South Korean street artist Junkhouse believes that everything in existence is alive – and she literally means everything. From old buildings to street signs, she sees life in inanimate objects that people normally wouldn’t look twice at. Living in Seoul, she’s observed and experienced the city’s redevelopment over the last decade. In the city’s evolution, she’s come to see Seoul as one enormous organism, an ever-changing and evolving entity, one that has lent an undeniable influence on the direction of her own artistic style.
Junkhouse says the monsters and mutants who lurk in her work are reflective of the city’s never-ending metamorphosis. “They match the city’s continuously changing environment,” she explains, pausing. “I suppose that’s also why my work has become more abstract.” Whether on random street corners or in an art gallery, the signature aesthetic of Junkhouse’s artwork is unmistakable: bright colors and amorphous shapes, all of which swirl together and bring to life the strangely adorable creatures of her imagination.
In her ongoing project City Life, Junkhouse transforms the seemingly insentient objects of cities – from drab walls to industrial machinery – into cheerful creatures. “I carry around stickers of eyes, noses, and mouths every time I visit a new city or a new neighborhood so that I can meet new creatures and give them life,” she says. “Everything differs in size and shape, so they take on a completely different entity even if I put the same eyes, nose, and mouth on them. If anyone meets any of my urban creatures on the streets, I hope they’ll recognize that were here this whole time.”
“There isn’t as much street art or as many street artists as you’d think in Seoul or Korea,” she says, dejectedly. “Seoul is actually a difficult place for street art due to the characteristics of the buildings, and since this art can’t be seen, it’s not easy for people to experience. Even though various subcultures have evolved over time and there are more artists now, the growth is slow and it’s hard for their work to reach more people.” This is part of the reason that Junkhouse prefers the streets over gallery spaces, despite the numerous successful exhibitions she’s held over the years. With each trash can, derelict building, or crumbling wall that she brings to life, she’s making art that much more accessible and approachable for everyday people. “Sure, it may be comfortable inside a gallery, but there’s a lot of stress when creating for an exhibition. On the streets, the weather may be unpredictable and it may be uncomfortable, but I feel a lot more relaxed. More importantly, if your work is in the streets then more people will get to see it.”