James Jean brings cinematic art to Seoul: The artist, known for movie posters, shows off his range in exhibit

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James Jean brings cinematic art to Seoul: The artist, known for movie posters, shows off his range in exhibit


“Aviary - Red Fire” was inspired by obangsaek, the five traditional Korean colors. [LOTTE MUSEUM OF ART]

James Jean, the Taiwanese-American artist who’s designed movie posters for Hollywood hits like “The Shape of Water” (2017) and “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), has a huge repertoire that transcends genres and medium. In his 18-year career, Jean, 40, has produced hundreds of works - oil paintings, comic book covers and more - often characterized by their fantastical imagery, colorful hues and striking attention to detail.

In a new exhibition that opens today at Lotte Museum of Art, southern Seoul, fans of the artist have the chance to step into Jean’s magical world and get up close to the artist’s famous and never-before-seen pieces.


Left: James Jean ahead of the opening of his new exhibition “James Jean: Eternal Journey” at the Lotte Museum of Art in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Wednesday. Right: “Descendents - Blue Wood” (2019), a new piece by Jean, is on display. [KIM EUN-JIN, LOTTE MUSEUM OF ART]

“James Jean: Eternal Journey,” held through Sept. 1 at the Lotte World Tower skyscraper’s own gallery space, includes 500 pieces - sketchbooks from the early 2000s, illustrated covers from DC Comics’ “Fables” series, paintings, drawings, sculptures, video art and more.

In a briefing held Wednesday just ahead of the exhibition’s opening, Jean introduced local press to several pieces making their global debut.

Among those presented was an illustrated movie poster for upcoming Korean supernatural-action film “The Divine Fury,” which stars Park Seo-joon, Ahn Sung-ki and Woo Do-hwan and is set for release in late July. In line with the movie’s ominous theme, the poster features a dozen of the film’s characters colored in bluish-black, decorated with traces of blood and shadows of pale, ghostly hands.


Posters James Jean designed for “Shape of Water” (2017) and “The Divine Fury,” set for release in July. [LOTTE MUSEUM OF ART]

“We have Sung-ki in the background and Seo-joon in the foreground as our hero, and Do-hwan looking very slick and evil in the background,” Jean explained. “I worked closely with the director Jason Kim and he wanted to include all the characters in the movie to create the effect of an entirely new universe of characters.”

Jean also unveiled nine pieces, including six 10 meter-long (33 feet) paintings, inspired by obangsaek, the five traditional Korean colors of white, black, blue, yellow and red. According to the artist, these works were specially designed and created for the exhibition and the museum space after Lotte approached Jean around two years ago.

“The inspiration for the show started when I visited Lotte Tower for the first time,” Jean said. “The shape of the museum is in a circle and I was trying to come up with a starting point for the show and I immediately thought of obangsaek.”

Jean’s new works are also inspired by other Asian imagery and elements like lotus flowers and porcelain.

“For ‘Stampede - Blue Wood,’ I created the image of stampeding blue horses. I liked the contrast between the fragile blue lines which reference Korean and Chinese porcelain painting and also the energy and violence that can be contained in the line.”

“‘Aviary - Red Fire’ was inspired by cormorant fishermen in China. They use birds to capture fish in a very traditional way but now the fishermen put on costumes for photographers so the tradition is actually more like an act. This painting, like many of my works, has a dream-like quality and is about longing for a past that no longer exists.”

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

Tickets for “James Jean: Eternal Journey” are 15,000 won for adults. Hours run from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays to Thursdays and through 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and weekends. For details visit www.lottemuseum.com.
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