INTERVIEW: How Artists Grip Face and Miju Lee Found an Offline Shelter for Creative Expression in Mallorca
Ahead of their joint exhibition in Paris, Hypebae caught up with the two artists to explore their views on gender, identity and digital anxiety.
When Spanish artist David Oliver, known as Grip Face, and South Korean artist Miju Lee first connected on Instagram, little did they know that their shared appreciation for art and love of Maltese dogs would lead them to live and work together on a Spanish island for four months, let alone co-creating an exhibition for the prestigious Galerie Joseph in Paris.
Grip Face’s fascination with the stimulating allure of oriental cartoons and Lee’s love for the warmth of Barcelona’s sun and colors sparked their admiration for each other’s creative practices, resulting in a connection that transcends borders and language. Yet it was their shared concern for digital overexposure and the fast-paced nature of our modern world that ultimately brought them together for this project.
Supported by the Colección SOLO (Madrid) and LA BIBI Gallery (Palma de Mallorca), their exhibition “Find an Offline Shelter” is a unique collaboration of manual and digital art that presents a profusion of stories revolving around themes of gender, identity and digital anxiety. The showcase’s narrative reveals the fears of a connected and saturated generation, looking for meaning.
“Find an Offline Shelter” reveals communities of gender-neutral avatars evolving among a multitude of beings, reflecting a society that is changing biologically and whose advanced technologies increase the individual’s ability to transform themselves. Grip Face and Lee refuse the physical limits of the universe and depict pink-orange, textured, free asexual worlds in which dream and reality intertwine.
In this haven of tranquility, sun and solitude, Hypebae caught up with the two artists to better understand their perspective on our ever-changing society and how the evolving nature of gender identity and the role of advanced technologies is shaping it. “Find an Offline Shelter” is a powerful and emotionally engaging message that speaks to the fluidity of our modern world and the need to embrace it. The exhibition will be available to view from May 12-22.
Keep scrolling to read the full interview.
There’s quite a lot to assimilate from “Find an Offline Shelter,” the sudden realization that the world we live in has taken such a fast pace, the constant feeling of visual saturation or the sudden, visceral urge to disconnect from screens and the digital world. But before we dive into those big topics, we should discuss how a project like this, between two artists from very different cultures, comes to be.
GF: This project came about when Marc Bibiloni, LA BIBI Gallery’s Director, suggested the idea of doing an exhibition project. I’ve had an extremely dynamic past few years, launching exhibitions, traveling extensively and having little time for reflection. So, I came up with the idea of doing a solo exhibition and inviting Miju to collaborate on a project that’s not just about exhibiting art, but also about living together. We wanted to break away from the stressful, fast-paced world and create a space for reflection.
Miju was excited about the idea, especially since we had never worked together before (except for a curatorial project three years ago). We aimed to make the project experiential and immersive, so we spent several months living and working together, which we have documented in a film. This baroque project may not be fashionable today, but we felt it was crucial to take the time to reflect and understand the images that surround us, particularly in the age of digital anxiety and artificial intelligence.
We intentionally invited Miju because I have studied her work over the last few years and realized that her iconography and symbolism have a lot in common with mine. We wanted people to see that this project is a fusion of two artists, where individual egos are lost and converted to a liquid. It was a deliberate choice to create a project that blurs the line between our work and makes it seem like it’s the same artist.
ML: Throughout my artistic career, I had never co-created paintings with another artist. Collaborating with David was definitely a challenge. However, I learned a lot from him, even though living together during the project was not always easy. Despite the challenges, the experience was ultimately rewarding.
David and I first connected online when I was living in South Korea. He expressed his appreciation for my art on Instagram, and we quickly discovered we both had a similar dog that we liked to paint. Additionally, we realized we had both lived in Barcelona around the same time, despite not knowing each other back then. It’s ironic how we connected digitally, but it’s a testament to the power of the internet in bringing artists from different parts of the world together.
Given that the exhibition, “Find an Offline Shelter,” explores themes of digital anxiety, it’s interesting to note that it approaches the future with optimistic eyes. What led you to take this approach, and how does it tie into its overall message and artistic vision?
GF: My perspective on life is both positive and pessimistic, creating a bittersweet outlook. This viewpoint is commonly shared by my generation, the millennials, who were brought up with the notion of a bleak future. My career as an artist started when I was 19 years old, in the midst of an economic crisis. This sense of bittersweetness has been present in my work since the beginning, reflecting a certain level of cynicism that characterizes our generation. We tend to be optimistic, but we also acknowledge the harsh realities of the world we live in. Our perspective is more nuanced than an overly simplistic, positive worldview.
What I want to convey is that our affinity for softer or more naive images is also a generational trait, as our brains are wired to process complex events and problems. In times of stress, we often seek distractions like cute animal videos or calming images that serve as a form of sedative for us. Despite our anxieties, we look towards the future with hope and optimism, striving to create a better world for ourselves and future generations.
ML: From my perspective, despite the negativity that seems to permeate our world, I hold an optimistic outlook. I choose to see the positive side of humanity, and I believe that questioning and reflecting on our situation can help us progress. It’s essential that we break free from our prejudices and move forward as a species. We have evolved, and I have no doubt that we will continue to do so. While it’s true that our physical bodies will one day pass, the speeches we give and the artistic creations we produce will continue to reflect our experiences and perspectives. These works will act as seeds for new ideas and new perspectives, inspiring future generations to come.
It’s clear that there’s a unique bond between the two of you, despite your vastly different cultural backgrounds. What do you think it is about your personalities and creative practices that allows you to connect so deeply with one another?
GF: I believe that our friendship and connection stems from our shared influences, particularly as neither of us pursued Fine Arts at an academic level. From a young age, I was exposed to oriental culture through the animation I watched, which was mainly Japanese and other Asian animation. My earliest drawings, dating back to when I was around five or six years old, were inspired by oriental art, and I began attending painting schools at a young age. As I grew older, my exposure to Asian culture continued to shape my artistic style, and I found myself drawn to the aesthetics and symbolism found in traditional Asian art. This common thread in our experiences has undoubtedly contributed to the deep connection between my Mijui and me.
ML: I believe that our shared experience of living in Barcelona, even though we were not aware of each other at the time, served as the starting point for friendship. Although we come from different backgrounds, our collaboration has shown us that by combining our unique perspectives, we can create something truly exceptional. The process of co-creation has been an enriching experience for me, as it has allowed me to discover previously unexplored facets of my creativity. Through this journey, I have gained a deeper understanding of myself as an artist, and have been able to delve into new avenues of expression with confidence and passion.
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