Ram Han at Whistle – Artforum International

Ram Han’s first solo exhibition in a gallery context confirms the self-reflexiveness and care that have marked her horizontal move from illustration to fine art. A celebrated name in Korea’s entertainment industry—not least thanks to several recent high-profile fashion and K-Pop collaborations—Ram Han’s oversaturated digital imagescapes push viral signifiers of cuteness and femininity to grotesque extremes: flowers bloom sensually from the mouths of starry-eyed JRPG girls, while pink blow-up dolphins ride waves of bodily juices atop a ground of toxic slime. But in the exhibition “Spawning Scenery,” Ram Han veers deeper into abstraction through a morphological study of the icons that seduce her and, in turn, us. Lurid and delightfully kinky apparitions haunt Save our souls (all works cited 2022), while in I am relieved, a lavishly bedazzled human heart oozes and glows a soft tangerine hue as yonic, floral, and phallic forms seem to fornicate freely in its crevices.

Ram Han’s obsession with the body is both intensely visceral and always already virtualized. In Souvenir Study (hatchery), a larger tableau vivant depicting a crowded hillscape around a volcano, she skillfully embraces the true potential and (challenge) of “digital painting” as a medium limited not by canvas size but by layering, an art of potentially endless recomposition. The true feat of “Spawning Scenery,” however, is the translation of Ram Han’s halcyon screen visuality into physical form. By printing her images in RGB on archival pigment paper and mounting them on lightboxes, the artist imbues them with a luminosity and a certain graininess atypical of the medium, almost as if they had actually been painted by a hyperprecise hand. 

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