Artist Jamie M. Lee is constantly on the move but also remaining. She started her career on the west coast and with her graduation from Claremont Graduate University she moved from east coast to the south, and has continued with various exhibitions, residencies, and projects after returning to Korea. Lee honestly expresses the emotions she feels from her given environment in her work and once finished she does not hesitate to depart to another new location in search of fresh inspiration. From the titles of her work, which are each akin to a verse of poetry, one can surmise where she was and in what state of mind she was in during that time. The audience is able to reach that place where the artist had inhabited by bearing these small hints in mind when viewing her work.

Since around 2005 Jamie Lee has incorporated a wide range of materials into her work. Tinges of fabric dyes have been applied onto panels and gradations, more natural-looking due to the touch of airbrush, were added. Paper, glitter, gels decorate the surface, providing rhythmic and lively images. In Lee’s earlier work, created when living in California, a place full of youthfulness, the hot sun, blue ocean, and cool breeze, the canvas was filled with clashing primary colors giving it a certain innocence and an unrestricted carefree quality. After her stay in New York during a residency at Cooper Union up to the later half of the 2000’s, she started using bolder straight lines and contrasting organic shapes to concentrate/diffuse the screen. On the one hand, her works in New York took on lower brightness and saturation, which gave her work a refined grid-like or delicately-constructed quality. They manifest to a tee her attempts as well as her anguish in getting those attempts soundly onto the canvas after having left academic life and entered the New York art scene as a professional artist. However, simultaneously, they’re also imbued with a sense of joy and satisfaction which she must have felt while being in New York, the very center of the art market. Symbols like the “star”, an obvious mark of the U.S. explicitly appear on the canvas, constructing the paintings with bold and daring items. When starting her career in Korea, Lee was full of hope and anticipation and with a solo show in 2014 her most characteristic works in Korea were newly revealed to the public. As with her “Dreamscape” series, nothing on the canvas makes a drastic statement and nothing is overdone. One’s gaze flows over the entire canvas smoothly while dribblings of paint or brush strokes where one can sense the artist’s touch all feel comfortable. The colors are endlessly deep and the shapes and structures that fill the entire frame harmonize nicely each in their own place.

Jamie Lee’s works are connected with the subconscious that is based entirely on personal experience. Her artist statement, which reads like a diary excerpt, is also the perfect guidebook in understanding her work, much better than it would have been in ordinary text.

“The mysteriousness and thrill of encountering the first snow in the middle of the desert in Santa Fe, a prolonged longing for my family after being away from home and leading a wandering lifestyle for a long time, old forgotten memories that I recall while listening to some music playing on the radio by chance, the moment I made a wish when spotting a falling star, the joy and delight when that wish came true, recalling happy times as a child and with this memory also the sweetness of pink cotton candy held in my hand, cherry blossoms in April floating in the sky like clouds, the scenery I encounter on a certain day toward the end of fall. Such trivial everyday events become material for my work and the memories and my personal sensations based on specific times fill paper and canvas as abstract images.”

Jamie Lee does not only remain within the illusion of the two-dimensional. Instead since 2012 she has cultivated her canvas collages into hand-cut paper installations and publicly presented them in various exhibitions. These paper blossoms which were borne out of exquisite labor-intensive work completely dominate the enclosed space and it proves not only that the limited meaning of “artwork” not only signifies a material-made physical completion but is also able to include the production process, experience of the audience, as well as environmental transformation. The way the bunch of papers hang down due to gravity symbolizes the heavy mid-summer rainfall which she encountered while in the midst of nature. She is suggesting for the audience to stroll through it and also experience firsthand the wonder which she had felt.

People either try to leave a part of themselves in the space where they have inhabited or they try to collect something in order to keep the memories that took place within that space. Jamie Lee’s work, which are infused with time and space as well as the memories within them, comply to such instinct, adhering to her unique style. The artist has constantly attempted new methods and studied her materials’ property of matter, which is another reason why no two of her artworks can be alike. However, at the same time, Jamie Lee is using organic shapes people are most familiar with to create a beautiful visual language to guide the audience into each of her mind’s habitats where she has stayed.

Mia Jung (Founding Director/ ARTMARKT.ASIA)