Saturday, January 25, 2014

JeeYoung Lee: Dreamscapes and Wonderlands

JeeYoung Lee
Raw, JeeYoung Lee
By now, I am sure a lot of you have seen or at least heard of the work by JeeYoung Lee, a Korean artist (not to be confused with the golfer) that is making an impact in the art world from the confines of her 12 foot by 13 foot studio in Seoul. Lee combines photography with installation and performance art, creating surreal visions from her dreams, memories, and thoughts. Her work is very self-reflective, allowing the artist to not only express but picture herself interacting with the visions she creates.

As these installations reflect Lee's subconscience, dreams, and feelings, Lee includes herself in each unaltered photograph, making her at one with the worlds she creates. As noted by the Opiom Gallery who will have this particular series, Stage of Mind, on display from February 7th to March 7th, 2014:

"In the midst of each of these sets stands the artist : those self-portraits however are never frontal, since it is never her visual aspect she shows, but rather her quest for an identity, her desires and her frame of mind. Her imaginary is a catharsis which allows her to accept social repression and  frustrations. The moment required to set the stage gives her time to meditate about the causes of her interior conflicts and hence exorcise them; once experienced, they in turn become portents of hope."

For emphasis, these photographs are unaltered -- Everything you see in the photograph was built by Lee, whether out of styrofoam, cardboard, paint, or other cheap materials. Depending on the detail required, these installations can take weeks to months to perfect. Like the Buddhist monks creating mandalas out of sand, Lee then disassembles her work.

Broken Heart, JeeYoung Lee
Broken Heart, above, visualizes the Korean expression, "Like breaking a stone with an egg." This piece is meant to speak to the heartbreak and in inevitability of adversity. The more I look at this piece, and the scattered egg shells from the figure's attempt to overcome the given odds, I feel the emotion the artist is trying to convey.

Maiden Voyage, JeeYoung Lee
This was the first image of Lee's I came across and it took me a minute to take in the oversized, saffron ginkgo leaves and paper boat the artist had crafted. A web of laundry lines tangle over the artist, playing flute in the corner.

Nightscape, JeeYoung Lee
 This piece (in conjunction with the next one) blew my mind in particular. This is a 12 x 13 room, folks...and look what Lee was able to accomplish. Nightscape is thus far Lee's only collaborative effort, having worked with a master fan maker to, instead of create a landscape on the fans as is traditional practice, make the fans into a landscape themselves.

Resurrection, JeeYoung Lee 
Probably her most famous image, Resurrection is inspired by the Korean folktale, the Story of Shim Cheong, as well as by Shakespeare's Ophelia.

A quick search on Google/Wikipedia highlights Cheong's story as the devoted daughter of a blind father who is told by a monk that his eyesight could be restored by Buddha if he donates three hundred bags of rice to the temple. In return for three hundred bags of rice, Cheong offers herself to a group of sailors that need a virgin sacrifice to placate Yongwang (the Dragon of the Sea) and guarantee safe passage for merchant ships through the ocean. She finds herself in the palace of Yongwang after being tossed into the sea and moved by her filial piety, the dragon sends her back to earth wrapped in a lotus flower. She is born again from the lotus outside the palace of the emperor, who falls in love with her immediately and makes her his empress. Together they throw a banquet for all blind men in the kingdom, in hopes Cheong's father will appear. When he does, he is so surprised to hear his daughter's voice again and his eyesight is magically restored.

Sweet Appetite, JeeYoung Lee
To round things down, everyone should watch this 3 minute video on the making of Lee's My Chemical Romance, another installation. It's an amazing way to see how such incredible spaces come together, from start to finish.

MyModernMet did a great article on the artist also and Opiom Gallery has her biography in PDF.

Lee majored in visual design at Hongik University, only to discover she preferred building art with her own hands instead of sitting in front of a computer all day. She shoots with a large format 4x5 camera. She has been inspired by folklore, Hans Christian Anderson, daVinci's The Last Supper, and objects she encounters in her daily life. Her inspiration could be found anywhere, but mostly comes from within herself.

"The primary motifs in this series derive from my questions of who I am at the moment." 
- JeeYoung Lee

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