One Must Look Closely to See the Beauty, One Must Look for a Long Time to Find It Lovely
The artist’s canvas which consists of a composite of daily experiences, memories, and the subconscious, is filled with a mysterious and dreamlike atmosphere. She takes on an abstract style overall, but each of the elements that constitute the canvas seem to tell stories of probable dreams, giving the content a concrete aspect. Furthermore, the way the carefree macroscopic aspect of the painting as a whole harmonizes with the minute details of the microscopic elements is also impressive. The emotional and psychological things we feel in life are composed in an arbitrary and impromptu fashion and gives the painting as a whole a carefree sensitivity, but each of the individual elements that have been meticulously worked on also seem to be alive in and of themselves. From the aspect that the carefree sensitivity and thoughts unfold without restraint, her work may be reminiscent of a drawing, but by using her experience at printmaking, which was her major, for detailed expressions and by intertwining this with the texture of disparate materials, she adds to the pleasure of her work.
It seems that her unique style, which is a peculiar fusion of disparate entities, derives from a certain method of drawing she employs as a mixed media artist as well as the property of matter that the mixed materials produce. Lee fills her canvas using various materials freely such as acrylic paint, air brush, as well as ink, gels, glitter, tissue paper, masking tape, and colored paper. She is composing her canvas by overlapping tactile and visual aspects freely. The method in which her paintings are composed is also different, with a formative basis to express the big picture in a fixed and stable fashion, she then goes on to gradually express free motion in the minute details. These expressions are established layer by layer onto the canvas. From this viewpoint, her paintings are pictures within a picture in that the various layers which constitute the canvas are a result of the artist’s momentary impromptu feelings along with the selection and expression of interlinked disparate properties of matter, and as the numerous layers of paintings have combined as if they were a skein of imaginary entities, it seems the artist has produced an exquisite and complex big picture. As such factors continue layer by layer they constitute the working process of completing the canvas but simultaneously they also seem to have been the passing of time while unfolding and adjusting the images that randomly come to mind. Through this flow of time she is even able to continue the comfortable flow of mind in an organic manner, transcending all sorts of limitations of reality, feeling a personal liberation as well in the process. Moreover, she not only paints in a painterly way but also employs the method of collage, tearing and pasting different materials, or handicraft to create bits and pieces. At other times, she transcends the canvas and expands to three-dimensional installation. The way she freely goes from painting to other mediums is worth noticing. As these unpainterly methods combine and each unique material as well as methodological quality form peculiar layers, as a result they are also expanding the meaning of painting. Rather than simply the expansion of materials or technique, one could say they are the expansion of painterly depth or breadth since they contain the artist’s consistent formativeness as she freely goes through them. One can especially find Lee’s daring and experimentalism in her separation from the limited meaning of painting in her picturesque installations where she freely extends from the rectangular canvas frame into space. The way she goes in and out of paintings is also a direct example that the realization of a painting is not simply in the given traditional frame or property of matter but the free expression of the artist’s sensitivity. Lee’s paintings, which contain her emotions neatly arranged within a rectangular frame, as well as her works that have transcended boundaries and expanded into open space all are freeing and full of life as if they are pictures growing of themselves, and they are expressions of her complex feelings. These liberal forms at times touch upon the artist’s internal emotional spaces in a painting and at others they expand into the multiple layers of the space outside of a picture, interacting in multi-layered fashion with the audience who experiences these different spaces. Like so, Lee’s paintings meet the multifarious sensitivities of the observer in multilateral compositions and methods. The smaller works provide their own unique property of matter and sense of detailed expressions in their own right while the larger pictures provide liberating imagination with their scale and spatial sense.
The way Lee’s work presents contrasting qualities is simultaneously the process of coincidental and impromptu sensibilities that she must have experienced throughout her day to day and also of psychological and emotional healing for her personal life in which she had to spend her younger years in a foreign land and this is what makes it all the more special. It seems her carefree and dreamlike sentiments that were germinated by her loneliness from living abroad extended into the artist’s combined feelings of a yearning for home, a longing for innocent dreams and ideals, along with her imagination, which crossed between the subconscious and conscious or coincidence and inevitability, and were placed exactly onto the canvas. This is why the vivid daily emotions encountered in the present overlap with hazy memories and longings from the past in her work and it is why Lee’s candid and carefree sentiments are able to intersect with hope and dreams for the future. These sentiments, which she herself could not precisely define but wanted to express even though they be in irregular shapes, were interwoven with impromptu and coincidental daily work that was combined with the expressivity and formativeness of the varied materials corresponding to that work to reveal a composite of multi-layered memories in time, carefree imaginings, dreamlike sensitivities. From that aspect, her honest conveyance of her emotions using familiar materials from our everyday lives or the carefree expressions using multifarious techniques that are ingrained in her body are not simply on the level of a simple drawing but plays a more active role as something that is revealing Lee’s candid life. Like an Eastern-style painting, it seems she not only maintains at conveying the artist’s thoughts and feelings of the world but also gently self-soothes and pulls her own life together while even reaching peace of mind, that is, her act is on a level of practicing asceticism so to speak. Because the artist has been on the move quite a bit in her life, on the one hand her work seems to stabilize the fluidity of such a life and on the other hand it also interconnects it rhythmically. In addition, her unique style in which she combines multiple layers of textures and formativeness is a suitable way to unfold her complex and subtle imaginings. It is for such reasons that flowers or butterflies appear frequently in her work, as well as a sense of space like that of a great abyss, not to mention definitions of ‘dream’ or ‘hope’ that is used in her titles. All of this seems to reflect the artist’s candid internal world. At a glance her work may look enigmatic due to the colorful materials and variated composition of the canvas, telling a never-ending story, but if one considers the mixed and flowing aspect of the mind while the artist must have pored over and imagined during her day to day, in fact her work is composed freely of flexible overall shapes while not forgetting delicate details, which adds an unexpected sense of familiarity. As one poet put it, one must look closely to see the beauty and one must look for a long time to find it lovely, and this is what comes to mind when looking at Lee’s work. However, it is far from bearing the solely fancy and complicated traits of decorativeness, which is because the artist finishes such organic and delicate details off with her unique painterly fashion. It is my opinion that such natural beauty is also possible because her extremely difficult and complex working process has been overcome as time in the artist’s life. Perhaps as Lee transfers her complex and variated emotions onto the canvas as layers upon layers of color and shapes, she is trying to fill or empty the many layers of her mind in her own repetition of flowing and lingering of her life upon her art – the way the natural flow of time was able to transform not only the artist’s inner mind but also the spaces inside and outside of her work.
Min Byung-jik (Art critic, Curator)