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Lee Jin-ju broadens boundaries of Oriental painting with 'The Unperceived'

Installation view of Lee Jin-ju's exhibition 'The Unperceived' at Arario Museum in Space in central Seoul. Courtesy of Arario Museum
Installation view of Lee Jin-ju's exhibition 'The Unperceived' at Arario Museum in Space in central Seoul. Courtesy of Arario Museum

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Artist Lee Jin-ju / Courtesy of the artist
Artist Lee Jin-ju / Courtesy of the artist
Artist Lee Jin-ju's works begin from a basic question of whether what people see is real or not, as each remembers the same thing differently. Lee paid attention to the distortions caused by the subjective viewpoints everyone has.

At her solo exhibition "The Unperceived," Lee explores the blind spots of everyday life with delicate strokes. Lee takes elements from reality, but the elements are combined in a surreal way.

The title piece "The Unperceived" is a 14-meter-long painting in a unique shape, connecting four pieces of canvas. Lee said she was inspired by ancient scroll paintings in creating this artwork.

"When you see a scroll painting on view, usually there are some rolled, unseen parts of the painting as it is difficult to display the entirety of the horizontally long painting. I was always curious about the unseen part, which exists, but does not exist in front of my eyes," Lee said at a press conference last week.

The piece has two 4.8-meter canvases, a 2.4-meter canvas and a 2.2-meter canvas in the shape of a capital A. It is impossible to see the whole piece from any one place and the viewer has to move around the painting to see every part in detail ― which is exactly what the artist intended.

The two longest screens feature a variety of stories, but in fragments and an illogical manner.

"The way I work is more intuitive than logical reasoning. I collect images or scenes from daily life and they appear in my work when they fit the context of my painting," Lee explained. "The Unperceived symbolizes the circle of life through trial and error and contradiction."

The first side is divided by white walls that represent the stages of life, while the second side is more chaotic with characters in reddish-brown liquid.

The third side features two women ― one grown and one young ― inspired by the artist's experience of a minor accident her daughter suffered. The grey lumps floating around on the canvas are actual ashes, created by her husband and artist Lee Jeong-bae after the Sewol ferry incident in remembrance of the victims.

Lee Jin-ju's '(Im)possible Scene' / Courtesy of the artist and Arario Museum
Lee Jin-ju's '(Im)possible Scene' / Courtesy of the artist and Arario Museum

"I am an introvert and the inception of my works comes from intimate memories or trauma. However, when I looked deeply into them, they were not just personal, but a part of the larger world where everything influences each other. My inner side is a channel to convey my thoughts," Lee said.

"(Im)possible Scene" is a two-sided painting with misaligned wood planks on each side, also making viewers work to see the entire piece.

Lee studied Oriental painting at Hongik University and continues to delve into the philosophy of Oriental painting while bringing in contemporary elements.

Arario Museum in Space is in a former architectural company office building designed by legendary architect Kim Swoo-geun, known for its unique exposed red brick wall interior.

"It was a challenge for me to hang my subtle paintings on this intense red brick wall. So I came up with a novel method of display, considering the exhibition space as a large canvas and placing my story within it," Lee said.

"In the principle of Oriental painting, the empty space is not just empty, but a space of unexpressed implications. In this case, the red brick wall is the margin and my paintings are used as objects."

The exhibition runs through Feb. 14, 2021.


Installation view of Lee Jin-ju's exhibition 'The Unperceived' at Arario Museum in Space in central Seoul. Courtesy of Arario Museum
Installation view of Lee Jin-ju's exhibition 'The Unperceived' at Arario Museum in Space in central Seoul. Courtesy of Arario Museum

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Artist Lee Jin-ju / Courtesy of the artist
Artist Lee Jin-ju / Courtesy of the artist
Artist Lee Jin-ju's works begin from a basic question of whether what people see is real or not, as each remembers the same thing differently. Lee paid attention to the distortions caused by the subjective viewpoints everyone has.

At her solo exhibition "The Unperceived," Lee explores the blind spots of everyday life with delicate strokes. Lee takes elements from reality, but the elements are combined in a surreal way.

The title piece "The Unperceived" is a 14-meter-long painting in a unique shape, connecting four pieces of canvas. Lee said she was inspired by ancient scroll paintings in creating this artwork.

"When you see a scroll painting on view, usually there are some rolled, unseen parts of the painting as it is difficult to display the entirety of the horizontally long painting. I was always curious about the unseen part, which exists, but does not exist in front of my eyes," Lee said at a press conference last week.

The piece has two 4.8-meter canvases, a 2.4-meter canvas and a 2.2-meter canvas in the shape of a capital A. It is impossible to see the whole piece from any one place and the viewer has to move around the painting to see every part in detail ― which is exactly what the artist intended.

The two longest screens feature a variety of stories, but in fragments and an illogical manner.

"The way I work is more intuitive than logical reasoning. I collect images or scenes from daily life and they appear in my work when they fit the context of my painting," Lee explained. "The Unperceived symbolizes the circle of life through trial and error and contradiction."

The first side is divided by white walls that represent the stages of life, while the second side is more chaotic with characters in reddish-brown liquid.

The third side features two women ― one grown and one young ― inspired by the artist's experience of a minor accident her daughter suffered. The grey lumps floating around on the canvas are actual ashes, created by her husband and artist Lee Jeong-bae after the Sewol ferry incident in remembrance of the victims.

Lee Jin-ju's '(Im)possible Scene' / Courtesy of the artist and Arario Museum
Lee Jin-ju's '(Im)possible Scene' / Courtesy of the artist and Arario Museum

"I am an introvert and the inception of my works comes from intimate memories or trauma. However, when I looked deeply into them, they were not just personal, but a part of the larger world where everything influences each other. My inner side is a channel to convey my thoughts," Lee said.

"(Im)possible Scene" is a two-sided painting with misaligned wood planks on each side, also making viewers work to see the entire piece.

Lee studied Oriental painting at Hongik University and continues to delve into the philosophy of Oriental painting while bringing in contemporary elements.

Arario Museum in Space is in a former architectural company office building designed by legendary architect Kim Swoo-geun, known for its unique exposed red brick wall interior.

"It was a challenge for me to hang my subtle paintings on this intense red brick wall. So I came up with a novel method of display, considering the exhibition space as a large canvas and placing my story within it," Lee said.

"In the principle of Oriental painting, the empty space is not just empty, but a space of unexpressed implications. In this case, the red brick wall is the margin and my paintings are used as objects."

The exhibition runs through Feb. 14, 2021.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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