Lee Jinyong works focus on time, repetition

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Lee Jinyong works focus on time, repetition


Lee Jinyong’s works titled “Type Series” on view at Hakgojae Gallery in central Seoul as part of his solo exhibition “Continuum” which runs until July 30. The detail of a work in “Type Series,” left. [HAKGOJAE GALLERY]

Those who love the unique air of museums full of artifacts, created not only by the objects’ visual images but also their smells, textures and tranquility, which reveal the weight of accumulated time and stories, may also love the works by Korean contemporary artist Lee Jinyong.

Lee’s 223 works now on view at Hakgojae Gallery on Samcheong-no in central Seoul, are all related to antiques and time. In addition to them, an important factor in these works is the 55-year-old artist’s repeated, hard labor that resembles a practicing monk.

Lee’s “Type Series,” looks like panels carved with numerous small Chinese letters in geometric forms. The artist works exhaustively for two to three months on each of the panels. He arranges the ancient types he collected in China on a circular or square panel and casts it with a special medium he has made with soil and paint. After drying the cast, he puts epoxy on it and then dries it for 20 days. Finally, he applies stone powder and washes it repeatedly.

“Since I was young, I have liked the dust on the roof tiles of old Buddhist temples and the raindrops flowing along the sloping valleys between the roof tiles and dropping on stones on the ground,” the artist said at the gallery last week.

“The rainwater continues to drop in the same place for long time and over time it wears into the stone,” he continued. “I’m fascinated by how the repetition of putting a small bit of energy over long time makes a great change in a certain moment. That’s the way I work.”

Lee’s solo exhibition also shows the “Hardbacks Series,” which are oil-on-panel paintings that hyper-realistically depict the back of antique books worn by age and use arranged on a shelf or piled up. Of course, there have been many trompe-l’oeil paintings of books by many other artists over hundreds of years.

But Lee’s paintings have some unique qualities - the books are represented only by their backs and are strictly arranged vertically or horizontally.

Regarding the painting, Yun Chea-gab, art critic and director of How Art Museum in Shanghai, wrote in an introduction of the show, “The artist himself states that his works are not created from seeing real books although his studio is full of books. However, [what Lee says] is absolutely true. He wholly experiences the books, and lays those experiences in his paintings.”

Yun also said Lee’s works “must be viewed as if savoring tea or appreciating fragrance... Lee’s works can be fully experienced once the audience views it through all five senses.”

Like the “Type Series” and “Hardbacks Series,” his “Continuum Series” is also based on the old things he has collected over time. They include the repeated casts of the antique owl-shaped incense burner from the Edo period of Japan.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibition runs through July 30. Admission is free. The gallery is closed on Monday. Go to Anguk Station, line No. 3, exit 2, and walk 10 minutes. For details, visit www.hakgojae.com or call (02) 720-1524~6.
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