James Jean’s Eternal Journey: Seoul’s Best Art Exhibit

Bathers, Black Water North. Acrylic on Four Canvases, 120”H x 360”W, 2019.⠀

James Jean is an artist who constantly pushes the boundaries of his own psyche’s imagery, and it’s beautiful.

Art is as fragile as it is powerful. Holding a different definition for each person you ask, it can evoke emotion and tell a story by just simply existing. A victim of the prototype theory, art suffers from a distinct border around its definition, but in true art-like form, that’s totally fine.

James Jean, a widely-recognized top-tier artist, is currently holding an exhibition in the Lotte Museum of Art within the Lotte Tower in Seoul. My wife surprised me with some tickets, and off we went. Jean’s style is unique in its own right; a clean yet busy approach, often hyper-realistic in anatomy, but fantasy-like in figure. It made each person walking through the exhibit wonder what their own Eternal Journey consists of, while taking in the rich background story of each piece. I couldn’t pass this opportunity up. A quick word from my wife:

The art itself was quite hard to understand or grasp; I had no knowledge of Jean’s background going into the exhibit, so everything was new to me. However, the art itself was immaculate and it was very interesting seeing it in person.

The way the layers of color weaved in between each other and the style which adapted to each era in Jean’s life was impressive.

The sheer scale of some pieces reminded me a bit of Rothko’s work’s effect, meant to immerse the viewer further. Thoroughly enjoyable, from beginning to end.

Favorite piece was Bathers, in the “black and yellow” zone of the exhibit.

This exhibit changed the way I look at art, not so much as an art form in and of itself, but as a story which expresses an emotion or state of mind, at a certain time in the artist’s life, through both style and color. Color is huge within this exhibit. In fact, its the backbone. Based on 오방색, the traditional five colors within Korea’s history, each section is broken up into color-based fragments, each telling a story.

Blue is East, White is West, Red is South, Black is North, Yellow is Center


Quick Story: Why James Jean Blocked My Instagram

A quick story—back before Instagram had the ability to save photos in your Gallery before posting, I would use the DM feature to message James my edited photo, because I was a sucker for HDR and liked to apply two layers of filter per post. Heavily getting into art and design at the time, I came across the top artists — him, David Choe, Takashi Pom, and a few others.  I also take lots of food pictures, and archive them privately over the course of a few years. Several a day.

Over the years, I amassed several thousand pictures, and with no other way to save them in my Gallery, I would message James the picture, save the picture via the DM, then re-filter it to get my desired effect. I would DM James food pictures to filter, as storage, and DM Choe dishes I completed from recipes, as storage (Choe saw my Snap for a curry recipe while in Morocco, though). This saved tons of time, making the filtering process exponentially more efficient.

Eventually, it seemed as though James blocked my account due to this (I don’t blame him), while Choe never really checked his DM’s.

James, if you ever read this, whether you blocked me or it was some strange Instagram bug, I appreciate you checking out those food pics, however terribly filtered they were at the time. Your exhibit was the best I’ve ever been to, and is by far the best Seoul has seen in a very long time. Make more merch with your designs on them. I want Bathers on a shirt.


James Jean’s Eternal Journey: Seoul’s Best Art Exhibit