colours, the cohabitation of beings and the use of satire are the necessary ingredients for the renewal they propose. Situated between the poetic and the political, their works reveal communities of gender-neutral avatars evolving among a multitude of beings. These microcosms reflect a society that is changing biologically, and whose advanced technologies increase the individual’s ability to transform themselves, to become mutants, plurals. If this unlimited perspective brings its concerns, it is above all revealing of a quest for gender identity that demands the freedom of material and sexual self-determination. Grip Face and Miju Lee refuse the physical limits of the universe and depict pink-orange, textured, asexual worlds in which dream and reality intertwine – unique and subjective worlds.
It is through this fundamental hybridity that prohibits aesthetic dogmatism that Grip Face and Miju Lee seal their collaboration. Slowing down, listening, questioning, disconnecting: the works created for the occasion are the result of long conversations carried out by the two artists over the past few months. The duo takes us into a whirlwind of images and forms, trying to lay bare the fears, doubts and expectations of a generation affected by the digitalisation of the world. Yet these are deliberately collected and interlaced. If the objects we exhibit online or on our shelves reveal and define our individuality, it is precisely because they are an assemblage of personal memories and interests – the result of a constantly changing selection. Like polymorphous avatars, these objects are the spokespersons of our identity. Grip Face and Miju Lee pay homage to all those beings that inhabit us.