The cultural hybridity

A Korean artist Dong Gi Lee is well known for his Atomaus. This creation is made through his combining practice of culture between Mickey Mouse from USA and Atom (astro boy) from Japanese anime. The name is a makeup word of the two characters. He represents the influx of international cultures to South Korea associated with his childhood memory. Although his painting imagery is different from the form I pursue, I have looked up the motivation and the concept of his development of Atomaus.

When he got motivated to create Atomaus is back to his uni days. While he was painting as usual at college, he noticed that some of his gestural marks resembled the face of Atom, the Japanese Astro boy by Tezuka Osamu. Indeed, a lot of Japanese anime was broadcast in Korea when he was a child and he was the one who enjoyed the animes. In other words, his discovery of atomaus comes from a piece of his childhood memories as if I have found wide pupil and shining heart form in my painting. It is interesting in that it connects not only with this artist’s memory but also with the memories of the public who grew up watching Astro Boy in the 70s and 80s. It seems that his Atomaus shows that it is more related to retrospective and romanticisation based on childhood memories than just a connection between Japanese and American culture. Actually, the combination of fragments of Japanese culture and the wave of American culture reflects Korean society in the 1990s. Especially the fact that the character is also similar to Dooli, a Korean anime character, reveals the contemporary cultural hybridity. He is still playing with Atomaus and continues to work on cultural convergence.

Virtual Insanity/ acrylic on canvas /190×190cm /2004


Atomaus Eating Noodles/ acrylic on canvas /120×160cm /2004

The Crucifixion/ acrylic on canvas /130 x 190 cm /2009



He has made different versions of Atomaus - eating noodles, repetition of the face, smoking atomaus, etcetera. I like the way he uses a piece of childhood memory. Like me, he is the one who gets stimulated by Japanese anime, which is a starting point of work as well. I think he is a good artist who extracts the clue from the deep memory that is always with his mind.

The meaning and symbol of pop culture is fluctuating as time goes by. When he invented the hybrid character in the 90s, Atomaus was treated as an artwork for kids. Indeed, he had been requested to participate in the exhibitions for children. Also, the beholders were not familiar with his bold outline and simple colouring. However, he is now famous as the pioneer of cultural hybridity. I am wondering how the symbolic meaning of atomaus will be changed in the future.